Here is a collection of strategies and tips for cutting your grocery bill. Start with strategies that you can implement gradually. Remember your goal: A lower food bill AND a healthy, wholesome diet.
The following tips have been arranged in descending order from most difficult to least difficult. Therefore, you can see the changes along the way and be willing to make more frugal choices as you get more comfortable with this way of eating and shopping. Start with a few things and keep adding. Soon you will see a HUGE difference in your food budget (and possibly your waistline!).
TIP #10: Use Everything- When you are cooking, think about how you can get every last food mile out of what you are making. Meat bones and vegetable trimmings can be made into wonderful stocks. Leftover vegetables and meats can be thrown into the same stock for soups and stews, or put into pot pies, casseroles, you name it. Try to get everything you can out of your food dollar.
TIP #9: Cut down/Out on the Junk Food- If you can completely give up the soda, chips, cookies, candy, etc., good for you! Most fail at doing this “cold turkey”, so I suggest you gradually cut down on these items. If you just have to have a baked good, make it yourself from scratch. Homemade cookies, cakes, and pies are much tastier than store bought and they don’t have the additives and preservatives either.
TIP #8: Make It Yourself- Ban those convenience foods! If you can’t totally cut out the junk foods, make them yourself. A large, homemade pizza costs about $3 – $5 to make, compared to frozen pizzas which are typically $3 – $5 for the small size. And delivery pizzas can cost $8 – $20 each. Bulk buy the ingredients and make the dough from scratch. Pressed for time? Buy the pizza dough pre-made and just add the toppings!
TIP #7: Eat Less Meat- Does spaghetti really have to have all those meatballs? Does pizza really have to have all of that meat on it? Try to think of meat as an accent to the meal rather than the main course. If this is too difficult, try cutting portion sizes of meats and adding more side dishes to compensate.
TIP #6: Stretch Meats- You may be able to get away with extending your meat by mixing in extra veggies, grains, or even TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein). TVP is made from soybeans and there are quite a few restaurants that use it, so it may be more familiar than you think (it’s also very healthy). You can hide it best in ground beef dishes, like chili, meatloaf, and tacos.
TIP #5: Fill Up On Healthier Foods- Try fruits and popcorn as snacks, rather than junk convenience foods. Drink sparkling water, with a splash of lemon or splash of 100% fruit juice between meals, instead of soda or Kool-aid. Buy whole grains, like whole wheat bread, brown rice, and whole wheat pasta, instead of their refined counterparts. Munch on fresh veggies w/dip between meals. Whole grains and healthier foods fill you up and nourish you. You will eat less and crave less because your body is nourished more. Think of wholesome foods as an investment in your health.
TIP #4: Buy and Use In-Season Veggies and Fruit- They are fresher and cheaper. When tomatoes are in season, make tomato sauce and can it. Make strawberry shortcake when strawberries are at their best and cheapest, usually in June and July. Cook with more root vegetables in the winter, when thy are at their best.
TIP #3: Learn the Sales Pattern- Not only are there better seasons to buy some veggies than others, but meats and other food staples tend to go on sale according to season, holiday, and what store you are shopping at. Learn the sales patterns of your favorite stores and stock up.
TIP #2: Try Store Brands and Generics- Keep going down in price until you notice a difference in the quality. You may discover that most brands are created equal and some generics are pretty good too. Some basics, like flour & sugar, really don’t change from brand to brand, so go with the lowest price and /or what’s on sale.
TIP #1: Make a Grocery List, And Stick To It- Plan your meals for the week and shop only for the foods that you need to complete your meals. Be sure to check your kitchen for foods that you may already have that are needed for your meals. This will prevent you from buying certain foods unnecessarily.
As most of you already know, I am a firm believer in the health benefits organic foods. But if you must buy conventional produce, there are ways to reduce your exposure to the harmful chemicals they contain. Thoroughly washing all fruits and vegetables will help, although all pesticide residues cannot be removed by washing. You can also remove the outer layer of leaves or peel vegetables if possible. Another alternative is to grow your own vegetables, although this takes space, time and climate considerations.
Another option is to buy organic produce selectively, as certain foods tend to have higher or lower amounts of pesticides.
The following foods tend to have the highest levels of pesticides:
Vegetables: Spinach, Potatoes, Bell Peppers, Hot Peppers, Celery
Fruits: Peaches, Apples, Strawberries, Nectarines, Pears, Cherries, Raspberries, Grapes
The list below includes foods that tend to be lower in pesticides:
Vegetables: Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts, Asparagus, Radishes, Broccoli, Onions, Okra, Cabbage, Eggplant
Fruits: Pineapples, Plantains, Mangos, Bananas, Watermelon, Plums, Kiwi, Blueberries, Papaya, Grapefruit, Avocado
Unfortunately, there are still many people that do not have access to organic foods, whether it is for demographic reasons or economic reasons. If either of these reasons pertain to you, please, please, please do not make this an excuse to avoid fruits and vegetables altogether. Non-organic fruits and vegetables are better than none at all. It is my hope and intention to get each and every one of you to venture outside of your box to try something new, whether it is eating an organic apple for the first time, or incorporating more fruits and vegetables in your daily diet. So, remember your ultimate goal: Eating Healthy without Breaking the Bank!