7 Ways to Save on Groceries Without Clipping Coupons
Perhaps you are familiar with the following grocery shopping experience. You shop carefully, comparing your list with the store's options, selecting lower priced store brand or sale priced items when possible. You buy fresh produce that is in season, or on special. You pass up most of the packaged, over processed and over-priced "foods." You only allow yourself one or two splurges, like that shiny little box of 4 truffles for $4.99, or a magazine.
Feeling pretty confident that you have stuck to your budget, you head to the checkout stand. The nice grocery store checker scans each item and sends it down the conveyer belt, to be packed ever so carefully (or not) into your reusable grocery bags. You watch the checkout total ratchet up quickly. Your mental budget number appears, then disappears. Then you notice the cart is only half empty.
Holding to the family grocery budget is growing harder. So here are some tips to help you stretch that grocery dollar - without clipping coupons.
Watch For Product Shrinkage
Prices are creeping up, but more often the size of the package is shrinking. The latest culprit? Shredded cheese. That bag of shredded cheddar that used to be 2 cups, is now 1-3/4 cups in some cases. Double check what you are getting. When possible, compare the cost per ounce using the small numbers on the price tag.
Buy Frozen Veggies
Fresh produce is wonderful. But with asparagus "on sale" at $2.50 a pound and blueberries at $3.99 for 6 ounces, you are sometimes better off buying at least some of your produce in the freezer aisle. These fruits and veggies are just as healthful as their fresh counterparts. Watch for the $1 a bag sale on frozen peas, green beans and other items. Skip the veggies that come already swimming in some fat-free mystery sauce. Adding a teaspoon of real butter to those peas is bound to be better for you.
Don't Always Buy the Biggest Size
While many products are cheaper in the larger or bulk size because of reduced packaging costs, that is not always the case. Think that large bottle of Hershey's chocolate syrup is cheaper per ounce that the smaller bottle? Check again. The "two for" price per ounce on the smaller bottle is sometimes cheaper than the larger bottle. The same goes for a lot of other items on the shelves.
Once every month or six weeks, don't shop. Or at least don't shop the way you normally would. Buy only the milk, eggs and perishable items you need and cook from your pantry and freezer. It is amazing what gets stockpiled. You can make a meal out of that quarter box of elbow macaroni, a leftover frozen chicken breast, some cherry tomatoes, frozen broccoli and shredded parmesan. Rummage through the cupboards, and get creative. Involve your children, and make it a game. Sure, some of the meals will be a bit strange (you wouldn't normally serve Asian potstickers with a side of pinto beans,) but as long as you are getting a balanced, nutritious meal, it makes sense. And it saves money and reduces waste.
Make Breakfast for Dinner
A few times a month, serve breakfast for dinner. Think eggy frittata, a crustless quiche full of veggies, or whole wheat pancakes with blueberries. These meals are inexpensive to make and a surprise at the dinner table. Kids love this.
Eat a Meatless Meal at Least Once a Week
Beans are inexpensive sources of protein and fiber. Red or pinto beans can easily be made in a slow cooker while you are away during the day. Serve them with quick cooking brown rice and a side salad for a hearty meal that is easy to prepare and easy on your wallet. Or toss whole wheat pasta with a can of white cannellini beans, fresh spinach, garlic, olive oil and some shredded asiago cheese.
Make Friday Pizzas
Wondering what to do with the leftovers hiding in the fridge? Turn them into a "pizza." Give each person their own flatbread, and let them top it with cubed ham, chopped meatballs, shredded chicken, or any other leftover meat you have that week. Then add some diced onions, bell pepper, spinach, asparagus, or other leftover vegetables. Top with some shredded cheese and bake in a hot oven for 5 or 6 minutes. Flatbread pizzas are a tasty way to stretch what's left into yet another dinner.
Although challenging, sticking to a grocery budget is possible. By adjusting some eating and shopping habits, you can shrink that grocery bill, and still feed your family better.
Stephanie Leach is founder of FamiliesEatingBetter.com, a website devoted to helping families make better food choices with a weekly menu and cooking instruction program.
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