Here are some more ideas for saving on food.
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8. Look online. Sometimes your “staple” items might be cheaper at an online retailer like Amazon. And if you purchase using “subscribe and save” you’ll save 15%. (You can easily cancel before the next shipment.)
9. Discount stores. Stores like Big Lots, Marc’s and Ollie’s can be a good place to find deals. However, this type of store isn’t terribly reliable if you’re looking for a specific item.
10. Discount grocery stores. ALDI and Sav-A-Lot can be a great source for some items. The Sav-A-Lots here in Rochester are downright scary. ALDI had a particular stigma 15 years ago when they opened in my town back home, but I believe that they’ve changed with the times. While they’re produce isn’t the prettiest, many of their items are good quality. They generally carry only their own brand and usually only one size is available. Their cheeses are a good deal compared to your mainline grocery stores. And if you aren’t concerned about your eggs being organic or free range, they have comparatively good prices. They also carry their own soy milk. Definitely worth a look.
11. Warehouse stores. When shopping for one, stores like Costco, Sam’s Club and BJ’s might mean overkill. For anything perishable, you’re going to need a freezer or a healthy appetite. For nonperishable food items, you’ll need a place to store the extra.
12. Shop at off days and times. All day Friday and anytime on the weekend should be avoided if at all possible. Apparently, Tuesday nights are busy too. If you want to make sure you’re getting the sale items in a store’s circular, Monday night would be the time to go. Many stores mark things down on Wednesdays to prepare for the next week’s shipment. So, if you’re looking to possibly score unexpected deals on deli, meat, produce or day-old bakery items, you might want to give Wednesday a try. Plus you’ll easily avoid the sample people.
13. Don’t shop hungry/don’t take samples. We all know not to shop for food when we’re hungry. That’s how Twinkies and CheezIts end up in the basket. But did you know that those who take the food samples being offered in the store buy more? And not just of the things we sample. Psychologically, that snack sets something in motion that winds up costing more money.
14. Have a list and have a budget. Stick to both. It should be a no-brainer that you need to have a list. But I’m trying to be as exhaustive as I can. So, be sure to make that list, and stick to it. Yes, if you forgot to add bananas to the list, but you need bananas, buy them. But if ice cream isn’t on the list and you don’t need it, don’t buy it. When you’re making your list, don’t just restock staples and necessities and get stuff for your meal plan. Think realistically about snacks, desserts, etc. That way you can plan ahead. BUT sometimes, you’ll stumble upon a good deal that you weren’t expecting. As long as you’ll use it and can afford, it, I say go for it. Better to save now if it’s something you’d have to buy later.
15. Weigh produce that’s pre-packaged by weight. For example, if you usually buy 3-poun bags of apples, grab 3 or 4 and weigh them. Then pick the one that weighs the most. You might get as much as 3.5 pounds or more for the same price.
16. Eat less meat. Of course the vegetarian would say that. But, really, beans and grains cost less than meat. So consider adding some meatless meals to your menu plans. I’ll share some of my favorite meatless recipes this weekend.
17. Consider making it from scratch. Yes, this can take time. You’ll have to figure out what things are actually less expensive and worth your time. I make my own vegetable broth. I have a big bag in the freezer and as I peel carrots, or cut the ends off onions, I throw that stuff in there. Broccoli stalks, asparagus ends, stems from herbs, even corn cobs (from which corn was cut, not eaten.) Then, when it’s full, I throw it all in a stock pot with water and cook it on low for an hour two. Then I strain it and freeze it. A lot of people make their one bread.
Another example—a recipe I made the other night called for 2T of mango chutney. I didn’t want to buy a whole jar. So I googled some recipes and threw something together with mango, honey, vinegar and spices. It worked just fine.
18. CSAs/farmer’s markets/backyard garden. Locally-grown, fresh produce is always going to taste better and will generally be better for you. You can consider planting a small garden, or doing some container gardening. Also, in Rochester, we are blessed with many farmers markets and the availability of a variety of community supported farms (CSA). (I’ll be talking more about CSAs soon.) These are a great source for fresh, inexpensive produce which is often organic.
Next up: My favorite meatless main meal recipes.