The rising prices of food and fuel will make it harder to make ends meet and save for future goals. We all know the obvious things like eat at home, use coupons and shop the sales flyers so here are some little tweaks that will help you spend less on food.
1. Watch portion sizes, especially for young children. It’s easy to dish out more food than we want to (or need to) eat. Many times we will automatically eat everything on our plate, regardless of hunger so try serving a bit less. Sticking to the suggested serving sizes of pricey foods like meat and cheese can save money and keep us healthy and trim.
In the case of small children, their eating habits can be maddeningly unpredictable. During a growth spurt, they might out eat the adults and then turn around and spend the next 3 weeks living on air and crackers. Give them small portions to start so if they aren’t hungry, you won’t have to throw away much food. This also applies to beverages like milk and juice.
2. Keep your fridge clean and organized. It’s too easy to forget about food and let it go bad when you can’t see at a glance what you have. Dirty crisper baskets with rotting produce can contaminate your fresh fruit and vegetables.
Make it a habit to clean out your fridge at least once a week. I clean mine before I go grocery shopping so that I have a clear picture of what I have and so that there is plenty of room for incoming food.
Keep leftovers front and center so you are reminded to eat them sooner rather than later. I prefer having all of mine in clear glass storage containers so they are easy to stack and I can tell at a glance what is inside, but it’s not completely necessary.
3. Frozen produce can be a healthy choice and can be very convenient on busy nights. Read labels and look for varieties than contain just vegetables and no added fat, sugar or salt. Frozen stir fry blends can be turned into a fairly healthy, simple weeknight dinner by adding a bit of meat or tofu.
Frozen fruits and vegetables aren’t always cheaper than their fresh counterparts, so shop around.
4. Herbs and spices can add a lot to a grocery bill. Check to see if any of your stores offer bulk bins for spices. For example, at the Whole Foods I shop at, you can spoon out just a tablespoon or so of a particular spice into a small bag and pay just pennies instead of buying an entire jar for several dollars. This is the way to go if you’re not sure that you’ll ever use that spice again.
5. Learn to cook at least 2 or 3 meals that can be prepared quickly using pantry staples. This can help you avoid the temptation to eat out or having to make a run to the store while you’re tired and hungry (or worse, having to drag your tired and hungry children to the store with you during the after work rush!)
6. Try Google recipes for ways to use inexpensive new-to-you ingredients. It lets you refine and filter results based on what other ingredients you have on hand, cook time and calories. It’s a great way to find uses for leftover ingredients that you have from other recipes.
7. Use cash at the grocery store. This will force you to keep a more careful running tally of what you have in your cart and cut down on impulse buys if that is a problem for you.
8. If it’s at all possible, try to shop during less busy times of the day. A crowded grocery store can add to your stress levels which makes it harder to make good decisions. I know I’m not the only one who has just thrown anything into my cart just to get out of there and go home when it’s a zoo inside the supermarket!
A well stocked pantry and freezer can eliminate the need for last minute runs to the store during the most hectic times of the day.
9. If you need or want to do your shopping with your children, be proactive in keeping them busy and happy. Go when they are well rested and have recently been fed to avoid tantrums and melt-downs and a raging case of the gimmes.
Talk to them about what you are buying and why you are making the choices that you are. Even small babies will like hearing your voice even if they have no idea what you are saying! You can let older children help you figure out the best bargains and even let them choose their lunchbox fruit or after school snack themselves (be sure to give them reasonable limits). You might be surprised at how careful they are with money when you give them a challenge!
Keeping the children occupied will make shopping pleasant and let you keep a clear mind to shop smart.
10. Be grateful. It can be so easy to get wrapped up and anxious about the rising costs of food and gas and start feeling deprived and stressed out. These are very valid concerns and it is necessary to worry about these rising costs and do what we can to stay within our budgets.
However most of us reading this are not living in a situation where we are having to fight off crowds to get a day’s ration of porridge for our families or helplessly watching our children suffer the effects of malnutrition. Feeling grateful for what we do have makes it much easier to make these changes to keep our food costs manageable. The right attitude makes a world of difference when it comes to frugal living. Who knows, you might get so good at it that you have extra to share with those who are going through tough times.
Are you feeling the pinch of rising food prices? How are you dealing with it?
Photo Credit: teejayhanton