10 Tips for Thrifty Food Shopping
adorable french grocery list tote from darcyart
After my recent admission that I am going through some additional financial belt-tightening, a friend wrote to ask if it was really possible to live on $25 of groceries a week. It’s possible, certainly, but not all that fun. But her question got me thinking: maybe it’s time for a back-to-basics ways-to-economize-at-the-grocery-store brainstorm here on POP. Some of my ideas below are truly for people who are trying to eat on next to nothing. If you have a little bit more than that, you obviously may not need to be quite as extreme in your measures, but it never hurts to take a hard look at the bills and see where you could cut back. Add more ideas in the comments or brainstorm in the forum.
Stick with the basics. Bread, milk, and eggs won’t break the bank, but they will keep you full. Decide that most of your meals will pivot around a single theme for the week (sandwiches/bread, for example), and there’s lots of room for creativity. Make mayonnaise with an egg, pick up a tomato, and eat tomato sandwiches. Or grilled cheese. Or poached egg on toast. Or croque monsieur. Or eggs in a hole. Or French toast. You get the idea. Supplement additional ingredients as your budget will allow.
Rely on beans and eggs for protein. Both of these little spheres pack a lot of nutritional punch for being so easy on the wallet. Make quiches, frittatas, and omelets; make stews, bean spreads, and stir-fries.
Buy what you need. If you only need a 1/4 cup of walnuts, your best bet is visiting a store that sells nuts in bulk and only buying a bit. Same goes for spices, most of which will get old and tasteless before you’ve had a chance to use up an entire bottle anyhow.
If you buy more than you need, use the freezer. Sometimes the family-sized pack of free-range chicken is too good a deal to pass up, even if you live in a two person household. Wrap up the pieces, freeze them, and use them next month. Cook up a pot of beans and freeze in small containers. Pulse leftover herbs with garlic and olive oil in the food processor and freeze for fresh flavor in the cold months to come.
Avoid “snacks.” Anything that comes in a box, a bag, wrapped in plastic, or in individual packets is more expensive than a banana, a large bag of popcorn, or buying dried fruits and nuts in bulk.
Look at what’s on sale. This is a big duh, but sometimes we all forget. True, most of it is processed garbage, but at my local store ripe, fragrant tomatoes and cottage cheese were going for cheap. Did I see a salad in my future? You bet I did.
Hit the farmer’s market. What’s in season is in abundance; what’s in abundance is usually on sale. And asking the hands that grew your food how they like to prepare zucchini or plums is satisfying in the most elemental way.
Buy cheap coffee. I have three words and one contraction for you: Chock Full o’ Nuts. I know, you don’t believe it’s good. I didn’t either. But it is! Pinky swear.
DIY. Feeling really thrifty and filled with a can-do spirit? Bake your own bread, make your own yogurt, assemble your own Larabars. What we pay for is convenience, but if you have a little extra time, you can save yourself a few extra dollars.
Make friends with the humble vegetables. Depending where you live and what season it is, there are always stalwarts of the vegetable department that reside in the bargain bins. Onions, cabbage, fresh corn on the cob and green beans, for example, are cheap, cheap, cheap. Try recipes that make them the stars, like braised onions and cabbage over pasta, a caramelized onion soup, or a succotash of corn and green beans.
Okay, this is clearly just the beginning. What else?