10 Tips To Save Money On Food

Warning: This is a post that gets me fired up! Ok, that’s your fair warning.

Prices on food is every so slightly going up… Oh who are we kidding, there’s been droughts, and fires, and gas prices, and other what nots that are making food prices go up and everyone is feeling the pinch. And if you purchase organic like us then you really know the impact food is having on your wallet.

The ‘argument’ I hate hearing the most in regards to why people don’t purchase good healthy food is, “because it’s so expensive!”  ARGH! I will say it over and over, food quality is soooooo important! Listen, I know you can purchase a box of chemical laden, refined product driven, over salted, high fat, ‘filling food’ that will last you a week for a buck. But It’s NOT FOOD! Real food rarely comes with a label and you know exactly what’s in it by looking at it, not reading it. So sure, real food is more expensive then the boxed, canned, plastic wrapped excuses sold on the shelves in the middle of the grocery store. BUT real food keeps you real healthy! It is as simple as that. And you are right, you will pay for it… One way or another. Either you are going to shell out a couple extra bucks every time you check out at the grocery store for quality food OR you are going to feel the wrath of the medical bills that will pile up when you’re older because you’re body has turned on itself from not having proper nutrition and consuming products it can’t properly break down! (Wow, that was a mouthful.) So ya, pay now or pay later. The difference is, later comes with an additional price tag. It’s called being continually sick or dealing with chronic illness.

SO… If you choose not to purchase healthy, real food, that is your choice. And the reasons are your reasons BUT NEVER EVER talk to me about it being too expensive! And to give you more reasons to not have this discussion with me, I’m going to help you out. I’ve compiled a list of things you can do to help curve the cost of food.  I do understand that it’s tough shelling out a chunk of your paycheck every time you go to the grocery store but if you can shop smart, plan ahead at least a little, and stave off impulse urges (read as don’t shop hungry and don’t purchase something just because it’s pretty, like the Salmon Filets that look amazing but come with a sticker price of $21.99/lb.) you can actually save money on your food budget.

Mistake #1  for people going Paleo—> I highly recommend that if you are going Paleo and decide to make use of Rob Wolfs shopping list as your first Paleo shopping list and buy everything on it, DON’T! Look, I love Rob and everything he has done/is doing for the Paleo community but I will criticize that shopping list. That thing is ridiculously expensive and unnecessary. Right idea, wrong execution. It will cost you an arm and a leg to purchase everything on there and it isn’t realistic for everyone. Vaughan and I followed that list and there was WAY too much food!  For those of you going Paleo, plan, plan, plan! It will get more second nature the longer you commit. But just like everything else in your life you have ever changed, it takes work at the beginning and gets easier with time.

Ok, so back to my list on how to save money in the food section…

1) Don’t Shop On An Empty Stomach!

That’s it, your saying? I know you’ve heard it before, and I also know that common sense isn’t so common. Wasn’t it just last week you were shopping hungry and came home with a container of chocolate covered pretzels, 2 packages of cheese with those oh so yummy indulgent crackers, and a bag of Doritos that you probably won’t eat because by the time you get home (after you’ve eaten a 1/4 of the bag) you are going to feel so guilty that you’ll just throw them in the trash anyway? Don’t do it! Plan! Here are some options:

  • Shop after you work out. If that is the time that you are most proud of the healthy direction you are going and can keep on task then that is a good time for you. On the other hand, if you are the type who is starving after you sweat your ass off and justify food as “I worked for it,” then this IS NOT a good time for you to shop.
  • Right after you eat. Common sense again… You will be full and less likely to give into impulse purchases.
  • First thing in the morning. Most people’s appetite isn’t at full steam early in the day and if you can head to the store as soon as it opens, you may find that you can resist the Doritos.
  • And finally, if you HAVE to shop after work (which is when most people are super hungry because they don’t eat midday “healthy” snacks, have a grocery list on hand and DON’T DEVIATE!

2) Stock Up On Meats That Are On Sale

What this really means is USE YOUR FREEZER. We are no longer in college, so get the vodka out of the freezer, clean out the ice chunks that have adhered to the walls making it nearly impossible to put anything in there, and use it properly! Every week grocery stores have different cuts of meat on sale. So stock up. Purchase extra and freeze them. Even if you have no idea what to do with a Chuck Roast, and it is a great price, buy it, put it in your freezer, and find a recipe to experiment with. Who knows, you may even find that you enjoy cuts of meat that you never would have known about.

3) Buy Produce In Season

This is probably the most common missed opportunity for nearly everyone. It’s simple -> if it’s in season, it’s cheaper! There is more inventory and they want to move it. Plus, produce that is in season has proven to be higher in nutrients. If you need a seasonal shopping list there are good ones here (for Florida), here (pick your state), and here!

4) Grow Your Own

Hey, I hear ya, I suck at gardening too… But I have to say, it’s pretty challenging to kill a basil plant! Growing herbs is one of the easiest ways to save money. Herbs can be excruciatingly expensive in the store and if you don’t mind a couple pots hanging around, then you can have fresh herbs any time you want them. Experiment and see what grows better indoors or out. And if you need to herb growing advice, go to your local farmers market and ask the experts. I find they are more than willing to share their expertise and provide you with as much information as you need on what to grow.

Free tip: You’ll thank me for this one, trust me. There are certain herbs (like Dill) that I haven’t started growing yet but use fairly frequently. So I buy a bunch of it and what I don’t use, I dry. Simply hang it upside down by a string for about a week or so to dry, then chop it up and place it in a leftover jar. Waste not, want not.

5) Pay Attention To Shelf Life

No matter how much you wish, you CAN NOT purchase two weeks worth of produce on Sunday and expect it to last you a week, much less two weeks. Face it, most produce has about a three day shelf life. So you have two options… Either, buy smaller quantities more often or figure out ways to extend the produce shelf life.. But first, be realistic about how much produce you are really going to eat. Here are some possibilities:

  • Citrus: When the skins start hardening (as in case of limes) or start softening (as in case of lemons), squeeze all of the juice into jars, label it, and store it in the fridge. It may not have it’s pretty packaging anymore but at least you don’t have to throw away the juice.
  • Herbs: Dry them and store or mix them with olive oil, pour into ice trays and freeze. Use them when you are cooking.
  • Greens: As soon as you get home from the store, take a thin dish towel, dampen it, wrap the greens in it and place in crisper. You will get a couple more days out of your produce.
  • Roots (such as carrots / beets): Cut the tops off immediately. The tops drain the roots by pulling any moisture from them in order to stay “healthy”
  • Mushrooms: Place in a paper bag in the crisper. The paper will absorb excess moisture, extending their shelf life.
  • Onions: They will last a while in a cool, dry space. When you cut them, if you are not using the entire onion, be sure to leave the roots intact and cut from the top.

6) Use ALL of the Vegetable!

It seems like we throw away so much food unnecessarily. Did you know you can actually cook with the tops of beets and carrots? Go here for a carrot top recipe. Look at what you are tossing just because you think it’s not edible and find out for sure. Very little gets thrown away in our home. Even bones of beef and chicken get thrown in our freezer until I have a sufficient enough collection to make a stock. Ok, so ‘collection’ may not have been the best word, but you get the idea. Start looking at your food a little differently, from a conservative standpoint. Ask yourself, “Does this have any more use to it?,” before you chuck it in the trash. And if you don’t know if it does, do like me and google it!

7) Invest In Club Shopping

Costco, BJs, Sams Club, or whichever is near you. Their prices are cheaper and the ONLY caveat is buying in bulk. The cost of membership is earned back within a couple shops. Plus they are the cheapest places to buy toilet paper and paper towels… But back to food. We shop at Costco and I can purchase organic ground beef and organic whole chickens there. I throw them in the freezer and pull them out when I have nothing fresh in the fridge. Be careful on buying produce though. Mainly because you will purchase more than you can eat but also they don’t have very many organic options (yet). So here are some of our Costco staples that really save us money:

  • Coffee
  • Toilet Paper and Paper Towels (ya I know I said this one)
  • Coconut Water
  • Organic Meat
  • Canned Goods (I buy canned salmon and tuna from time to time to make a quick meal)
  • Olive Oil
  • Nuts (be careful with some of the higher fat nuts as they can go rancid quicker so freeze or refrigerate them if you don’t use them right away.)
  • Almond Butter
  • Dried Fruit (occasionally)

Club shopping is not a weekly occurrence for us. Besides, who in their right mind would want to buy in bulk every week (except for possibly octomom). I go when.. you guessed it, we run out of toilet paper and paper towels, and use those times to stock up on food.

8) Find A Farmer’s Market Or Coop

There are some deals to be had on produce when you can find a good farmer’s market or coop. We go to Ellenville Farmer’s Market and get a weekly basket of organic produce for $35. The up side: it’s totally worth the money and we are actually saving money. The down side: I can’t really pre-plan my meals because I don’t know what is going to be in the basket. But that’s kind of fun for me. Are we having kale chips this weekend or sweet potato brownies? If you can be flexible and shop for price, you can find some really good deals.

9) Make Your Own Coffee

Oh I know you’re laughing at me on this one. Try it… Check your bank account and find out how much you are spending on coffee each week. Oh, and don’t forget the impulse buys they get you on. Breakfast? Sure, I’m here already. That $4.76 latte just turned into a $15.32 breakfast that would have cost me oh so less if I would have just ate and drank at home. Don’t have time in the morning? Invest in a coffee machine that you can set the night before. But you just enjoy that coffee shop coffee you say? Well, then try to cut back. Make it twice a week instead of 3 times a week. And if that still doesn’t work, it’s your pay check. I tried.

10) Pull Out Your Charlie Brown Lunch Pail

Mine was actually Strawberry Shortcake and I just wish I still had that thing. Of course with how much I eat throughout the day, I don’t think it would be big enough. If you start looking at how much you spend on going out to eat (especially for lunch) you may be surprised. It adds up super fast. Don’t be afraid to bring your lunch. Here are some tips for proper lunch planning:

  • Make extras at dinner the night before. Toss them in some Tupperware and you’ll have a yummy lunch.
  • Most people can’t eat the same thing every day for lunch but if you can, prepare your lunches on Sunday evening to get you through the week. And if you can’t, at least try to plan a couple days lunches before the week starts.
  • Cook a stew or casserole from time to time. They make sufficient quantities to provide you with extra meals.
  • Take turns! If you are fortunate to have a significant other in your life, take turns planning lunch. There is no reason one person should have to carry the load.
  • USE YOUR FREEZER! Again, I can’t stress how important the freezer is. Most things freeze well and if you are continually making extras to freeze (stews, casseroles, breads & muffins, even egg dishes), you will always have something to grab when you are in a rush.

So there you have it. There are plenty of other tips and ideas out there but these are the ones that work best for us.  If you have a food shopping, planning, or preparing tip that works for you, please share below.

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