Today’s Solutions: September 25, 2022

As the cost of living continues to soar, many of us are left staring hard at grocery store shelves and willing (in vain) for prices to magically drop. Yes, we’re all feeling the effects of inflation at the moment, especially while trying to cross items off our shopping lists considering that grocery prices have gone up about 12 percent since last year.

Even though pantry staples like eggs, beef, and milk all come with a higher price tag these days, there are still clever strategies that you can implement to help you spend less while still putting healthy and satisfying meals on the table. Read on for 10 tips that will help you cut back on costs even while inflation drives prices up.

Shop with a plan

It’s not unusual for shoppers to casually scan their kitchen pantries and cupboards before leaving for the supermarket with nothing but a jumble of mental notes floating around in their minds. If this sounds like you, then consider making those mental notes concrete by jotting down an actual grocery list on a piece of paper or on your phone. 

Though you may swear by your superior memory, making a grocery list doesn’t just ensure you remember everything you need—it also helps you avoid making impulse purchases that only bulk up your final bill.

Planning out your meals for the week will encourage you to cook more at home instead of opting for delivery or eating out. 

Be prudent with produce

Eating lots of fruits and veggies is great for optimal health—unfortunately, nutritious produce can be quite expensive, especially since they tend to go bad within a week or less. 

That said, choosing frozen, canned, or dried fruits and vegetables can help you save money while making sure you get your fill of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants over a longer period. Just make sure to look for options that are low in added sugars and salt.

You can also rethink which fruits and veggies you use for your meals. Consider swapping out the more expensive bag of mixed greens for a salad and grabbing a cabbage (which is usually cheaper) to make a slaw. Switch out pricier shallots for the more cost-effective onions for a soup recipe, and throw frozen berries into the blender instead of fresh ones for your morning smoothie.

If you have some produce (like rice, soup, eggs, etc) that’s about to go bad, don’t let them go to waste! Freeze them instead so you can eat them when you’re ready.

Be a coupon cutter

For those who don’t already covet their weekly sale and coupon flyers, the time to start is now. 

Your local grocery stores will likely offer discounts throughout the store, and when combined with coupons, the savings can be significant. You can also check to see if they have rewards for loyal customers or a points card.

For those who prefer shopping online, try adding virtual coupons to your order and filtering for products that are on sale. 

Factor in unit prices

What’s a unit price you ask? Well, it’s usually found on the shelf next to the price for a particular item. It lets you better compare sizes and different brands so that you can decide which purchases are more cost-effective for you.

For instance, if you finish a small box of cereal every week, you may find that after scanning the unit price, buying a bigger box that costs more upfront will actually save you money in the long term.

Get creative with your protein

Meat, poultry, and seafood are known for being protein-rich. But they’re also some of the more expensive foods on our plates. 

Instead of defaulting to meat as a source of protein, try some plant-based proteins such as beans or tofu. These kinds of protein-rich foods are usually cheaper (and usually don’t negatively impact the environment as much).

If you prefer not to give up meat, then choosing less expensive cuts of meat will help you save money, too. Instead of steaks and chicken breasts, go for ground meat and chicken thighs. You can also talk to your butcher to help you find the best deals.

You can stretch the meat you already have by making some freezer space for it. This makes a lot of sense, especially if the meat products you usually buy go on sale. 

Expiration dates get a refreshment  

In an effort to curb food waste, some grocery stores have decided to scrap expiration and best before dates altogether. These dates are meant to be a guideline for quality standards and usually don’t have anything to do with safety (save infant formula, which does get a safety date).

Checking your food for mold before you consume it is always a good idea. Otherwise, doing a simple sniff test will often suffice.

Shop your pantry and freezer

When you feel like there’s “nothing to eat” in the house, don’t automatically rush to the shops. Instead, take a thorough look at what you have in your pantry, fridge, and freezer and use what you have, even if it takes a little more effort and creativity.

Making sure to take inventory regularly will also help you use foods before they go bad.

Go big (when it makes sense)

Buying in bulk is often a good way to save money in the long run for larger households, but it also means that you spend a lot more money upfront. 

If you’re not part of a large household that needs to buy large quantities at once, then consider the staple foods you use regularly and decide whether buying these certain items in bulk will help you make significant savings.

Shop for a more economical store

Many people get comfortable with one local grocery store and don’t usually stray from it. However, mixing it up from time to time can help you save on your grocery bill, especially when it comes to sales. Even your neighborhood dollar store might offer some grocery staples for low prices!

Rethink “convenience”

Convenience usually comes with a cost. Just compare pre-cut produce and ready-made sauces to whole veggies and separate ingredients. Sometimes, the convenience is worth the extra money, but make sure you really reflect on when these instances are instead of making the most convenient choice your default. 

Sometimes, taking the extra five minutes to chop your carrots is worth saving a few dollars.

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