Stretching your grocery budget can sometimes be a bit of a challenge. One week you might spend $100 and then run out of food by Wednesday and another you spend $200 end up throwing half of it away. Or maybe you go to the store with no clear idea of what you need and end up getting odds and ends that don’t come together well.
While we’ve all been there before, the good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way!
With just a little know how you can use your groceries more efficiently and stop wasting not only food but also your hard earned money.
Here are some helpful tips you can implement that will show you ways to stretch your groceries longer.
Throwing away perishable foods can wreck havoc on any grocery budget so it helps to know what foods can be frozen and how to do it properly.
Be realistic on how much your family is going to eat. If its something you can freeze for use later than go ahead and buy it! But, if it’s a food that doesn’t freeze well, like salad, try not to buy more than what your family will reasonably eat.
TIP: Improper defrosting can ruin food which would have otherwise still been good. Some foods do better defrosting over night on a plate in the fridge (pork chops or steaks) while others are just fine being defrosted in cold water (chicken or ground beef)
Another super simple way to stretch your grocery budget is to use some of the same ingredients throughout the week over several meals.
For example, I will often cook a large portion of rice and use it in two or three different meals throughout the week. Same with beans, chicken, pasta and so much more. This cuts down on waste because I’m less apt to toss uneaten food if I know I have a use for it within the next couple of days.
TECHNIQUE: The best way to reheat meat, especially chicken, is cooking it in a sauce or liquid the next day. This keeps it from drying out and adds a little more flavoring. I’ve been known to simmer leftover shredded chicken with a little chicken stock and seasoning and it tastes just as juicy as it did the day before.
Buy In Bulk
Here’s another great tip to limit your food waste and balance your grocery budget. Buy as much as you can in bulk!
Buy the items you need in bulk and then as soon as you get home, separate and store your items. It’s much more cost efficient to buy in bulk and it only takes a little time to separate and organize the foods before they begin to spoil.
For example, I buy multiple loaves of bread at one time and then freeze some for later. When I buy meat in bulk, I weigh and portion out meals and freeze them right away. This ensures the food is still as fresh as possible and saves me the trouble of doing it later. Same thing with bananas, peaches, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and so much more.
Don’t overlook bulk bins at the grocery store, either. Flour, cereal, rice and all sorts of other groceries can be found at your local grocery store bulk bin section. Invest in some convenient containers and recoup the money over time by ditching the expensive packaging.
TECHNIQUE: Be sure to write the date before freezing so you know when to use the food by.
Save And Reuse Leftover Veggies
There are so many fantastic ways to reuse leftover vegetables while trying to stretch your grocery budget. Try them in a stir fry, casserole, or even roasted in the oven.
You can reuse more leftovers than you think with just a little ingenuity and creativity. Do you plan on having an omelet in the morning? Toss in some leftover veggies from the night before and kick it up a notch. Or maybe you have some peppers that would be perfect in a quesadilla? There’s really no wrong way to go about it.
TRICK: I hate to admit it but my son refuses to eat any of the vegetables I give him. So, until this phase passes, I often sneak his leftover veggies into smoothies. What he doesn’t know can’t hurt him, right?
Keep A Personal Inventory
Maintain a list of ingredients that you have on hand so you can easily plan your weekly meals. And yes, plan your meals! Knowing what you’re going to cook really eliminates buying items you don’t need.
I know, I know this sounds super tedious but if you want to save some money down the road this is an excellent way to stay on top of your grocery budget. By keeping a running log of the foods you have on hand, you eliminate the chance of accidentally buying more than you need or worse forgetting something and having to make a second trip to the store.
Sell Or Use By Dates
Understanding the difference between Use By and Sell By dates can also help you control your grocery budget by keeping you from tossing food too early.
Use By Dates
Use by dates need to be taken more seriously as they are usually placed on food that can make you ill if eaten after it’s gone bad. So this means Use By dates are put in place as a precaution and care should be taken if eating after the recommended date.
Food containing a Use By date generally need to be stored the correct way to ensure freshness. I.E the fridge or freezer. Check the packaging
Sell By or Best By
This is more of a general guideline on when the food should be consumed. As in the food would taste better if eaten by the date provided, so more of a quality warning than a precaution one.
The foods you want to keep an eye on the most are, fruits and vegetables, dairy products and meat and fish.
Choose Nutrient–Dense Food
Foods high in carbohydrates and sugar may taste good but they wont keep you feeling full longer than more nutrient- dense foods like salmon or legumes. Get a better bang for your buck by buying groceries with high nutrition counts. Sweet potatoes, carrots, quinoa and bananas are packed with tons of nutrients along with peas, apples and squash.
It might seem like you’re saving money by buying less expensive prepackaged food but, in reality, foods with a higher nutrition count keep you feeling fuller and satisfied for longer.
Meat products make up a significant portion of any grocery budget so naturally the best way to cut your budget is to go without meat a few times a week.
But what about protein you say? Foods such as eggs, dairy, beans, nuts and vegetables, like broccoli, are all excellent sources of protein. Add rice or other whole grans with beans and nuts to complete and round out the meal.
TIP: Don’t forget local farms. They have surprisingly good prices and you know the quality will be top notch.
Sometimes we don’t have what we need at hand for a recipe so it’s helpful to know what foods can be substituted for another without requiring a trip to the store.
- Greek Yogurt instead of Mayonnaise or Sour Cream
- Applesauce instead of Oil
- Honey in place of Sugar
- Unsweetened applesauce for an egg
- Pureed Avocado for Butter
- Plain yogurt for Milk
Poke around and see what you do have and think outside the box. Depending on the recipe you’re making you might have something on hand that would work in a pinch!
Keep An Organized Fridge
Its easy to forget about leftovers when they get pushed to the back of a really full fridge That’s why I like to organize my fridge in a way that lets me easily see what I have inside of it.
By allocating a specific area of my refrigerator to leftovers, I’m sure to not lose anything in the shuffle. While cleaning out and putting away groceries I take the time to rearrange and maintain order, ultimately, spending just five minutes on it a week can save you time and money down the road.
These are a few of the ways I try and save on my grocery budget. Let me know below what you do to save some money on your grocery bill!