Like many shoppers, I’ve noticed my grocery bill rising every week: Food prices in February were 7.9% higher than a year ago, according to the US Department’s Economic Research Service of Agriculture. To offset my family’s busy spring schedule, I also turned to shortcuts like pre-packaged snacks and meal kits, which added to our total bill.
To counter these pressures, I applied all my savings tricks: opting into my grocery store’s loyalty program for extra discounts, using a credit card that gave me a cash back bonus on grocery store purchases. groceries and plan our weekly menus based on the sales. However, shopping for my family of five continued to shock me.
For additional guidance, I turned to budgeting and cooking experts with experience in making food expenses more manageable, as the USDA predicts food prices will continue to rise, rising by 4, 5% to 5.5% in 2022. Here are their top tips for saving money on food:
CONTROL WHAT YOU CAN
While so much about the economy may seem completely out of our control, including rising interest rates, inflation and supply chain challenges, our food spending is one area where we exercise big influence, says Erin Lowell, leader of Bowdoin, Maine. educator at You Need a Budget, a budgeting app. By spending more time cooking or substituting cheaper ingredients, you can feel an immediate impact on savings, she says, unlike other costs, such as bills or rent, which can be harder to come by. to modify.
Lowell suggests evaluating the effort you’re making to minimize your food expenses and taking that effort to the next level. For example, if you’re ordering a pizza for delivery, consider buying a good frozen pizza for a quarter of the price. If you buy frozen pizza, consider making it from scratch for just a few dollars worth of ingredients.
PLAN YOUR MEALS
“When people spend too much on food, it’s almost always because they eat out too often,” says Jake Cousineau, personal finance professor in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and author of “How to Adult: Personal Finance for the Real”. World.” He says planning ahead is key to combat the temptation to order takeout at the last minute.
“If you cook meals on Sunday and have six to seven meals, you don’t face that decision of ‘Should I order or cook food? every night,” says Cousineau. He usually cooks meat for Sunday which he can use in tacos, pasta and salad later in the week, for example.
“You can do the heavy lifting on Sunday and then mix and match throughout the week.”
Planning ahead also helps you avoid food waste, which is another budget killer, says Rob Bertman, certified financial planner and family budget expert in St. Louis.
“Buy in bulk for things you know you’re going to go through, but if the food sits in the freezer or pantry and gets tossed in the trash, it’s expensive.”
He and his wife keep a list of potential side and main dishes they have on hand in the freezer, fridge and pantry so they don’t forget to use those ingredients.
Maggie Hoffman, Brooklyn, NY-based digital director of the Epicurious cooking website, suggests replacing the ingredients in the recipe with those you have at home.
“Be confident in your cooking: if you have farro, use it instead of brown rice. Use hot sauce or vinegar instead of lemon.
Hoffman also recommends the “next,” which turns last night’s dish into something new. Roasted chicken one night can become an enchilada topping the next, for example.
Beans, which are generally inexpensive, are a flexible staple, she adds. You can serve them alone or add them to salads or soups.
“Beans are still the best thing ever. Just give them a little marinade, add some garlic and make sure they are seasoned.
Have a well-stocked pantry
Investing in basics can end up saving you money, because then you can quickly prepare last-minute meals instead of ordering.
“I try to keep five to 10 easy, budget-friendly meals at home at all times,” says Lowell.
For her, this list includes ingredients for a homemade pizza, frozen fish with fries and a pasta dish.
“It’s never expensive and I’m always happy to eat it.”
RELY ON YOUR COMMUNITY
While some local food banks have eligibility criteria, many are open to anyone in the community who needs support, says Willa Williams, a regional financial coach from Orlando, Fla., at Trinity Financial Coaching and co. -host of “The Abundant Living Podcast”. .” Some neighborhood gardens also provide the community with vegetables and other produce at harvest time.
“The food is there, so come get it,” she said. “It saves you from spending your food budget.”
My grocery bill is higher than I would like – even the savviest shopper can’t outsmart this level of inflation – but it has become more manageable with these tips.
And my kids learned some frugal habits, like the simple pleasure of cooking lentil soup for dinner and saving money from packing their snacks.