Like many shoppers, I have noticed that my food bill is increasing every week: food prices in February were 7.9% higher than a year ago, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. To make up for my family’s busy spring schedule, I also resorted to labels such as prepackaged snacks and food sets, which added even more to our overall bill.
To counter this pressure, I applied all my savings tricks: joined my grocery store loyalty program for extra discounts, used a credit card that refunded me bonus money for grocery purchases, and planned our weekly menu around sales. However, shopping for my family of five continued to shock me.
For more guidance, I turned to experts in budgeting and cooking who have the experience to make food spending more manageable, as the USDA predicts food prices will continue to rise and rise 4.5% to 5 percent. 5% in 2022. Here are their best tips for saving money on food:
Control what you can
Although much of the economy may feel out of our control, including rising interest rates, inflation and supply chain problems, our food spending is actually one of the areas in which we have a big impact, says Erin Lowell, of Bowdoin, Maine. Lead Lecturer in You Need a Budget, an app for budgeting. She says that by spending more time cooking or replacing cheaper ingredients, you can experience an immediate savings effect, unlike other costs such as bills or rent, which can be harder to change.
Lowell offers to estimate how much effort you are currently making to minimize food costs, and take that effort to the next level. For example, if you are now ordering pizza with delivery, then consider buying a beautiful frozen pizza for a quarter of the cost. If you already buy frozen pizza, then cook it yourself from scratch for only a few dollars.
Plan your meals
“When people spend too much on food, it’s almost always because they eat too often in the gym,” says Jake Cusino, a personal finance teacher in Thousand Oaks, California, and author of How to Become an Adult: Personal Finance in Real the world. ” ». He says advance planning is the key to combating the temptation to order a last minute takeaway.
“If you cook on a Sunday and do six to seven meals, you’re not faced with the decision, ‘Should I order or cook?’ every night, ”says Kuzino. He usually cooks meat for Sunday, which he can use in tacos, pasta and salads later in the week, for example. “You can do the hard work on Sunday and then mix and match for a week.”
Planning also helps avoid food waste, which is another budget killer, warns Rob Bertman, a certified specialist in financial planning and family budgeting in St. Louis. “Buy in bulk things that you know you’ll have to go through, but if the food lies in the freezer or pantry and is thrown in the trash, it’s expensive.” He and his wife keep a list of possible side dishes and main dishes that they have in the freezer, refrigerator and pantry so as not to forget to use these ingredients.
Be resourceful in the kitchen
Maggie Hoffman, digital director of the culinary site Epicurious of Brooklyn, New York, suggests replacing recipe ingredients with ones you already have at home. “Be sure to cook: if you have faro, use it instead of brown rice. Use hot sauce or vinegar instead of lemon ”.
Hoffman also recommends “next fume,” which turns the previous night’s dish into something new. Fried chicken one night can be a filling for enchiladas the next, for example.
Beans, which are usually inexpensive, are also a flexible staple, she adds. You can serve them yourself or add to salads or soups. “Beans are still the greatest thing around. Just give them a little marinade, add the garlic and make sure they are seasoned ”.
Keep your pantry well secured
Investing in staple foods can end up saving you money because then you can quickly cook at the last minute instead of ordering. “I try to keep 5 to 10 light, budget meals in the house all the time,” Lowell says. For her, this list includes ingredients for homemade pizza, frozen fish with french fries and pasta. “It’s never expensive, and I’m always happy to eat it.”
Rely on your community
While some local food banks have requirements to participate, many are open to all members of the community who need support, says Willa Williams, of Orlando, Florida, financial trainer at Trinity Financial Coaching and co-host of “The Abundant Living Podcast ». “Some nearby gardens also offer the community vegetables and other food during the harvest. “The food is here, so come and get it,” she says. “It keeps you from spending your budget on food.”
My grocery bill is still higher than I would like – even the most experienced buyer can’t outsmart this inflation rate – but with these tips manage it more. And my kids have learned their own frugal habits, such as the simple fun of making lentil soup for dinner and the savings that come with packing their snacks.