I’ve never been one to closely watch my grocery bill. But when I decided to quit my day job to work from home, I knew I had to become more careful with my spending. I’m not a huge fan of couponing (always forget them). And I always seem to be in too much of a rush to comparison shop. So I came up with a few other ways to keep costs down without sacrificing quality:
1. Buy package-free items: A lot of money goes into packaging food, so it always helps when you can buy food that skips this step. Find stores that sell staples like rice, cereal, grains, nuts, and spices in bulk. You spoon out as much as you need and put them in a bag to be weighed at checkout.
One of my favorite items to buy in bulk is spices. I simply wash and reuse old containers to store them at home. It’s good for the environment, too!
2. Know exactly what you have in your kitchen: I got tired of cabinets full of food I don’t make on a regular basis. So I cleaned everything out and decided to only store food I use regularly. I even made lists so I can keep these key items on hand all the time.
This not only makes life easier, it also helps you look closely at your purchasing habits. Once you become more conscious of what you buy on a regular basis, you can keep an eye out for those items at the stores you typically go to and comparison shop.
3. Get the most out of the food you buy: It started bothering me that I didn’t know how long mayo stayed good or how long other items can be used after you opened them (like grated cheese and deli meat). I realized that I was throwing food out before it was spoiled, because that voice in my head was saying, “When in doubt, throw it out.”
That’s why I developed this comprehensive food storage list. Now I shop smart and plan meals around how long ingredients will last – being mindful of the limited shelf life of certain veggies or food in opened packages. And as I’ve cut back waste, I’ve been able to cut back the grocery bill.
4. Pick and choose your produce: You may be familiar with the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen — a list of fruits and vegetables found to have the most pesticides. They tend to be thin-skinned items like peaches instead of those with a thicker skin like bananas. I keep this list in mind as a guide to help me choose which produce to buy organic and which I can buy conventional. But what matters most is getting those healthful fruits and veggies in your diet, whether organic or not.
5. Think outside of the fish box: Fatty fish is an important part of a healthy diet, but it is also expensive. I balance this out by using canned fish frequently, whether it’s the easy tuna sandwich or adding tuna or salmon to pasta dishes. And with the right sauce, salmon cakes (made from canned salmon) hit the spot and can be frozen for an easy future meal.
And farmed salmon, which is less expensive than wild, is becoming a smarter choice due to new standards from the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC).
So these are the things I do to keep costs down. How about you?