There are some great tips in other articles on this site, but you can always find more ways to stretch your food budget dollars. Groceries account for a considerable portion of any budget. We need food every day, and food prices seem to go nowhere but up. Here’s some tips to help keep those costs down and your food budget in check.
Obvious and Common Advice for Your Food Budget
Make a list, keeping this week’s ads in mind. Plan your meals so you’re buying ingredients, not processed food. Keep in mind that you’ll pay for the labor that goes into making processed foods, along with the fancy packaging. Since labor, packaging, and marketing aren’t cheap, that doesn’t leave much room for actual food.
Home-made is real food, not a pile of something whose ingredients list reads like a college chemistry exam. If cooking after a long day isn’t your thing, consider cooking meals in advance that you can warm up. Adapting ones thinking to view cooking as a form of self-care rather than a chore can also help. Having dishes to wash means a full belly, and that’s more than many people have right now.
A positive mind is lighter than a negative one; this is the Fourth Principle of the Kokikai school of Aikido. Mindset matters. If you can, shop during the off hours. If you can find out when the store receives deliveries such as bread and produce, you might be able to time your visit to get the freshest stuff. Avoiding the crowd is a nice bonus.
Buy in Bulk
The perfect time to stock up on nonperishables, food, and non-food items, is when they are on sale. It will cost a bit more upfront when buying bulk, but will save money over the long term. I recently purchased pasta for $0.68 per box, right around half the usual price. Sadly there was a five-item limit, but I didn’t let that stop me from buying what I could, cheaply. Everything from aluminum foil to trash bags, toilet paper, canned goods, laundry soap, cat litter-you name it! If it’s not perishable, consider buying as much as you can when it’s on sale. Some of those items, such as laundry soap and household cleaners, can even be made very cheaply at home from store-bought components. Even more savings if you can buy those components on sale!
Speaking of buying in bulk, how about the bulk food aisle? Not all stores have these. However, if yours does, take a look at the offerings and compare the price to packaged. Rice is a great example, at least in my local store. Bulk rice is significantly cheaper than packaged. You won’t get the pretty package, but you won’t have to pay for it either.
Buying meat in family packs will save a few cents per pound as well. As one of my aunts used to say: pennies make the dollars! Once home, repackage it in smaller portions. Be sure to label your package with contents and date. Rotate stock, so items don’t get freezer burned.
Buying in Season
Fruits and vegetables are much cheaper in season. Buy and preserve, then eat it over the winter. Freezing is very easy and requires minimal equipment. Ditto for dehydrating. It’s very easy to make fruit roll-ups, for example, and you will know what went into them. Dried peppers, both sweet and chili, work well in soups and egg dishes. Berries can be dried or frozen and eaten over the winter when others pay twice what you paid.
There are plenty of ways to preserve food without freezing, canning, or dehydrating. Check out Preserving Food Without Freezing Or Canning for some time-tested and traditional methods involving oil, sugar, salt, vinegar, and lactic fermentation, to name a few. Fermented foods last quite a while and aid digestion by promoting a healthy gut biome.
Don’t Forget to Look Down!
Seriously, look towards the bottom shelves. Product placement is designed to have the most expensive brand name products at eye level. The cheaper store brands and the lesser-known brands will be on the lower shelves. You might even find a few bargains on top. I’ve found store brands are often cheaper, even than brands offering coupons. Bargain bins might even hold a valuable item or two, but beware of impulse buying! If it’s not on your list or something you use, leave it.
Organic Does Not Necessarily Mean Organic
Food in the organic aisle tends to be more expensive just because of that moniker. Moreover, the term “organic” is highly misunderstood, and there’s no guarantee that the food is free of pesticides. Many pesticides, such as copper fungicide, are considered organic by virtue of their derivation. Check out this article from UC-Berkeley for a greater understanding of organic produce. You might be surprised at what you’re getting, so why pay the inflated price?
What Tips Can You Share for Stretching Your Food Budget?
Grocery shopping doesn’t have to be an awful, burdensome chore. If we plan our trip carefully and choose a positive self-care mindset, we can stretch our food budget dollars and still enjoy a healthy diet of whole foods on a frugal budget.