According to the U.S. Food Cost Average Report for October 2008, a family of four with two elementary age children can cut about $180 per month from their grocery bill simply by adopting some lower cost shopping habits.
Over the last few weeks we have looked at different ways to save money on food during a recession. We have learned that we can save money by planning ahead, cooking and eating at home, and moving away from soda.
Did you know that you can save money AND still include higher nutrient items in your diet? Here are some shopping strategies to help cut your budget while maintaining a nutrient rich pantry.
Knowing how to make smart choices when shopping will allow you to get nutrient rich foods at lower prices. Here are some specific strategies that are pretty easy to adopt for immediate savings.
Breads and Grains
- Look for bargains at your local bakery for day old whole grain breads, buns and rolls. Be sure to store in the refrigerator for longest shelf life.
- Many grocery stores have reduced sale on whole grain breads, buns and rolls that need to be moved from the shelves. Learn where your store generally puts reduced sale baked goods and check there first for what you need. Be sure to store in the refrigerator for longest shelf life.
- Select regular grains like rice, oatmeal, oats or grits instead of the instant or flavored varieties.
- Select large bags of frozen vegetables for those favorites that are out of season.
- Many stores have reduced produce sections for ripe vegetables that need to be moved quickly. If you tend to use fresh vegetables frequently, be sure to check for very ripe vegetables reduced for quick sale.
- Always select fresh vegetables that are in season. Use this Month-by-month guide to help you know which to include in your meal planning.
- If canned vegetables are the best option, avoid buying low sodium varieties and simply rinse canned vegetables in a colander with cold water prior to use to remove excess sodium. Microwave in a very small amount of fresh water to retain the maximum amount of nutrients versus boiling in water on the stove which will leach nutrients into the water and be discarded.
- Consider using the salad bar at your local grocer for food items that are needed in smaller portions for recipes such as lettuce for tacos or red cabbage, onions, carrots or peas for recipes. If that you will only use a small amount but must buy in larger amounts, it will likely lead to waste from non-use so are better bought at the salad bar then in bulk.
- Always select fresh fruits that are in season. Use this Month-by-month guide to help you know which to include in your meal planning.
- Many stores have reduced produce sections for ripe fruits that need to be moved quickly. If you tend to use fresh fruits frequently, be sure to check for very ripe fruits reduced for quick sale.
- Select canned fruits that are not in season. To save the most, select fruits packed in syrup versus juice. Simply rinse the fruit completely in a colander using cold water for a few minutes and pat dry before use to remove unnecessary syrup.
- Nonfat dry milk is the least expensive way to purchase milk. Consider mixing a half gallon of liquid milk with a half gallon of reconstituted nonfat dry milk for the same nutrition at a lower cost. This can also be a great technique if you are trying to switch from whole milk to low fat milk. If members of the family notice a taste difference try adding a few drops of baking vanilla to the gallon and stir.
- Typically, larger containers of milk (gallons) provide the best price per ounce. However, be aware of specials that may be offered on half gallons. Just last week our store had a sale on half gallons of skim milk for $1.00 each whereas the gallon was still priced at $2.39.
- Select 1% or Fat Free/Skim milk for family members over the age of two. (Note that children under 2 years of age should be given only whole milk.) Use the mixing tip above to move in that direction if your family uses whole milk for those over the age of 2.
Meat and Poultry
- Be sure to look for and select meats on sale at the meat counter or local butcher.
- Select chuck or bottom round roasts instead of sirloin. These cuts require moisture, time and to be sealed during cooking so the meat can tenderize.
- Look at the price of ground turkey compared to ground beef. Many times the price will be slightly lower and ground turkey can easily be substituted in recipes to provide a lower fat meal as well as cost savings.
- If you have the freezer space, select the “family size” package and divide at home into appropriate portion or meal sizes for your house and freeze. If you do not have the freezer space and don’t wish to eat the same meat every day for the rest of the week, see if a friend or co-worker will split the pack with you to still be able to take advantage of the savings.
- Purchase a whole chicken or turkey and bone, skin and cut it into appropriate meal serving sizes yourself. Split with a neighbor or co-worker to share the work and for faster use if storage space is limited.
Dry Beans and Peas
- These staples provide a cost effective and healthy option to meat, poultry and fish. Try including entrees using these staple items at least twice each week.
- Soak dried beans (such as kidney beans for chili) in water overnight or during the day for faster cooking time in recipes. Buying dry and softening before use is more cost effective than purchasing canned many times.
- When using canned beans or peas, be sure to rinse with cold water for several minutes in a colander before use.
Bulk Foods and Warehouse Shopping
- Buying bulk foods can help you get the exact amount you need and reduce waste so be sure to check out store bulk options.
- Warehouse stores like Costco or Sam’s Club can provide great cost saving options if you have the storage space and will be able to use larger quantities. Consider working with a neighbor or co-worker to split larger packaged items if space or pace of use are concerns.
Learn from Others
- Do you have any cost saving strategies that help you continue to select nutrient rich foods while saving money?
- How much have you been able to cut from your food budget over the last few months?
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