Let’s face it. Cooking for a family costs a fortune, especially for those who are interested in working with high-quality ingredients that offer a lot of nutrition. Based on some extensive research, 62% of the average annual expenditures goes to housing, transportation, and food. With around 13% of our annual expenditures, food can be the easiest place to start if we want to save some money.
Luckily, there are some great ways to make healthy, filling meals without going over your budget. Keep reading the tips below to find out more.
1. Stock Up
Keeping a well-stocked pantry reduces the need to head to the grocery store as often, so you end up spending less on food each month. The trick is to buy a few extra dried or canned goods each time that you go. For added savings, check out the weekly ads at the grocery store first. That way, you can tailor your shopping list to what they already have on sale.
2. Eat Less Meat
Meat is the most expensive part of any meal. So one of the best ways to cut your food budget in half is to start making meatless meals. The trick is to use a cheaper vegetable-based protein in them instead. Some good ones to try are peanut butter, nuts, tofu, and beans. Or you can throw in a few eggs. At just a couple of dollars for a dozen of them, they are one of the best bargain-buys you can get.
3. Plant a Vegetable and Herb Garden
No matter where you live, there is always a way to grow a few vegetables or herbs. Use flower pots out on the balcony or windowsill. Or ask your friend or neighbor to borrow a little yard space. Just be sure to only plant vegetables and herbs that you know that you will eat a lot of.
4. Repurpose Food Scraps and Leftovers
Getting your family members to eat the same old meal two or more times in a row is next to impossible. So the best way to make sure that leftovers don’t go to waste is to either freeze them for another day or use them in a brand new way. For example, scraps of meat taste great in omelets, and vegetables can be tossed into a big pot of soup.
5. Try Out Store Brands
Paying for name-brand items costs a lot more than just picking up the store-brand version. And there is no difference in the quality. In fact, if you compare the labels of both of them side-by-side, you can see that the ingredients are usually identical.
6. Forage for Fruits and Nuts
A good portion of the fruits and nuts that trees produce end up going to waste because no one picks them up off the ground. Also, many people forget that they don’t have to buy everything from the store all the time. If you don’t happen to have any fruit or nut trees growing nearby, head to your local park. Just be sure to contact your local officials to make sure that it doesn’t go against any city regulations first.
7. Have a Meal Plan
Planning your meals makes saving money so much easier, especially if you stop to calculate the cost per serving of each meal. It doesn’t have to be an exact amount. Just estimate as closely as you can how much each of the ingredients that you intend to use will be.
8. Don’t Shop When You are Hungry
Never go to the store when you haven’t eaten in a while. It will make it harder to avoid buying snacks and other things that you don’t really need. If possible, try to wait until after you have just eaten a healthy meal. That way, your brain will be more focused on choosing other healthy items to add to your cart.
9. Buy Frozen Foods Instead of Fresh
Fresh food is best because it has the highest nutritional quality. But unless you have to feed a large number of people, a lot of it can end up going bad before you have a chance to eat it. So the next best option is to head to the freezer section. With the proper technique, the frozen food will taste just as good once it thaws, but it will cost a fraction of the price of buying it fresh.
10. Buy in Bulk
Many stores sell foods with a long shelf life in bulk packages, such as flour, salt, and pasta. They are helpful to have because they can be used to stretch other fresh or frozen ingredients that you get later on. Just be sure to compare the unit price before you buy them to see how much you will be able to save. Some stores sell items in a larger size without reducing the cost.
So, if you feel like you are spending a lot of money on cooking items and products, then you should definitely do something about it. Even though cooking with high-quality ingredients can be, sometimes, pretty expensive, there are a lot of alternative tips and tricks for you to try.
I hope these 10 tips will help you manage your cooking budget better and actually make you spend your money more wisely.