The price of food continues to go up whether it is preparing a meal for your family or eating out at a restaurant. With so many other things requiring your time and attention what are some simple steps you can take to stretch your grocery budget. Hopefully, the following ideas will provide some guidance on getting the most for your money like buying in bulk and starting a garden. It doesn't require sacrifice to stretch a grocery budget but it does require creative thinking and dedication to make saving money a priority.
Winging it when it comes to meals doesn't really work that well in this day and age. Food is much too expensive to randomly pick up items at the grocery store and think a selection of meals will magically appear from those items. Planning a menu is one of the easiest ways to stretch your grocery budget. This is primarily because it will reduce the amount of unnecessary items purchased while making the most of everything else. Planning menus doesn't have to be a labor-intensive process either as long as you stick to the basics. Through the course of a week try to have one fish dish, a couple chicken-based dishes and a couple meat-based dishes and then add some fresh vegetables to each of those meals.
If you haven't done so already purchase a membership to one of the wholesale membership stores to buy items in bulk. When it comes to staples like flour, rice and sugar there is no reason to be buying small amounts for inflated prices at a regular grocery store. Bulk purchases lower the price per ounce and depending on what is purchased can last for weeks and months of regular use. Cooking oil and other basic commodities last forever if stored properly.
In order to remain competitive many grocery stores will offer price matching based off competitor ads. This is great for two reasons. The first is that it means you can conduct all your shopping at one grocery store without having the waste gas or time running around. The second is that you are not limited the sales on hand at your favorite local grocery store hoping something is in season or offered at a discount. Price matching is especially important when it comes to purchasing fruits and vegetables which tend to have limited availability both in time and location. Not only does this save money and stretch your grocery budget but it also leads to a healthier lifestyle by eating fresh produce more frequently.
If you have the space in your backyard it is highly recommended to start a personal garden which will cut down on your food expense even more. Not only is it the kitschy modern thing to do but it also allows you to plan meals based on what you grow and guarantee a certain level of freshness and pesticide free produce. Starting a garden is easy to do since there are many tutorials and tips online as well as forums and communities which help out each other to make the most of what they plant.
When planning menus try to create dishes which allow you to make more than is necessary so you can freeze the remaining food or eat them as leftovers. It can be a tedious process cooking seven nights a week so if you make a casserole or two, leftovers can be frozen or eaten a few days later. Some dishes like chili and stews actually taste better a few days later so take that characteristic and make it work for you. You may also find that when starting a garden you have more produce than you can possibly eat and leftovers will be a natural byproduct. This is a good thing as it means something healthy is always available and ready to eat.
One of the most expensive purchases for any grocery budget is meat. This is partly driven by normal supply and demand as more people consume meat-based dishes but it is also a result of other economic factors. Increased use of corn for ethanol production has driven grain prices up resulting in more expensive beef. Needless to say, not only is eating less red meat healthier for individuals but it also provides an opportunity to eat more fish, chicken and vegetables. Red meat should be viewed as a special occasion such as having steaks on Friday night or hamburgers during football instead of an every night occurrence.