- Plan your meals– taking time to sit down and plan out your meals is the most effective way to save some money. When you plan it out, the chances of your mindlessly spending money and throwing unnecessary food items into your cart goes down dramatically. You will also find you waste less time and less food.
- Buy seasonally- pay attention to produce that is in season because it is most often on sale. Your meals are going to taste good because those ingredients are at their peak. If you are worried about buying produce on sale that you won’t be able to eat by the time it wilts or rots, keep half in your fridge and prep the other half to go in the freezer so you can have produce at it’s peak any time of the year for far less than you would pay to buy it at another time.
- Know the cycle-most stores run on a 6-8 week sale cycle for their items; for example, pasta will go on sale every six weeks. So when an item you use consistently gets marked down, stock up to last you until the next time it goes on sale so you never have to pay full price. If you coupon, the rule can be applied even further by waiting to use a coupon until the sale appears to maximize your savings when you stock up.
- Double up cheap meals- if you’re making a batch of chili, a pasta dish, or any other component of a meal that is inexpensive, double or triple your recipe. Not only are you saving yourself time for future meals, but you are also stretching those dollars.
- Make substitutions or omit ingredients- if you are making a recipe and you find that you are missing a small ingredient, find a substitute for it or skip it altogether to avoid taking another trip to the store. Often times, a trip to the store for a single item ends with you walking out of the store with ten “must-have” items. By avoiding the extra trip to the store you avoid those ten “must-have” items. Just yesterday I was out of milk for making Sadie Mac & Cheese and opted for some yogurt instead. She never knew the difference and it saved me a couple bucks and the hassle.
- Use cash- I have said this before and I will say it again because it bears repeating. I have been in and out of enough grocery stores to know full well that I am in the minority and I wish I weren’t. USE CASH! You will be so much more thoughtful about menu planning, sticking to a list, doing away with items that have no nutritional value (they are also budget drainers), and will be quickly humbled into submission when you pull out those dollar bills. You’ll also get a thrill nobody seems to quite understand when you fall below your budget by a good margin and can keep some of that cash in your wallet for something else.
- Know how much a recipe costs-this is something I continuously have to re-educate myself on because I am such a foodie! But there is a definite difference between a recipe that calls for corn tortillas, pinto beans, cumin, and chili powder versus halibut, black truffles, capers, and lemon. When planning out your menu, take into consideration what you always have on hand, what is on sale, and how much of it you can make for what you pay. Save the exotic tasting recipes for special occasions or limit yourself to once a week or so.
- Suck it up- water, that is. Don’t waste your hard earned cash on 5 different types of drinks to put in your fridge. Not only are the vast majority just not good for you (i.e. soda), but it’s money that can be feeding you good food rather than drinking empty calories with no nutritional value. Stick to water with the occasional treat here and there. Here’s a great resource on making your water taste wonderful so you no longer have an excuse to give yourself!
- Try with a limit- I have had to learn this the hard way with all of the dietary restrictions I have had to deal with in doing the Elimination Diet with Jonah. Steer clear of menu planning an entire week of completely new recipes for you and your family. This is especially true if you are utilizing ingredients that aren’t so familiar. If you don’t like the dinner and have nothing else on hand as a back up, you end up eating out much more than you accounted for. So not only are you spending the money on the groceries that don’t get eaten, but you are spending much more money on scrambling to eat out when a dinner has failed. Instead, plan one or two new recipes to try out and leave the rest of the week for tried and true food options that are already winners.
For more ideas on saving money before you head to the store, check out some more posts: