The cost of living continues to rise as the number of jobs decline.
Many of us are facing a new reality – we have to live on less in order to survive.
Food is one area where the cost can get out of hand and get us into trouble.
It’s not a recurring bill that is the same every month because it’s variable.
But there are many ways to save if focus some time in this area.
1. Cut down on processed and frozen foods.
Not only do frozen dinners contain harmful ingredients that you wouldn’t normally add when cooking fresh at home, but the portion sizes are notoriously small. That means you’ll probably have a snack afterwards!
It’s not healthy. It costs more than cooking real food. And you won’t feel satisfied.
As someone who grew up not knowing how to cook flavorful dishes (I thought that Mrs. Dash was a good seasoning!), I can attest to the fact that learning how to cook was intimidating.
I was forced to learn how to cook more things when I had severe food allergies. At the time, I couldn’t go out to restaurants or trust anyone else cook my food because of the possibility of cross contamination. As a result, I learned how to cook steak, pizza, and Thai Panang curry chicken.
Once I learned, like really learned how to cook and add good flavor to my food, I felt like I could cook any dish. That meant using real, whole food ingredients and being less reliant on frozen and processed foods, which saves a lot of money.
2. Use digital coupons.
Life is crazy busy for many of us. Who the heck has time to plan grocery trips when we’re struggling to keep it all together?
If I have 5 minutes, instead of checking Facebook, I check my Safeway phone app and add digital coupons, free items, and personalized deals to my account. These items go onto a shopping list that my husband can see. If I don’t have time to shop, I’ll send him to get certain things.
If you don’t have time to clip or print coupons, this is a smart option. CVS and Safeway both have digital coupons connected to their websites.
Sign up for their rewards or membership program, download coupons and deals straight onto your club card, then get the deals when at checkout when you scan your card.
3. Go to the farmers market during the last hour.
Farmers have to get rid of their inventory so they will reduce the price on remaining items up to 50% off! If you’re not picky, you can find good deals on what’s left.
4. Regrow kitchen scraps.
Onions, potatoes, ginger, scallions, and garlic can all be regrown without seeds. You can use a portion of the vegetable to regrow back to full size.
5. Shop your pantry first.
I am guilty of this. Sometimes when I’m in a rush and haven’t planned out my shopping trip, I’ll buy something that I already have a home. Right now I have 30 eggs sitting in my fridge because I forgot that we had eggs and bought more!
If you take the time to check your food supply first to see what you have and figure out what you need, it will save you money, of course, and save you from stocking up on not shelf stable items that may go bad before you get to use them, like eggs!
Plus, you probably have perfectly edible food that’s hiding in the back of the cupboard or fridge, that you can pull together a meal without having to go out to buy anything. Right now, I have 10 packs of various Asian noodles that I found when we moved. I can add baked chicken to make a cold noodle salad or a hot noodle soup.
6. Use less meat.
Why not make sushi with avocado and cucumber, a salad topped with avocado and egg, or a sesame noodle salad? Beans, lentils, avocado, quinoa, and cheese are good substitutes for meat. Eggs are too.
7. Buy staples in bulk online.
We eat gluten-free so many of these products don’t have coupons or go on sale often at the grocery store. So I buy my pizza crust mix, cereal, and baking mixes at Amazon.com or Vitacost.
Amazon.com has digital coupons on grocery items and Vitacost offers $10 off for first time customers and really good deals on health foods. The gluten-free pizza crust I buy is $4.69 at the health food store and only $3 at Vitacost or $2.82/box when buying a 8 pack on Amazon.
8. Make your own snacks.
A bag of chips or popcorn may cost a few dollars but the cost adds up over time. A small bag of popcorn kernels cost just $1 and can make several batches of popcorn.
9. Store food properly.
Meat does not keep well in the fridge for more than a day or two. So I freeze them if I won’t be cooking them in the next day. Here are more food storage tips.
10. Buy in season.
Lastly, buy what’s in season and cook dishes according to what’s on sale. In season produce will always be on sale. Check out the full list of what’s in season and on sale year round.
* If you’re struggling with putting food on the table, look into temporary help from a food bank or see if you qualify for food stamps.