If you’ve been to the grocery store recently, you’ve probably noticed that the cost of food has risen considerably in recent months, a result of the rising cost of gas and an already tight demand of wheat, corn and other staples. But if your salary hasn’t risen to reflect grocery store prices, you’re likely among the millions of Americans struggling to find room in their budget for necessities. Here are some ways to stretch your food budget without sacrificing on the items that you need.
Skip Pre-Packaged Foods
It’s no secret that pre-packaged snacks are among the biggest splurges you can make in the grocery store. Instead of paying top dollar for individually-wrapped cookies, for example, buy a larger bag and let each child take his or her snack in a sandwich bag. This strategy can save you over $10 in the scope of a single month.
Make Your Own Food
You may think that a loaf of bread, for example, isn’t that expensive, but in reality, it’s about five times the price of what it would cost to bake a similar loaf on your own. Likewise, you can make over 50 cupcakes for just a few bucks (think about the cost of a single bag of flour, half a bag of sugar, some oil, eggs and chocolate chips), while about 10 servings of pre-packaged snacks will cost the same price. There are dozens of similar examples of foods that are relatively easy to prepare and will help you save big – all you need is a bit of time and creativity.
Re-Examine Your Menus
Do you really want to splurge on steak, or can you enjoy a delicious meal of meatloaf or chicken? Do you need to purchase a bottle of salad dressing, or can you make your own salad topping for a fraction of the price? You’ll be surprised at how much you can save if you adjust your menus and recipes to focus on cheaper food instead of luxury items.
Buy Second-Tier Produce
I’ve written several posts about how to save money at the grocery store, but in addition to the obvious (use coupons, buy in bulk, etc), it’s important to consider purchasing things you wouldn’t otherwise buy, and trying new, cheaper things. One such things is second-tier produce, or fruits and vegetables that are about to pass their peak and are ready to be enjoyed immediately. In some cases, you may need to remove some soft spots in order to use a specific vegetable, but this effort will pay off big time. Second-tier produce can be used to create inexpensive meals that can be frozen. Among my favorite examples are bananas, which can make cakes, cupcakes and muffins, potatoes which can be used in stews, casseroles and for homemade french-fries, and zucchinis which can be turned into soups and quiches which freeze beautifully.
Cook from the Cabinet
Your pantry is meant to be used, not just looked at. When the cost of food is high, reduce your weekly shopping expenses by eating food that you already own. You’ll be able to replenish it when general food prices go down or you can find items on sale.