I’ve been fighting food costs for years now; always looking for lower prices, new places to shop, and possible meal options to help economize. And while I sometimes make use of coupons and online deals, these are only tools at my disposal; they can’t force me to take the steps that actually make me a smart shopper. Fighting food costs is often more about frame of mind and creative food plans than just clipping a few coupons and hoping that the roulette wheel of deals that your grocer is offering for the week hits your culinary number. If you’re willing to make a few simple changes however, rising food prices may not affect you as much as you think.
Be Willing to Change
Plenty of us want to save money when it comes to our weekly shopping list, but we may be unwilling to change our ways when it comes to how or what we eat. The vast majority of us probably eat the same meals week in and week out. Breaking out of our culinary comfort zones to explore money saving food options is a step that many just aren’t willing to take. I mean come on, it’s not as if we have to go out and grow these new foods ourselves.
I’ve never really liked reading cookbooks, but one day a while back, I decided to crack one open and take a look. It was amazing at how quickly I came up with some new and creative ideas just by flipping through the pages for a couple of minutes. I didn’t even have to read all the prep and cooking instructions to get a variety of new recipe ideas. It’s not something I particularly enjoyed, but I’m willing to do it once in a while in order to save money.
It’s like having to go to a new grocery store. I get pleasantly settled in my routines as I imagine many of us do, but the last time I tried a new grocery store, I found that it could reduce our weekly shopping budget by nearly 20%. Sure glad I was willing to consider changing!
Have a Plan
In our family, we take a whopping five minutes before we go to the store each week and come up with a menu list to put on the dry-erase board affixed to our refrigerator (which also acts as our grocery list throughout the week). This helps us pinpoint any items we may have left off our grocery list during the week.
By paying attention to the deals that are running at our regular stores and clipping coupons in advance, we not only prepare for what we need for the week, but should there be good buys on items that have a longer shelf life or can be frozen, we try to plan for following weeks as well.
Don’t Ignore Deals
Just because you have a plan when you head out to the store, doesn’t mean you can’t explore other options. I try to think of deals at the grocery store like investments. If you know you can save money buy purchasing groceries that you’ll be sure to use at a discounted price, rather than paying full price down the road, it’s like money in the bank.
While this isn’t the go ahead to get crazy and bust your budget loading up, if there are deals to be had, you know you’ll eventually use what you are buying, and you have the available money, it makes sense to stock up.
Don’t think you need three pounds of bacon when it’s on sale for 99 cents a pound? Why not? If you eat bacon, you can always freeze it for later (check out the USDA site for facts on freezing food). See a great buy on coffee, flour, sugar, or similar food stuffs that you know you will eventually need, are long-lasting, and are on sale?
I love when this happens because I just stick the things in my pantry (or my freezer, depending on the item), then when the time comes that I need them, I just walk downstairs, grab it, and go. It makes me feel even better when I then see that same item at the store for double what I bought it for last month. And the next time that same sale comes around, I’ll probably buy it again.
Think Needs Not Wants
When it comes down to it, there are actually very few things we actually need to form the basis of a variety of meals. The basics, things like milk, eggs, bread, flour, butter, and sugar, are still relatively cheap -- as least compared to gasoline. Even things like meat can often be found at discounted prices if you spend a little time looking.
Every purchase I make, I pause a moment to consider if I really do need it. Just this simple action, which takes but a second, is often enough to give me pause to reconsider my purchase one last time. And sometimes it is enough to have me putting the item back on the shelf where it belongs. Sure, that beer looks refreshing on a hot day, but is it a need? Gosh those cupcakes look good, but are they a need? Man would I love to have that $16 steak versus the $3 thin cut beef, but is it a need? The answers -- no, no, and no!
The author is not a licensed financial professional or food or dietary professional. The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or financial advice. For financial advice, readers should consult a licensed financial advisor. Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader’s discretion.