After posting about 10 Ways to Save Time in the Kitchen, it got me thinking about ways that I’ve tried to save us money in the kitchen too. We like to eat well, with an emphasis on lean meats, fruits and vegetables (organic when we can), but there are still ways you can improve your grocery bill without compromising the quality.
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1. Plan Meals Before You Go to the Grocery Store or Farmers Market
Before I go grocery shopping, I always check out the flyers to see what the deals are for the week. I base our weekly menu on what meats and vegetables are on sale, and then work from there. We’re lucky to have three good grocery stores in our town, so I pull up all three flyers on the computer and quickly skim to see who has the best deals. I also check for pantry staples and stock up on those when they’re on sale.
During the summer, we like to go to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings. Before we head out, I do a quick check of the fridge to see what we already have. I also tend to set a budget on how much we want to spend on vegetables at the market and then only bring that much cash with us. I’m much more likely to walk past something expensive when I know I only have $15-20 in my pocket to spend. Otherwise, Garrett and I are both guilty of buying way more than we need, especially when the vegetables look so good!
2. Learn To Make Your Favourite Meals at Home
As much as we love to have takeout, it can be expensive compared to taking the time to make it at home and I can usually find ways to make it healthier too. We tend to save our takeout meals for things that are difficult to make, taste better out or for those nights when we really don’t have time to make anything.
Don’t get me wrong, we like to have treats out too, but when we do I try to look for coupons and deals. I always check the website of our favourite pizza place before we order, or I’ll do a search online for coupons for chain restaurants before we go.
3. Try Not To Waste Food
I’ll admit that we can both be bad about forgetting to use up food in the fridge. It is so frustrating to look in the fridge and find something that is long past it’s due date that you could have used.Every couple of days, do a quick inventory of what’s in your fridge and figure out what needs to be used up.
We have a huge bundle of fresh dill and parsley in the fridge right now from a recipe on the weekend, and I’m going to make a big batch of Dill Bean Salad for lunches the rest of this week (using beans I stocked up in the pantry when they were on sale). It saves me from letting it go to waste and it gives me a healthy nutritious side dish for lunches this week.
4. Don’t Buy Pre-cut Veggies or Grated Cheese
Instead of buying expensive bagged salad, break lettuce into big pieces and wash it in a salad spinner, then all you have to do is remove what you want for dinner and shred it smaller. It will last for up to 5 days in the salad spinner, with a little bit of water left in the bottom of the bowl (just make sure it’s not touching the lettuce in the mesh bowl).
Cut veggies for snacks in advance for the week, rather than buying baby carrots or pre-cut veggies. If I have time on Sundays, I chop lots of veggies for the week and package them up for Garrett and I to toss in our lunches. It’s much cheaper than pre-cut veggies and it also guarantees that we get an extra boost of nutrition at lunchtime.
I try to avoid buying pre-grated cheese – not only is it full of cornstarch (to prevent clumping in the bag) which can effect recipes, but it is also more expensive than buying a brick of cheese and grating it yourself. If I know we’ll be doing two recipes this week with cheese (like Homemade Pergoies and Cheddar Cabbage Gratin), I’ll do all the grating at once. You can also grate cheese in a food processor!
5. Eat Leftovers
We often eat leftovers for lunches or for dinners the next night. They usually taste even better than when you first made them and the best part is the meal is already made.
I purposely make meals that give lots of portions so that we have leftovers. When we’re cleaning up from dinner, I pack them up right away for lunches. We save money on costly lunches out and we use up what we already have! I bulk them up with lots of vegetables.
6. Keep A Well Stocked Pantry
If I see a pantry staple on sale, such as sugar or olive oil, I buy it even if I know we still have half a package left because I know when I actually need it, it won’t be on sale. I also do this with black beans, jarred sauce or green chilies, which are easy additions to weeknight meals.
7. Grow Fresh Herbs
I loooove fresh herbs, but they can be expensive when you have to buy a whole bundle and you only need a little bit. In the warmer months, I always have herb planters out in our window sill or on the front porch. Having fresh herbs available is so convenient and is much cheaper than buying the bundles. I can get a package of seeds or a small plant for about $1-3 dollars and it will last me all season, while a bundle of herbs from the store may be just as much.
You can also keep herbs in the freezer! Freeze them in water (or olive oil) in ice cube trays. I do this with store bought herbs that I’ve had to buy and the last of the herbs I have from the planters too.
8. Stock the Freezer
I’m a big believer in freezer meals. I’d rather make a double batch of a meal and then freeze it in single or family size portions, than make something new from scratch. Not only does it save us time, but it also saves us from heading to the drive-thru or giving into expensive freezer meals from the grocery store that are not always very healthy. Some of our favourites are Turkey and Biscuits and Cheesy Chicken Broccoli Bake.
When I was in university, I used to chop up fresh fruits and vegetables that were on sale and flash freeze on baking sheets. Once they were frozen, I popped them into heavy duty freezer bags and saved them for later. I’d chop up all the ingredients for an omelette (including the ham!) and freeze it in individual bags for breakfasts. Just add eggs!
9. Don’t Shop For A Week And See What You Can Find
Some weeks I try to not go grocery shopping and work with what we already have in the fridge, freezer and pantry. You would be shocked at the things that you can come up with when you’re forced to get creative. The best chili I ever made was using leftover spaghetti sauce and taco beef from the freezer, beans from the pantry and all the random vegetables I had in the fridge (green peppers, onions, sweet potatoes, mushrooms). It turned out fantastic and I didn’t have to go out to buy anything.
10. Cut out the Junk
I know we all love our treats, but they can quickly fatten up a grocery bill (not to mention your waistline). If you take $20 off your grocery bill every week, it adds up to over $1000 a year! Next time you go to grab that bag of Doritos, think about that big bonus at the end of the year and all that you couldn’t buy with it.
Swap out your processed food treats, for less expensive treats you can make easily at home, like Perfectly Popped Stovetop Popcorn (or Kettlecorn) or Roasted Chickpeas (Sweet Spiced and Salt & Vinegar are my favs).
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I hope that this list helps you cut your own grocery bill back and save that money towards important things…like organic dark chocolate, right?