The following post is from Aimée of Simple Bites:
As I sit down to write this, I realize I haven’t set foot in a grocery store or market in eight days – and there’s food prepped for tomorrow’s dinner. I haven’t sent my husband out for milk, and although it IS tempting with all the snow we’ve had recently, I haven’t had groceries delivered.
How have I stayed out of the aisles and kept money in my wallet? Because we benefit from a weekly menu plan, a well-stocked pantry and a wee bit of flexibility in our meals; these actions save us time and money, too, as we buy just what we need and not more.
Here’s a closer look at how not to blow the monthly food budget:
1. Make a Weekly Menu Plan.
Let’s face it. No one wants to be peering in the refrigerator at 5 o’clock at night, wondering what to make for dinner, again!
Menu planning saves cash by helping us to buy only what we need and reduces the chances of having food go to waste. Planning ahead for the week also minimizes the number of trips to the grocery store and helps avoid last-minute fast food dinners.
Websites like Plan to Eat help families create a menu plan, and I’ve got my own way to menu plan that takes into account my unique schedule and helps outline an appropriate meal for each day.
2. Shop Super, Duper Smart.
I’m weird. I actually love grocery shopping. But it’s much more than loading up a cart at the supermarket.
- Cut coupons and shop sales. Pretty much self-explanatory and the best place to start.
- Purchase fruits & vegetables in their whole state. Those pre-cut vegetables at the supermarket? You’re likely paying a premium for them. Buy your produce whole and invest in a good knife!
- Buy in bulk. Stock up during sales and stock that pantry and freezer. TIP: store nuts, flours and spices in the freezer to lengthen their storage time.
- Shop at ethnic markets for specialty items. Ingredients such as spices, rice noodles, and coconut milk are dramatically less here than they are at your supermarket.
- Buy Seasonally and Locally as Much as Possible. This is a sustainable food choice, as well as a budget-friendly decision. When you source food locally, you’re ultimately buying it in season. TIP: The best way to save money? Grow your vegetables yourself!
3. Keep a Well-Stocked Pantry.
Pantry meals are my backup plan for when groceries are low and they certainly save money when the alternative is eating out or ordering in. I shop my own fully stocked pantry for a weeknight dinner and in the process, I help my family to maintain a healthy diet full of real foods.
Jessica recently shared five easy pantry meals, and here are three more main dishes that come from a well-stocked pantry.
4. Eat Less Meat.
Reducing the quantity of meat per serving, as well as the frequency with which you eat it helps dramatically in cutting food costs. Beans, legumes, and seasonal vegetables cost a mere fraction of chicken breast or rib eye.
Two simple ways to get started on your part-time vegetarianism are:
1. Turn your side dishes into main dishes. Instead of making meat the centerpiece of your meal, serve smaller portions of it and add an extra vegetable to the menu.
2. Embrace the Meatless Monday movement and pledge to serve one meatless meal a week in your home.
5. Do Not Waste Food.
It feels almost silly to remind ourselves of this obvious statement, but it may be the most important tip to making ends meet.
In her recent vlog for Plan to Eat, I love that Mandi pointed out that having a meal plan helps avoid food waste. (There’s that all-important meal plan again!)
For me, another key to less waste is REUSE. I love those leftovers and kitchen scraps! Give that lettuce-washing water to plants, turn the chicken carcass into a soup, and toss lemon rind into the dishwater for an instant deodorizer.
It’s easy to see how organizing, meal planning, smart shopping, and conscious eating can make a huge impact on our wallets. The best part? It’s healthier too. Less meat, regular meals, fresh vegetables, and home cooking all contribute to nourishing the body and soul.
What are your tips for staying within the food budget?
|Aimée Wimbush-Bourque is the editor of Simple Bites, part of the Simple Living Media Network, which dishes up real food for the family table. Cooking has always been her preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation, and growing up with a “real food” upbringing shaped that passion. She is mother to two children and wife to Danny.|