One of the biggest expenses for the American family is food. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average U.S. household spent $ 7,729 in 2017. Even finding ways to cut it by just 10% can save the typical U.S. family $ 773 a year, which can make a huge difference.
Here are the most powerful strategies for saving money while cooking at home:
- Make meal plans.
- Buy groceries from a discount grocery store.
- Start with the grocery folder.
- Pair of sale items with cheap staple foods.
- Use a slow cooker.
- Make “pantry meals” a habit.
- Make extras and freeze them.
- Eat your leftovers.
Make meal plans
One of the best ways to keep food costs low is to keep your initial ingredient costs low. If you buy cheap food (and actually eat them), your food costs will be much lower and your food budget will last longer. A good way to do this is to start your food shopping routine with a meal plan. Make a big list of the meals you need to cover for the next few days and create a grocery list of the things you need to complete these meals. This shopping list gives you something to focus on while shopping as you are just trying to find these items instead of walking around the hallways hoping for inspiration. A list helps keep a lot of unplanned food purchases out of your shopping cart and gets you out of the store much faster.
Buy groceries from a discount grocery store
If you choose a discount grocery store as your primary source of groceries, even the items that are not for sale will be much cheaper than at a more expensive grocery store. There are a few chains, such as Aldi, Lidl and Fareway, that are known for consistently low prices. So if one of them is in your area, make it your primary grocery store and only supplement with other stores if they do not have anything you need.
Start with the grocery magazine
A good way to start a meal plan is to simply contact your current grocery folder from the discount grocery store where you usually shop. Find the discounts on fresh ingredients and fresh meat, and use them as the backbone of your meal plans for the coming week. Try to use the really good sale for several meals, and if it’s a really good bargain, buy extra and freeze the basic ingredients.
Pair of sale items with cheap staple foods
A good way to make a low-cost meal is to pair a meat on sale or produce an item with a cheap staple food like rice, beans, peanut butter, pasta, spinach, bananas and apples. These are foods that are always cheap. For example, if tomatoes are for sale, consider making a meal that uses these tomatoes along with pasta, which will result in a cheap meal. If peppers are for sale, boil some rice and let it fry.
Use a Slow Cooker
One of the biggest challenges that many busy families have is finding time to prepare meals in the middle of a busy evening. A slow cooker gets around that problem. It slowly prepares your meal during the day so that it is ready to eat when you get home. You just put the ingredients in the slow cooker the morning before you leave and you have a hot meal ready to serve when you get home. Slow cookers do a fantastic job of preparing dishes like soups, stews, roasts and casseroles, and a large one will cook enough to provide plentiful leftovers.
Make ‘Pantry Meals’ a habit
Many people who cook at home find that their pantry is filled with ingredients that have not been used from previous meals. Instead of letting this build up, become cluttered and waste food, regularly choose to have “pantry meals” where you aim to use as much of the contents of your pantry as possible and minimize the extra ingredients. Aim to use spices before they get bad. Get through the big bag of rice. Since it has already been purchased, it will directly cut this week’s expenses in the grocery store.
Make extras and freeze them
For many meals, such as soups, stews and casseroles, it is not much harder to make a large quantity of that item than to make a small quantity. If the dish is easy to freeze, choose to make a large amount and freeze it extra in suitable meal containers. Not only does this provide cheap and convenient leftovers, it often means you can buy ingredients in bulk, saving even more money.
Eat your leftovers
Make eating your leftovers a normal routine. When you have finished eating, you can wrap the leftovers in individual meals for convenient lunch or freeze the leftovers down for a future meal. Down the road, make a point of eating the leftovers. Bring a leftover container to work for lunch or incorporate a leftover meal (or a meal based on leftover ingredients) into your meal planning for the week.
Most of the strategies to keep food costs low focus on advance planning, but the time invested in advance planning pays off in the form of faster trips to the grocery store and more convenient cooking at home. You are just left with a lot of savings.