As one who has always watched her purse strings, I'm always considering new ways to apply my cash-saving techniques to essential spending. However, since I love to cook and bake, sticking to my food budget can be a bit tricky. Through the years, though, I've found how to save and still eat well. Follow along as I share my five favorite tips to cut my food bill.
It's tempting to shop for the food you crave, but it is often a budget buster. I find it best to wait until my favorite food is on sale. Each week I plan my menus around grocery store sales. For example, this week the market has rump roast, carrots, kale, and eggs on sale--$14 total. One night, I will roast the meat with carrots and a few potatoes I had in the pantry. I'll serve it with sautéed kale. Leftovers will go into a soup with beans and in a pastry for pasties for two other meals. With the eggs, I'll make a quiche one night and a frittata another. In both egg dishes, I'll add a bit of kale and other interesting items I might find in the refrigerator--perhaps a bit of cheese or mushrooms.
Using coupons is a no brainer, but so few actually follow through with their little slips of cut paper. It's unfortunate, as I save 50% and even more at times. For example, I found a coupon for $1 off three cans of a brand of beans I typically purchase. These beans are usually $.99 per can, but were on sale at a nearby store for $.69 each. Therefore, instead of paying $2.97 for the three cans of beans, I paid $1.07.
Get your hands dirty and garden
As an avid gardener, I've always had vegetables growing year round. Today, I grow much of our fruit as well. During the summer, my tomatoes, squash, greens, carrots, onions, beans, eggplant and bell peppers are so plentiful I share with the neighborhood and still have plenty to freeze for the winter. My winter crop is smaller with a few carrots and greens ready to eat each week. Nevertheless, the spring crop makes up for it with fava beans, peas, greens, onions and carrots. I save seeds from my healthy plants for next year's crops to cut my expenses even deeper. The bonus is that all my crops are organic, so I know it is safe to eat. Each season provides us with plenty to eat, share, and store for use until the next harvest.
Shop in season
Not all home gardeners can grow all their vegetables and fruit. In fact, I'm tired of squash and greens by fall and crave broccoli and Brussels sprouts, which I can't grow but are then in season. Purchasing these or any other produce items out of season can typically cost twice as much. For example, I priced Brussels sprouts in our local market at $4.25 a pound at the beginning of October. By the middle of November, an entire stalk of bright green, farm-fresh Brussels sprouts were $2.99.
Stop at the fruit stands
Fruit stands can be one of the best places to shop for fruit and vegetables. Farmers can't always sell their blemished "B" grade fruit and vegetables to grocery stores. Customers typically only want perfect looking produce. So for those of us who don't need perfect looking produce for our pies or soups, we win. Blemished fruit and vegetables are usually less than half the price of those in stores. For example, organic fuji apples are selling for $1.79 per pound at our local grocery store. I bought the same apples for $.49 a pound at a nearby fruit stand. The blemishes only affected the price not the flavor or texture.
Shop smart, save money, eat well.
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