Food spending is something that plagues nearly every family in America and beyond. It’s a constant struggle to eat healthy, keep spending down, and not feel like you’re starving every waking hour of the day.
But how do we do it when it seems like food prices just continue to rise?
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Here are 7 simple strategies you can use to keep your food costs under control:
Eat at Home
Eating at home is one of the easiest ways that we can save money on our food costs.
Restaurant meals will almost always be more expensive that what you can cook at home. And those meals that may be cheaper will cost your health in the long run.
There is no substitute for quality food.
If you’ve become accustomed to eating out, and feel that your cooking experience is limited, you do have options.
While more expensive than the grocery store, there are many meal subscription services like HelloFresh that will provide you with ingredients and recipes to teach you how to cook.
You can also join a meal planning service like The Six O’Clock Scramble, which will provide a weekly menu, recipes, and shopping list.
I like using the meal planning service because I can customize the menu based upon what I already have on hand, plus the recipes are delicious.
It also breaks me out of my usual rut of tacos, spaghetti, and pizza.
Learn more: 6 Tips to Simplify Dinnertime
Shop with a Plan
Regardless of how you come up with your menu plan, you need to have one.
If you’re new to menu planning, then keep it simple. Personally, I only plan dinners. Lunch is usually leftovers or sandwiches. I’ll usually make the same breakfast all week.
Set up themed nights like Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, and Pizza on Friday. Then make a list of the ingredients you need to buy and only buy those ingredients.
If your grocery store offers it, you may want to consider ordering your groceries ahead of time and just picking them up when you get there. You may have to pay a fee for this service, but it’ll save you from making impulse purchases.
Cook from Your Pantry
Have you seen those 30-day grocery challenges where people avoid going to the grocery store for an entire month? I’ll let you in on a little secret… it isn’t because they’re producing all of their own food. It’s because they are eating from a well stocked pantry.
The problem with a well-stocked pantry is that it needs to be rotated. You need to eat from it continuously to avoid spoilage and food waste. It can be a blessing or a curse.
On one hand, you can stock up on pantry items when they are at their lowest price. On the other, you can easily forget about that container of breadcrumbs that got pushed to the back of the cabinet.
When making your meal plan, stop to take an inventory of your pantry first. Use up what you already have on hand to avoid buying more ingredients that you don’t need.
Avoid Prepared Foods
Prepared foods can be tempting. They convince us that we are saving money because we are buying them from the grocery store, but they still cost us more than if we put a little extra effort into making the food from scratch.
We can also control the quality of the ingredients by cooking from scratch.
Prepared foods usually use lower quality ingredients and a lot of preservatives to make them low cost and shelf stable. You’ll be much better off by making them yourself.
Learn more: 5 Tips for Easier DIY Sandwich Bread
Buy in Bulk
The best way to reduce the per-serving cost of an ingredient is to buy it in bulk.
You can buy 5 or 10 lb bags of rice and keep them stored in your freezer. If you shop at Sam’s Club or Costco, you can also also find 25 lb bags of flour and sugar.
Some farmer’s markets will offer bulk deals on fruits and vegetable.
You could also save some money by visiting u-pick farms when local produce is in season. You can pick several pounds of fresh produce and bring it home to can or freeze it.
Meat can also be purchased in bulk.
Forget the grocery store, find a local farmer or 4-H kid who is raising animals for meat. You can usually buy a quarter of beef or a whole hog and fill your freeze for a year for less per pound than most steaks at your grocery store.
Buying locally grown and produced food may not always cost less than what you pay at the grocery store, but you’ll no longer be supporting the government subsidized cheap food that is putting so many small farmers out of business.
The quality will be better and you’ll be supporting your local economy.
Farmer’s markets are becoming quite common, even if they may be seasonal in most of the country.
This is when it becomes important for us to focus on buying in bulk when food is in season, and preserving it for when fresh food is scarce.
Grow Your Own
The initial investment may be costly, but producing your own food will always be the best way to control your food costs.
You’ll know what is going into your food, and you’ll have control over the quality.
You’ll also be able to make some money back by selling your excess.
Even if you only focus on producing some of your food, you can barter with others to get what you can’t produce yourself.
Self-sufficiency isn’t meant to be a solitary journey. It’s about being an asset to your local community and not being a burden to an already over-taxed system.
Get Started: How to Select Containers for Your Vegetable Garden
Learning how to save money on food is a journey. Where are you on your journey? How can I help? Comment below, and we can brainstorm some ideas.