Yikes! If you have been to the grocery store lately, surely you have noticed the rising food prices. Up and down the aisles, prices are soaring for basic staple foods such as meat, milk, fruits and vegetables. The U. S. Department of Agriculture estimates that retail food prices will rise as much as 3.5 percent this year, the largest annual increase in three years.
Even with this increase, it’s still possible to feed your family healthy meals without breaking the bank. Below are some tips to help you save money by getting organized and creative!
The more you plan, the more likely you are to succeed. So before you head to the store, be sure to make a game-plan. Each week, plan your meals for the next 7 days by actually sitting down and deciding what you’ll have for dinner each night. This will:
- simplify and limit what you buy at the grocery store
- force you to check your pantry and refrigerator to see what you already have on hand so you don’t overbuy
- make you more likely to check in-store specials to reduce your cost
- reduce unnecessary stress of figuring out meals daily
- decrease the likelihood of eating out, which often means spending more money, and eating higher calorie foods.
- Buy fruits and vegetables in season. They’ll be less costly and taste better, too. Fresh produce is good, but frozen and canned fruits and vegetables are also nutritious and often cost less. Keep in mind frozen and canned produce are picked and processed at their nutritional peak.
- Check the unit price tag to calculate possible savings of buying different brands or quantities. The unit price is displayed on the shelf below each food product. It can be a very useful tool in comparing different brands and sizes of the same brands to know which is the better buy.
- If you have the freezer space and shelf space in your kitchen, buy in bulk. Purchasing large sizes of frozen vegetables, potatoes, and meat items can save you money.
- Skip convenience foods. Walk right past anything that has already had some type of pre-cooking or preparation done – frozen dinners, instant oatmeal, instant rice, and pre-cut vegetables are some examples. These items will always cost you more than what you can make from scratch.
- Buy beans! Whether dried or canned, beans are one of the most economical sources of protein and fiber you can find. They also have no cholesterol and are low in calories.
- You can save money on milk if you buy the largest size you can use within 4 to 5 days. Buying milk in smaller sizes such as quarts or pints will cost more than buying a gallon or half-gallon size. Another money saver is buying instant nonfat dry milk. You can extend the quantity of milk by mixing powdered milk half and half with fresh milk for drinking.
- When buying cereal, put down the sugar-coated cereals and opt for whole-grains. Whole-grain cereals will give you more of a nutritional bang for your buck. Store brand cereals that are often identical to higher-priced name-brand cereals will also cost less.
- Check the dates on food. “Sell-by” tells the store how long to display the product for sale. “Best if used by” is a recommendation for best flavor or quality – not a purchase or safety date. “Use-by” is the date recommended for the use of the food item while at its best quality.
Keep it Simple!
- Choose one day during the week when you have extra time to make (or grill) large batches of food that can be frozen into smaller amounts to be used throughout the week. These can easily be thawed or defrosted in the microwave on busy days, preventing you from spending money on eating out. All you have to add are side dishes such as fruits, vegetables or grains to complete the meal.
- Eat any leftover food for lunch or dinner the following day, or incorporate them into casseroles, soups or salads.
- If you have the time, sun and space, plant a garden. Whatever food you grow yourself will be an education for the family, have a greater, fresher nutritional value and cost less than what you will pay for it at the grocery store.
- COOK! Make as much food as you can from scratch. Doing so costs less than the same item already made at the grocery store – and it usually tastes better too!
Remember, it pays to be organized. The better prepared you are, the more time and money you will save while feeding your family healthy, fresh-tasting, delicious meals!!