You can use many tricks to save money on groceries. Shopping around the edges of the grocery store, never shopping when hungry, and buying generic brands all help. Still, nothing beats good old-fashioned planning when it comes to cutting grocery bills.
For Karen, a single mom with three school-aged children, feeding her family is a huge challenge. Organization is Karen’s key to making ends meet each month. She works out a week’s menu by reviewing flyers in the paper and checking what food she has on hand. Then, Karen makes a list and sticks to it. The list puts Karen in control, reducing impulse buying and return trips.
Karen has learned to be a good manager. She began by tracking which store offered the best prices on items she regularly bought. She calculated how much money she spent on groceries each month and divided by four to create a weekly food budget. This was an excellent starting point.
QUCK & EASY MEAL IDEAS
Meat and Alternates
Vegetables and Fruit
Milk and Milk Products
|Cooked meat or chicken
Ground beef formed into a patty, pan fry
Tuna, mixed with cream soup concentrate
Canned beans, heated
Ground meat in tomato sauce
|In macaroni and cheese
Serve on a bun
On toast or rice or pasta
Put in a tortilla
Add to noodles in broth
On a bun or on spaghetti
|Add frozen vegetables
With lettuce, onion, tomato, carrot sticks
Add frozen peas
With salsa, lettuce
With sliced bananas
With fruit salad made with bananas, oranges
With simple tossed salad
Put a slice of cheese on
Top with grated cheese,
have yogurt for dessert
Drink milk or add some grated cheese to the eggs
Have yogurt for dessert
Before you make your shopping list, it is important to plan meals or at least think about the recipes that fit with your schedule for the week. For instance, if you know you will be in a rush on certain days, plan quick meals that are easy to prepare. Some families discuss the menu for the week. This helps teach the importance of shopping and buying nutritious foods to your children. They learn to make wise food choices themselves, helping to keep food costs down.
Healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, the largest part of a healthy diet should come from grain products, vegetables and fruit.
Inexpensive buys include whole wheat or enriched bread, rice, dried pasta, hot cereals and plain ready-to-eat cereals. Muffin and cookie mixes are more expensive than baking from scratch, but cheaper than store-bought baked goods.
Keep on hand: rice, spaghetti, tortilla shells,macaroni and cheese, bread, buns.
Vegetables and fruit
Buy fresh fruit and vegetables in season. Canned, fresh and frozen produce all have about the same nutritional value. In fact, plain frozen vegetables are a good buy since they’re quick and easy to prepare and there’s less waste.
Keep on hand: onions, bananas, orange juice concentrate, carrots, frozen vegetables, potatoes.
Milk and milk products
The best buys are plain milk products such as cheddar cheese and lower fat milk.
Keep on hand: cheddar cheese, milk and yogurt.
Meat and meat alternatives - Reducing the amount of meat you eat will help save money. Meat tends to be the most expensive part of any meal. Often we serve much larger meat portions than we need. Remember, one serving size of meat is about the size of a deck of cards.
Keep on hand: ground beef, chicken thighs, peanut butter, canned beans, tuna, eggs, tofu.
Limit purchases of soft drinks, baked goods, chips and other snack foods. They are expensive and don’t provide the vitamins and minerals necessary for a healthy diet.
Stretch your food dollar by making recipes that make the most of small amounts of meat, such as stir-fries, casseroles, noodle dishes and soup. For instance, feed a family of four using two chicken breasts cut into stir-fry strips, adding vegetables such as green pepper, onions and carrots.
Always compare the price of meat, fish and chicken by comparing the unit price for 100 grams.
Use meat alternatives such as legumes (dried beans and peas), eggs, and peanut butter to replace meats and lower food cost. Frozen and canned fish are good buys.
What do you eat when you’ve got hungry kids who will all be playing soccer at the supper hour? Instead of ordering in pizza or stopping by a fast food restaurant on the way to the game, make sandwiches. Bread, cheese, lettuce and a glass of milk will give your family healthier, less expensive nutrition than the convenience foods.
Sometimes, convenience is worth the extra cost. Buy a supply of easy to prepare or ready-made foods for days when you are rushed or don’t feel like cooking. Frozen dinners, canned chili and stew become complete meals when eaten with a roll, milk and fruit.
Cut down on buying meals away from home. Pack lunches, snacks, and beverages such as juice for family members to take to work or school.
As a family, practice and improve your cooking abilities. Skilled cooks can easily make things from scratch and throw together delicious, low-cost meals. Invest in one of the new cookbooks geared for families eating on the run.
Remember too that sharing food and good times is an essential part of being a happy family. Enjoy a reasonable number of treats together.
Get a group of friends together to share food and recipes. It’s a great way to learn new cooking skills and get new ideas. Food co-operatives and community gardens are other imaginative ways to manage your food dollar.
Healthy eating doesn’t need to be difficult or expensive. Just remember a few simple points. Eat more of what’s good for you. Take control of how much you spend on groceries. Make a list and stick to it. Working on your cooking skills will help you prepare easy, healthy meals.