Food cost – cut it in 10 basic ways

Food cost is usually a major concern for low-income families. This is especially the case if you’ve ever attempted to eat healthier foods; the fact of the matter is that junk food is typically much cheaper than health food. However, let’s for a moment focus on a different kind of health food than prepared or frozen: fresh veggies! They can be inexpensive if you’re not looking at the wrong things in the wrong places such as the out of season fruits, organic produce, or one of those stores that mark items up higher than others. When you shop for produce, you should consider stores that have reasonable prices. Personally, I’ve always noticed that Aldi and Kroger (goes by many names in different areas) have excellent prices on their produce. Next time you head in, take a little notebook and write down the different prices on essential cheap foods: bananas, cabbage, cilantro, lettuce, carrots, and any vegetables you really like. Now, let’s get saving! 😉

  1. Make a budget! I can’t stress enough the importance of budgeting and meal planning. You don’t have to be an expert, honestly. Simply writing down in a notebook the weekly meals for dinner: lasagna w/garlic bread and corn, etc. The better you plan the less likely you are to throw away food items you could have used. It’s like throwing right into the trash. You can keep it simple or be the detail queen, that’s entirely up to you. You budget to avoid unnecessary impulse purchases and so you stay within the amount of money you have for the week or month.
  2. Keep that food cost low! Look for sales on produce and cut coupons out of the free paper to stock up or scour the rack of vegetables that are clearanced, nearing the end of their life. I know it’s recommended against but I have successfully frozen a number of vegetables over the years. They usually keep for a little less than a week which is perfect if you’re using them to make a soup, stirfry, or other cooked dish.
  3. Try to buy the whole version of vegetables as opposed to the ready to go bagged version. Heads of lettuce, cabbage, perhaps whole carrots even. There is slightly more work to it but you’ll receive more for your money this way and you are here to save, aren’t you?
  4. Buy generic! Certainly another food cost issue. So many people will only purchase brand name foods either because they’re afraid to try something new or simply that they’ve never purchased something else before. You might not like it but stick it out for a week and give some new stuff a try. Nearly every grocery item you can purchase will have a generic equivalent in whatever store you’re shopping at. You’re probably saving between 30%-50% of the brand name cost.
  5. Sometimes, you have to go basic. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, macaroni and cheese ($0.39 a box at Kroger), hotdogs, chili, etc. There are a slough of options that are not only quick and tasty but also cheap cheap cheap. Don’t be embarrassed to serve cheap foods to your family. Maybe sit down and explain to them that the family is on a budget.
  6. Not exactly a kitchen tip but avoid going out to eat. I definitely go out to eat occasionally but it is an expense a low-income family can’t sustain. It’s going to cost you between $3-$7 per person depending on what you’re ordering. That amount of money could buy food for 3-4 days from a grocery store. When the possibility of running out of food is on the radar, don’t even consider it.
  7. If you’re feeling hungry and you just recently ate, try drinking some water. There’s no sense in eating food when you’re likely just bored. By making sure everyone in the family has good water intake, you’ll be limiting extra snacks that won’t keep you full.
  8. If you’re having trouble cooking alone, try to make it a fun family pizza making night. Get your kids involved to make it a game around the holidays and bake sugar cookies. Play some fun music in the kitchen but do what you need to make sure you’re not going out to eat or ordering in.
  9. Crockpots are your friend, girl. Seriously, let a crockpot do all the 6-8 hours of work for you. You probably work a fulltime job unless your kids haven’t started school yet, which is fine. You can leave a crockpot to cook while you’re at work or at home taking care of the kids. It’s so easy to setup and then dinnertime is just a quick cleanup.
  10. Also another not-so-food-cost-related tip. Maybe you lack the cookware to do some of this cooking? Go to the Goodwill, they have dishes out the wazoo. I’ve gotten all sorts of things for a dollar or two: Rimmed baking sheets, frying pans, basic dishes, and small appliances. I guarantee that you will likely find a crockpot after 2-3 visits, they are always restocking. Everything just needs a good scrub down before using.

If you can think of any really good tips to add to this list or just general requests then please comment them below. In the future I’ll be taking larger points like I make in this list and going more in depth to give you a better idea in how to implement some of them.

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