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Trimming your grocery budget | Blue Palate

Trimming your grocery budget

by Lindsay Sauve on January 4, 2009 · 0 comments

Smart Money recently published a helpful article detailing 8 Ways to Cut Your Grocery Bill. This article  caught my attention because I recently implemented a grocery cost cutting plan of my own. My goal was to trim our weekly grocery bill from $100 to $75, saving us $100 per month. I’m not a coupon clipper, but I do have a few tactics that have worked well for me. I though I would share my own strategies for eating through the recession.

Buy in bulk – I don’t mean buying industrial size cans of tuna at Costco. Many grocery stores have a bulk food section, where they sell various cereals, grains, nuts and even candies by the pound. Bulk food is generally cheaper than the packaged variety and you can buy as much or as little as you want, which can reduce waste and save you money. If anything, look into buying dried herbs and spices in bulk. Jarred herbs are incredibly expensive compared to bulk.

Make a menu and shop with a list – It’s helpful to know what you are buying before setting out to the grocery store.  A while ago I started planning a weekly menu before I made my grocery list, so I know exactly what I need for the week. Shopping with a list can help you avoid purchasing unnecessary items and reduce impulse buys, since you are less likely to browse.

Cut back on meat – Meat tends to be one of the most expensive products in the grocery store, especially if you are like me and paranoid about buying discount meat or anything that might be pumped with hormones and antibiotics. I’ve saved a lot of money by periodically substituting beans for meat as a source of protein in my diet. Try it 2-3 times a week. You could save up to $20 on your weekly bill.

Buy fewer packaged/prepared foods – Cost per ounce, packaged foods tend to be more expensive than non-packaged. If a busy lifestyle has you dependent on microwave meals or packaged foods, try cooking on two or three not-so-busy nights a week and doubling or tripling your recipes. Eat throughout the week or invest in some freezer-safe containers and freeze individual portions for future meals. (This is a fun thing to do with friends – each person picks a recipe and brings enough ingredients for several servings. Buy a couple of  bottles of two buck chuck, hold a cook-off, and swap meals.)

Avoid the center aisles of grocery stores – In the first chapter of her book “What to Eat,” nutritionist Marion Nestle outlines the science of supermarket layout, a crafty, elaborate process designed to influence customers to spend more money. Among many other shrewd tactics, markets tend to stock common items such as produce, milk, and meat in the periphery, while high-profit items such as snacks, bottled drinks and juices, and packaged foods in the center aisles. Adhere to your list, stick to the outer area, and avoid browsing these center aisles. You’re less likely to be temped by over-priced (and likely not so healthy) cookies and chips.

Buy seasonal produce – The least distance it had to travel, the less it’s likely to cost. Become familiar with what is in season in your area, and consider buying frozen produce for must-have, out-of-season produce. Farmers markets and community-supported agriculture (CSA) operations are great resources for fresh, seasonal, and inexpensive produce.

Don’t shop hungry – Everyone knows this one, because everyone has gone to the store famished and come home with a box frozen beef taquitos and two different flavors of kettle chips. Have a snack before you go, don’t go right after work, pick a weekly time to shop when you won’t be starving.

Adjust your tastes – This is probably the hardest. Some foodie lifestyles are not budget friendly. If you are used to only drinking wine that’s in the $20 range, stocking your fridge with cheeses from half of Europe, or eating fresh fish five days a week, it may be difficult to change to a recession-mandated diet. Experiment with simple ingredients and recipes. Try a five dollar bottle of wine. Learn ways to indulge without going bankrupt.

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