This is a guest post from Lori Winter, who blogs about healthy & natural living at Laurel of Leaves. She’s put together a great list of tips for saving money on food — something I know will be of interest to all!
10 Ways to Save Money on Your Grocery Budget
Limit eating out at restaurants. Just cutting back on restaurants and fast food trips will drastically stretch your food budget. If you currently eat out 5 times a week, challenge yourself to limit it to 2 times a week for the next month. For a family of four, you could end up saving hundreds of dollars from this one change alone!
Start meal planning. This may not sound like the most fun activity if you’re a ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ kind of person, but it truly does help you save money at the grocery store. Schedule an hour one day a week to sit down with the calendar and some cookbooks (or Pinterest!) and plan some meals. You don’t have to begin by planning every single meal for the whole week. I like to pick 3 or 4 salads to have in the fridge all week (think chicken salad, coleslaw, egg salad, or a spring mix with homemade salad dressing). Then choose 1 or 2 new recipes to try along with your family’s favorite staple meals. Make your shopping list based on those ingredients, then stick to the list when you’re at the store!
Buy from the bulk bins. Individual packages may seem convenient, but they are definitely not a good value for your money. Search out bulk bins at stores like Whole Foods or Kroger for ingredients like flour, oatmeal, and dried fruit. Buy as little or as much as you need for the week. Also ask about bulk discounts from the store. You can often purchase an entire case of something at a 10-15% discount.
Don’t go shopping when you’re hungry. Can we say ‘impulse buys’? Grab a snack before you hit the stores. And bring a water bottle with you. Many times hunger pangs are just your body’s way of telling you that you’re dehydrated.
Cook dried beans. This used to intimidate me to no end. The thought of slaving away over a big pot of beans for hours did not encourage me to cook from scratch. But when I learned how easy it is to cook dried beans in the crock pot, I knew I couldn’t pass it up. Save money and reduce your exposure to BPA lined cans at the same time.
Make your own stock or broth. This is another instance where you will save money and eat healthier. And it doesn’t really take any extra time! Next time you cook up a whole chicken (either roast it in the oven or let it sit in the crock pot – it will fall off the bone!), save the bones and throw them back in the crock pot. Add filtered water and any vegetable scraps (like onions, parsley, or celery) and let it simmer on low overnight. It costs mere pennies to run a slow cooker. In the morning, run the broth through a fine mesh sieve or a piece of cheesecloth and store your broth in the fridge or freezer.
Bring a calculator for cost comparison. Check the unit price on different items to make sure you’re buying the product that is the best value. You want to make sure you’re getting the most for your money!
Watch the register. Computers aren’t perfect. And neither are people. Mistakes can happen, so just keep an eye out when the clerk is ringing up your items at the checkout.
Grow your own fresh herbs. Many herbs like basil and mint grow like weeds! Pay the same 2 or 3 dollars for an entire plant that you would on one sprig from the grocery store. Plus it will be fresher. Keep them in small pots in your kitchen window or on the back deck.
Make larger, less frequent shopping trips. Do your best to only make one big monthly trip to warehouse stores like Costco or Sam’s Club. Then purchase fresh produce and other staples only weekly. If you visit the store more often, you’ll inevitably find more things to buy. It also helps if you follow tip #2 and plan your meals and shopping trips accordingly.
What are your biggest challenges when it comes to the grocery budget? Do you have any other tips for saving money? Leave a comment here and let me know! You can also connect with me on Facebook & Twitter for more tips on natural budget living.