10 Ways to Save on Food Costs

Seems like everyone is feeling the crunch of this recession.  If you are trying to rein in your budget, food expenses is a good place to start.  For me, it’s one of our largest monthly espenses, but by making a few easy cuts you  can save a lot.

Here are some ideas for saving:

1. Make it at home. By brown-bagging you can save loads every week versus eating out.  This goes for your lunch during the workday, that $4 coffee in the afternoon, and fast food. This is a great strategy for trimming your budget and your waistline.

2. No packaged foods. I know, you are busy.  But you’ll be surprised how quickly you can throw together a stir fry or pasta dish at home.  If you are really in a pinch, make a sandwich. Things like pancake mix and muffin mix are unnecessary and filled with questionable processed ingredients.  Go for quick scratch recipes like scones for breakfast.

3. Reduce your caffeine intake. I started making our morning coffee with three scoops of grounds instead of four. It makes a can of coffee last much longer, and the lighter flavor doesn’t bother me. Skip the cases of soda, or reduce intake to one a day.

4. Determine which foods you purchase are necessities, and which are just wants. Sure a steak is nice, but you can by with cheaper cuts of meat and make stews, soups, roasts and the like.
5. Use your slow cooker. A slow cooker allows you to take those cheaper cuts of meat and cook them low and slow. Most recipes require very little prep.  If you can’t get up any earlier in the morning, prep in the evening, put the crock in the fridge and set it up to cook in the morning before leaving for work. Soups are nutritious and easy.

6. Stock up and save on meats. Watch the weekly ads and look for discounts on meat in the store.  Purchase large family packs when the meat is on sale.  When you get home, divide the meats into smaller portions, wrap and place in the freezer.  For example, a large package of ground beef might be 3 lbs or more. Divide into one pound portions and freeze.  Don’t forget to write the date on the package so you know how long it’s been in there.  It works for chicken breasts too.  I like to buy two very large packages when on sale and repackage into small (3 breasts) freezer bags to use later.

7. Buy in bulk, when practical. You can go for bagged potatoes, onions, apples and oranges.  These might be smaller or less perfect, but a big savings at the register.  Other bulk items to consider are flour, sugar, salt, pasta and canned vegetables–staples with a long shelf life. Get to know the prices and buy when they are on sale, typically every three to four months.

8. Only buy food at the grocery store. That sounds obvious, but I mean that you should purchase toiletries, paper products, cleaning supplies and pet food at the super center.  Target, Wal-Mart or Costco are better options for those items.

9. Plan ahead. By looking at the weekly ads and your store’s online sales you can determine what’s on sale and plan meals accordingly.  Plan meals based on which meats and vegetables are on sale.

10. Use coupons. Don’r roll your eyes. Coupons actually can save you money…if you know how to use them correctly.  Which is a better deal? 1. Buy the name brand at $3.50 and use a $.50 off manufacturer coupon? or 2. Buy the store brand at $2.85?  Use online services like CouponMom.com or the Krazy Coupon Lady.  Both are free and allow you to match up store sales with manufacturer coupons and store coupons.  By using that $0.50 off coupon and a store coupon for $0.50 off you now get the name brand product for $2.50.  Coupons can be found in the weekend paper or print them online at sites like Coupons.com and SmartSource.com. You can find store coupons in grocery store weekly ads and the store’s webpage.  Target, one of my favorite places to shop has printable coupons on their website. They are “restocked” on Sundays, so check early in the week to get the best ones.

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