The money that we spend on groceries constitutes a major part of a family’s monthly expenditures: the top three categories, in order of spending, are housing, food and transportation expenses. I am certainly not a food expert, but I discovered through my online surfing that there are some principles that are worth considering when it comes to spending less on food, without sacrificing quality.
Granted, the combination of the pandemic with its stresses, coupled with the convenience of “picking something up” on the way home from work have increased the amount of money we spend on food. One recent survey found that 43% of a typical American family’s food expenditures went to “eating out.” That is a high price to pay for what is in many cases consists of either fried entrees or simply unhealthy dishes.
One simple habit to adopt is to keep an accurate tally of your total food spending; you may be surprised about where your food money is going. Reducing the amount of junk food and sweets you are purchasing for your children can save money and improve your children’s diets.
Saving money on food starts with going to the grocery store. For years, more than a few families have used coupons to cut their food bills. We have all read stories of consumers saving hundreds on their food purchases by using coupons. Two things to remember with using coupons: the first is that you may wind up with food items that are never used, and second, it takes a major investment of time to save meaningful dollars via grocery coupons.
I found that there are at least two smartphone apps that can help you save money at the grocery store: Ibotta and Fetch. Before you shop, see if there are any deals on items you were going to purchase anyway. Add them to your list, and the apps let you scan your receipts and obtain a rebate for those items. Both apps are free.
Moreover, it helps to think like a chef by reviewing your meals for the past month, and you may find that certain dishes keep coming up. Not only is that normal, but it can also be a great cost and time saver.
First, you can start seeing if you can pick ingredients that can be used in several dishes instead of just one. Former chef Julien Saunders pointed out that successful restaurants shop with the idea of cross-utilization. For we fledgling foodies, it can save money to simply write down a list of regular go-to dishes with their ingredients. We waste less, which is a win for our bottom line.
Another way to save money on groceries is not to woodenly buy organic for all fresh vegetable purchases. Organic fruits and vegetables will contain less synthetic pesticide residue than non-organic goods. However, there are certain foods that are completely safe to buy non-organic. A good rule of thumb is that produce with an inedible peel such as corn on the cob, squash, onions, garlic, pineapple and avocados need not be organic. The peel is what contains most of the chemicals, so if the peel will be discarded, there is little risk.
If it doesn’t have a peel at all, like berries and leafy greens, or has a peel you’ll likely be eating such as apples and potatoes, then may be worth it to spend a couple extra dollars to avoid consuming pesticides. Of course, buying organic, locally grown foods is always a win-win.
It has long been a treat for my wife and me to shop at the Aiken Farmer’s Market on Williamsburg Street for two reasons. First, we are supporting local farmers, and it is always helpful to speak with the very people who grew, harvested, and produced the goods that are on display. I can discover which produce has been a strong crop and if there is anything particularly new or special on their stand that they would like to highlight.