As food costs continue to soar, it’s a good time to revisit the basics of frugal food shopping. Follow these tips and provided you don’t end up buying twice as much, you really will see your food costs plummet.
GO WITH CASH ONLY. Shopping with cash—only cash—is one of the best ways to make a severe grocery budget work. If you have the discipline of a superhero, good for you. Use your credit card. If you’re like everyone else in the world, take cash out of the ATM and don’t let yourself spend a penny more. If you’re out of cash and you have 10 days of the month to go, it’s time to start raiding your pantry. You might have an odd menu for a few days, and so what? It won’t kill you.
PLAN IT OUT. Find recipes that fit your budget—recipes, as in cooking and preparing meals from ingredients. With very little cooking background, anyone can learn to make great soups and casseroles. Deciding on recipes and planning meals in advance will become your financial lifesaver.
SKIP PACKAGED ITEMS. You pay a big premium for packaged items like salad kits, meals in a bag, fruit snacks, pre-sliced produce, chips or vegetables that come in a steam bag. Anything that has been processed and packaged comes with an additional markup. Peeling potatoes, slicing apples and chopping lettuce might take extra time, but you will be rewarded well for the effort. And you’ll end up with a fresher, tastier result.
Those 100-calorie snack packs are convenient, but they’ll blow a hole in your food budget. Cut up fruit and vegetables at the beginning of each week, divide into single portions, and store. If you just don’t want to sacrifice your daily Goldfish, buy a large package and divide into sandwich baggies to save over 30 percent of the cost of single-serving packages.
GRIND YOUR OWN COFFEE. Ground coffee can be marked up to 30 percent higher than whole bean versions. It really is worth your while to grind your own coffee at home. (Not to mention the superior taste.) If you do not have a grinder consider investing no more than $20 in a good basic blade grinder.
LOSE THE MEAT. At least three times each week, make your dinner meal meatless. Think eggs, cheese and vegetables. Try breakfast for dinner with pancakes, waffles, potatoes and so on. You’re going to learn that having a meal without chicken or steak is a great way to save money and keep the grocery bill at rock bottom since meat is one of the most expensive proteins you can buy.
EAT WHAT’S IN SEASON. Eating fruits and vegetables during their natural growing season saves you money because those peaches you love don’t have to be transported halfway around the world. Not only that, they are more packed with vitamins and nutrients (also due to less required travel and storage time) and they taste better, too. Check out this handy list of fresh fruits and vegetables by the month.
SHOP ON FULL STOMACH. Sure, we’ve all heard this one before, but it bears repeating—shop when you’re not a voracious bear. It will engage your brain in a way that will help you make reasonable and frugal food choices. Eat something first so you don’t load up the cart with junk.
SHOP THE SALES. Even if you don’t know what will be on sale before you get there, choose the sale version of whatever you need. Do this consistently and you’ll cut your grocery tab by at least 40 percent. That’s the difference between the regular and sale price of nearly every item in the typical supermarket