Simple tricks to cut food costs

home cooking

Thrifty and nutritious meals begin at home. Image: K. M. Gong/Flickr/CC BY

Wages in the U.S. have been stagnant for some time. But prices keep going up. That is especially true of food costs, the one thing we can’t go without. Crop shortages, global warming, political bickering and a weak dollar are all fighting against your flat-line paycheck. Nothing left to do but to economize. Chances are, you’ll be eating more healthily, too. These tips may help.

Cut food costs rule number one:

Cook and eat at home as often as possible. Period. Whatever you make will cost less than it would if you went out for it, and most likely it will be more nutritious. You also have the advantage of knowing exactly what went into your meal.

If you don’t think you have time to cook, get a crock pot. Throw some meat and vegetables in it in the morning and come home to a delicious stew.

Eat less meat

I’m not suggesting going vegan. That can be expensive too — not to mention complicated — getting just the right balance of grains and legumes to make  healthy proteins. But meat is expensive, and most Americans probably can afford to eat less of it anyway for heart health. A vegetarian meal a few times a week could help your pocketbook. Or how about making a stew instead of eating a steak and make the meat go farther?

Forget organic

Some people swear by the health advantages of organic foods, but there is little evidence to support those claims. Regardless, organically grown items are always more expensive than the commercially grown goods in the produce section. You might also consider using frozen instead of fresh vegetables. They are cheaper, they keep longer and are just as nutritious.

Drink water

It’s all your body wants to stay hydrated, and it’s free. If you don’t trust the tap water where you live, consider a water filter instead of bottled water. It is typically just filtered tap water anyway. Soda pop and other sugary drinks are expensive and are an easy way to pack on unneeded calories.

That means limiting your alcohol, too. Drink socially but not at home. You’ll notice the savings right away.

Limit prepackaged food

Sure, the packager did most of the prep work for you, but at what cost? Like fast food, prepackaged foods are much more expensive and much less healthy than if you made the same dish at home from scratch.

Plan menus, make shopping lists

Every pay day, take a look at what you have left in the pantry. Then plan out your meals for the next two weeks (or whatever the length of time between your paychecks), starting with the items you have on hand. Then make  a list of what you still need to prepare those planned meals. Go to the store and close your eyes when going past the come-on items on the end caps. Impulse buying is deadly. Stick to the list and only the list, using coupons and being thrifty in your brand selection. Generic is usually just as good as name brands.

To further reduce shopping costs, you may want to consider getting a membership to a warehouse store like Costco or Sam’s Club.

Brown bag it

It’s a no-brainer that you can make lunches at home that are cheaper and more nutritious than the ones you can buy going out.

Think to the future

Plant a garden and find others who do the same. After your harvest, you can swap produce with your new friends and start saving even more money.


The Stone Soup
Web MD


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