Making the Most of Your Food Dollars

Flikr Creative Commons | Some rights reserved by leff

Flikr Creative Commons | Some rights reserved by leff

The American Farm Bureau predicts that food prices will rise 3-4 percent in 2013. This means it’s time to take a serious look at our grocery bills to find ways to cut expenses.



Here are a few ideas to help you make the most of your food dollars this year:

  • Before heading out to the store, inventory what you have in your pantry, fridge and freezer. This will give you a chance to toss any spoiled food and organize the remaining items to avoid purchasing something you already have at home. You may find a few nearly-complete meals hiding away in the depths of the freezer.
  • Make sure your appetite is satisfied before heading out the door. If we shop while hungry, we are much more likely to grab items that look delicious, rather than buying what we need or can afford.
  • Make a list—and stick to it! When we shop with our eyes or stomach, we are likely to pick up items that will not fit into our meal plans. You’ll find yourself with too many veggies and no meat or lots of bread and no butter.

Grocery Store Tricks

  • The store is purposely organized with produce near the front with meat and dairy near the back. This layout forces shoppers to walk through the entire store for essentials. Even a quick stop to the store can turn into a large bill when passing through the potato chip aisle on the way to skim milk. Keep this in mind to avoid falling into the trap!
  • Stores display the most expensive brand at eye level, where you it is easy to see and quickly grab. Take a look at the top and bottom shelves for less expensive brands.
  • Just because an item is featured on the end of an aisle or in a special display, doesn’t mean it is on sale.
  • Some stores offer double (or even triple!) coupon days. Call around and ask about coupon policies. You may be able to use a store coupon and a manufacturer’s coupon on the same item!
  • Ask your local store if they offer price matching. This will keep you from driving store to store to save.
  • Utilize rain checks on sold out items at a great price.
  • Buy fruits and veggies that are in season. They will be less expensive and taste better! When you see produce prices rise, the item is transitioning into the “off season” which makes the price increase since it is more difficult to get a hold of. Try to take advantage of local farmer’s markets or produce stands. Prices are often lower and the food will be fresh and local!
  • Take a look at the price per ounce label on store shelves. Sometimes the big jar offers big savings, but other times the smaller jar is the better deal.

At Home

  • Plant a garden. Fresh herbs and produce are not cheap and it’s pretty simple to grow your own. If you only have room for one item, grow your most used fruit, veggie, or herb in a planter. Strawberries, tomatoes, green onions, green peppers and basil are easy to take care of.
  • Take your lunch to work. Eating out is tempting and quick, but a few dollars a day can add up quickly. Limit yourself to one lunch out per week. Last night’s leftovers make a great lunch the next day!
  • Invest in an at-home coffee pot or espresso machine. Even if you are committed to a particular brand, they often sell specialized grounds and flavoring right in the grocery store. The machines will quickly pay for themselves when you cut back on daily coffee runs.
  • Make your own spice packets. Specialty seasonings cost a pretty penny, but they are simple to make at home! Check the internet for recipes and you may find you already have everything in your spice rack!
  • Consider investing in a deep freezer. This will allow you the room to freeze meals in advance and stock up on goods when they go on sale.
  • Go vegetarian (for a night)! Meat is a major expense in our meals. Use alternative sources of protein (eggs, tofu, beans) at least one night a week to cut down your grocery bill.

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