Good Food on a Tight Budget
Filling your pantry and fridge with healthy foods can break the bank. However, here are some helpful hints on how to save money on groceries! I’ve included strategies for before you shop, while you’re at the store and a few ideas for you at home.
Before You Shop
Plan ahead and really strategize your meals. This is a great lifestyle practice to start and, done each week, will help you succeed in keeping on a budget. After all, failing to plan is planning to fail!
Here’s a handy meal planning worksheet from ‘Money Saving Mom’. Make your grocery list from your meal plan and stick to the list when you shop. I like to separate out my list by grocery store department; produce, deli, bakery, meat, non-perishables and grocer aisles, dairy, and frozen items to make shopping quick and easy.
– Plan to use the food you already have in the pantry. Take stock of what’s in the fridge and freezer too.
– Choose beans and lentils instead of meat for two or more dinners every week. Lentils pack the same amount protein for a lot less.
– Shop less often. Once a week is plenty, especially if you PLAN! This will help you cut down on impulse buying.
– Don’t shop hungry.
At the Store
– Skip most of the processed food and canned goods aisles, as they cost more anyway. Use frozen or fresh food instead, especially when it comes to fruits and vegetables.
– Stock up on foods that are on sale and that won’t go stale. Things like rice, beans, frozen foods and cooking oils will last. Most grocery stores have Apps or send weekly emails so you can see what’s on sale. Here’s the Tom Thumb App link!
– Use the grocery store’s card or coupons. Just be sure to ask at your favorite grocery store! This makes clipping coupons a thing of the past (thank goodness!).
– Canned salmon is a lower-cost alternative to fresh.
– Don’t be afraid of dried beans; canned beans are easy, but dried are easier to soak and cook than you think. They’re also a lot less expensive.
– Raw nuts are often less expensive and better for you than flavored nuts. They will keep longer in the freezer, by the way.
– Buy family-size packs of meat. Divide and freeze, or cook the whole thing and use all week or freeze parts for later.
– Don’t buy shredded cheese. Shred your own to save money.
– Buy whole grain bread in bulk, when it’s on sale, and freeze loaves. They are still very fresh and don’t take long to thaw at all.
– Cook large batches of soups or casseroles and freeze. This method saves time and money. Check out how Karrie Truman, the Happy Money Saver cooks 50 meals in one day! I’ve also included a few recipes below for this very strategy!
– Cook at home more than eating out. Plan to eat out only once or twice a week at most. Let’s face it, if you have the time to pack the family into the car, drive to a restaurant, find a parking spot, stand in line, decide what to order, wait for the food, eat the food, wait for the bill, pay the bill, then drive home – then you have time to chop some vegetables!
– Grow your own herbs, which can be done in a small container in a window.
– Buy a bunch of fresh fruit when it’s on sale, then cut it up and freeze it. You can also cut and freeze overripe fruit for use in smoothies or for baking. I use brown bananas all the time in my smoothies!
– Puree fruit and put it in ice cube trays. Once it’s frozen, transfer to a Ziploc baggie. This is great for smoothies and/or desserts.
– You can also puree vegetables and store them in ice cube trays. If they are about to go bad, freeze them or make soup!
– Make your own oil spray by purchasing a spray bottle and using your own healthy oil.
– Learn to love leftovers. Somehow we have developed a cultural stigma against eating leftovers. Use leftovers creatively, making something original from them. For example, you can make quesadillas out of almost any leftovers. Just choose whole wheat tortillas and go easy on the cheese. Or you can freeze a few meals’ worth that you can later reheat anytime you need them.
Learning how to save money on groceries takes a little effort, but not as much as you think. An extra 1/2 hour before grocery shopping is enough to see what you already have on stock, check what’s on sale, make your meal plan accordingly, generate your grocery list (here’s a handy one to print) and come home with a lot more cash in your pocket!
Here are a couple of recipes to save half in the freezer for later use!
Turkey Chili with Vegetables
2 onions, diced
4 carrots, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups red, or white kidney beans, soaked and cooked (or canned)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 lb ground turkey
4 cans diced tomatoes, no salt added
2 cups of water
6 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp cumin powder
Salt & pepper
In a large pot, heat oil. Add turkey and brown. Place on plate for later. Now add onions, carrots, garlic and cook until veggies are somewhat soft, about 5 minutes. Add beans, tomatoes, water, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper, and meat. Lower heat to medium and cook until flavors have blended, about 20-30 minutes. Top with yogurt and squeeze of lime.
Split Pea Cabbage Soup
4 cups dry split peas, rinsed and drained
6 cups water
4 cloves fresh minced garlic
1 large onion, chopped
2 medium potatoes, chopped
4 medium carrots, chopped
5 stalks celery, chopped fine
16 oz frozen corn, thawed
6 cups cabbage, shredded or chopped fine
12 mushrooms, sliced
4 tsp dried sage
2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup soy sauce (use non-GMO)
28 oz can diced tomatoes
In a large saucepan or soup pot combine water, split peas and garlic. Cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Check heat periodically to assure water is bubbling gently. (If it’s too high, the peas will boil over.) Place the onion, potato, carrots, and celery in another large saucepan or soup pot with about an inch of water. Cover, and cook on medium high heat until pot is full of steam. Reduce heat, simmer for 8 minutes. Add the corn, cabbage, mushrooms, sage, pepper, and soy sauce. Turn up heat until pot is again full of steam. Reduce heat and simmer for 8 minutes. Set aside until the peas are cooked. Add the tomatoes and cooked peas to the vegetables and heat altogether while stirring.
For another great recipe for cooler weather is this traditional beef stew. It calls for a more expensive cut of meat, but you could just as easily use the cheaper cut used in most beef stew packages sold at the grocery store.
Here’s to good food and good eating!Back to "Blog"