Thursday, 23 May 2013

"We Spent HOW much?!": Tips for Affordable Food Shopping

About a month ago, the tom cat and I blew our food budget so badly that many government agencies would have been dumbfounded.

But, after a few conversations, some Google searching, and some experimental shopping trips, I'm happy to say that we've managed to figure out a few methods to control wayward food budgets and keep the books balanced. This month, we've spent just over $400 on food, and are still set up so that we shouldn't have to pick up anything else for about another week.

Some tricks are obvious and some less so, but I’ve decided to share some of these easy techniques with you so that you, too, can keep your cash where it belongs – in your bank account:

Pass up Pre-packaged Food. Next time you go grocery shopping, take a look at the price one of those bags of salad with the carrots and cabbage mixed in. Then check out the price of a head of lettuce. A half pound bag is normally about $4, while the head of lettuce normally hovers around a dollar a pound.
Some other examples include pre-peeled baby carrots, pre-grated cheeses and bottled juice. You can buy regular carrots in bulk, a one-pound block of cheese or frozen juice instead, and get more bang for your buck.

Costco is your Friend. As we all know, Costco is king when it comes to bulk products. You can stock up on anything that doesn’t spoil – like canned goods or cleaning products – and save yourself the high costs that smaller packages of the same product might cost. 
The last time we were at Costco, we ended up buying what we afterwards realized was a years' worth of toilet paper – for $20. And why not? It saved us money and TP is one of those things that we will use up eventually.
Bulk Shop. Instead of buying what you need for the next two meals, plan ahead and get all of your shopping done for the next week or two. Beyond being able to take advantage of all those promotions that stores offer to anyone buying more than $100/$150/$200 worth of food, bulk shopping keeps you out of the stores. Of course, this  means that you'll be less likely to buy that tub of ice cream or that frozen pizza that's been calling your name.

Also, shop in the bulk section. It's normally cheaper.

What $150 and two-plus weeks' worth of food looks like.

Make a list, and stick to it. Writing down exactly what foods are needed to fill your fridge and your stomach is key. By planning your purchases, you can determine ahead of time how much you’ll be spending and how healthy your food budget is. 

This is also a great way to make sure that nutritious food finds its way onto your table; impulse buying generally means buying more of the foods that look tasty, even if those foods are all chips and salsa.

Make meat a treat. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that we should all become vegetarian, though good on you if you decide to do so. No one, however, can deny that, pound for pound, meat products are some of the most expensive things to buy at the grocery store.
Instead, try swapping up a meat dish for a vegetarian dish once or twice a week. You can be sure that you’ll meet all your recommended daily servings of vegetables, and the right vegetarian meals can still satisfy your stomach and your palette.

Eat First! Whatever you do, don’t go grocery shopping after skipping lunch. You stomach will do the shopping for you, and everything starts looking so tasty that you just can’t seem to leave it on the shelf. To make matters worse, not only will you end up buying more, you’ll probably end up being things that aren’t as nutritious, either.

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