Cooking from scratch is probably the biggest way that our family has been able to enjoy healthy foods and more of them. I’ve found that I can nearly always (99% of the time) make foods myself for cheaper than someone else can do it for me. If I purchase the ingredients and assemble them, I can not only really know what is in them, but I can also put them together for less than it would cost someone else to assemble the same meal or treat in prepackaged form. This not only goes for meals and snacks like cookies and breads, but it’s true for things like frozen or packaged produce as well. It’s going to cost more to purchase your veggies cut up or your prunes pitted. Well this is true in most instances; there are going to be times where diced broccoli is going to be cheaper than florets, so check the price before heading to the checkout.
Another important way to save money on whole foods is to buy in bulk. I make a sincere effort to purchase any food items that we do not produce ourselves in large, bulk quantities. This saves money on the item, bringing the cost way down. Why would I want to purchase organic buckwheat flour at $8 per pound when I could pay only $1.21 per pound? The simple answer is, I wouldn’t want to at all! By making a purchase of 25-50 pounds at one time, I’m able to save a seriously noticeable amount of green! And speaking of green, these large purchases aren’t just good for the green in your wallet, but they’re better for the environment too. Packaging one bulk item as well as shipping it will take fewer resources than shipping the same item in 25-50 individual packages.
Recycling leftovers is another one of my top ways to stretch our grocery budget. I’ll be the first to admit, I get bored of eating the same meal repeatedly and I often find myself intentionally ignoring leftovers too. It’s for one of two reasons; not wanting to eat the same old thing for another meal and sometimes I just didn’t love that particular food. I try to nip potential food waste in the bud early on by finding a use for them within a meal or two. Breakfast is my defense for keeping food waste from rotting my money away. I’ve found few things that won’t go well with eggs. And it’s almost too easy to toss some leftovers into a pan with eggs and bake into a quiche or scramble up a protein-based breakfast. Rice, steak, veggies, meatloaf; they all mesh well with eggs. Not a breakfast person or don’t do eggs? Try making a meatloaf and mix in your diced up leftovers, or turn them into the toppings of a leftover pizza. When all else fails and you’ve got no ideas left for those excess meals, you can at least infuse their nutrients into broth or stock with our Everything but the Kitchen Sink Recipe.
Try not to get distracted by gimmicks and fancy advertising or displays. It’s important to know your enemy when you’re shopping for groceries. Whether you do your shopping virtually or at your local grocery store, companies will be trying to distract you with pretty packaging and tricky words. Package labeling is made to convince that you need the product they are selling (whether you knew it exhisted or not). Don’t be tricked into making a purchase you didn’t plan to make or don’t really need.
Check to see if your grocery store offers a markdown day or special discounted section. I stalk my local store for their markdown produce each week and stock up on items I can’t grow or that did poorly in our garden. Even bruised fruits and veggies can be used for jellies, sauces and purees. If you have tools like a canner or dehydrator, you can really stock up on discounted produce. Just remember, it’s only a good deal if you use it. If you don’t have the time, tools or motivation to do something with the food, then it’s exactly opposite of being thrifty and instead of saving you money, you’ll have spent some for no reason at all.
Don’t forget to factor in the cost of transportation when making a purchase. Instead of just considering the retail price of an item, think about the cost of fuel to get to and from the store or the amount of money for shipping to your house. It’s often easy to forget about those costs, but when you factor them in you may find it cheaper to make fewer trips (and greener to boot) or to make online purchases. I have recently made the switch to online ordering for many items. It not only saves me the time of going to the grocery store in person, but I am nearly always able to find deals with free shipping and the prices are more competetive.
Finally, when thinking about food, don’t let the costs of eating out slip your mind. If you’re truly trying to eat healthy or allery-free while on the go, the best thing to do is pack your own snacks and meals. If you have to make a purchase that is healthy for you at a restaurant, expect to shell out double to triple the amount you would if you were dining without any special dietary considerations.
Every little bit helps! How do you save money on healthy or allergen-free food items?