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Monday, December 13, 2010

Cutting your food bill- in a nutshell

Want to slash your grocery bill dramatically? Here's some of the most important tips.

Be willing to change. If you want to shop exactly as you are now, buy exactly what you're buying now, cook exactly as you're cooking now, and serve exactly as you serve now, your food bill will remain exactly as it is now.  If you want to really change your food bill, you have to be willing to change either how you shop, what you buy, what you cook, or how you serve. The more you're willing to change, the more your grocery bill will change.
If you're willing to do that, read further. If not, you can stop reading now, as none of these other tips will help you if you want to maintain your shopping and cooking status quo.


Stick to larger stores, preferably chain grocery stores. They have more buying power, and can therefore get lower prices and can afford to give good sales. This usually is the best option for saving money. The corner store usually costs the most.

Comparison shop- either between different stores or within the same store. Figure out the unit price of things and get the cheapest one. Usually larger packaging will end up being cheaper, but not always. Yes, you have to pay more up front, but you'll save more over time.

Forget brand loyalty. In no time, you'll adjust to the taste of a new brand's product.

Buy cheaper cuts of meat. (Use my handy chart to help determine this.)

Stretch whatever meats you buy, either by mixing it with a filler (mixing mashed potatoes, breadcrumbs, or eggs with ground meat to make meatloaf or meatballs), stretching it with another cheaper protein (soy flakes or seitan), chopping it up and mixing it with lots of veggies to make a stir fry, or by serving it as a tasty addition to a mostly bean dish (like succotash, chili, or shepherds pie with lentils). Doing so is not shameful- it's ingenious!

Incorporate vegetarian meals into your diet, at least once a week, if not more. This doesn't mean replacing chicken breast with expensive dairy, expensive and unhealthy vegetarian hot dogs or burgers, or expensive fish fillets. It means exchanging meat for beans, seitan, or tvp unless you get a really great deal on fish or dairy. When you're deciding on an alternative protein, figure out price per unit to get a true weight comparison- if tuna is 75 cents a can and chicken is 3 dollars a package, remember that a package of meat is likely a 2 pound package, and that can of tuna is around 4.5 ounces, making it be 16 cents an ounce, while the chicken is only 9.4 cents an ounce...
So while you're think you're getting a better deal on the tuna, the chicken is actually cheaper. Keep these in mind when deciding on a vegetarian meal option.

Buy vegetables in season. By purchasing vegetables not in season, not only are you getting less nutritious veggies, you're also paying more for that produce because you're also paying for its transportation from the far away place in which it was grown.

Try to have a large percent of your groceries be loss leaders, a smaller percent but still large percent of your buys be cheaper staples, and only a very small percent be expensive extras.

Make things from scratch when you can, if doing so won't take too much of your energy away from doing other tasks that can save you even more money. Dry beans instead of canned, homemade pasta sauce from tomato paste, and homemade fries instead of frozen fries are just some of the many examples of things the average person can easily make from scratch without too much effort.

Plan your meals around the foods you're able to buy cheaply; don't plan meals and then buy the ingredients needed, no matter what the cost. Incorporate leftovers into your meal plans so you don't end up throwing out food.


That, my friends, in a nutshell, is how to cut your grocery bill dramatically.


What do YOU do to cut your grocery bill? What would you add to my list? (Come on, I wrote this list when I'm feeling sick as a dog. I know I'm missing some important tips! Help me out with the rest!)


P.S. I just wanted to point out that we're pretty much a soy free home (aside for the things that rarely sneak in- soy is in the most unlikeliest of places in this country) for health reasons and I don't recommend using soy TVP flakes because soy is pretty bad for you. However, I realize that many readers to eat soy on a regular basis, so I include tips to save money by using soy as a filler. However, ground seitan is the much healthier option, the one I and my family use.

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