Thursday, January 6, 2011

5 Easy Ways to Save $$$ on Food

If you've started the new year with a goal to save money - and I'm sure most of us have - here are a few quick tips to save dollars on your food spending. While we all have to eat, I don't think grocery spending should exceed $100 per month/per person. A family of 4 should spend $400, a couple should spend $200, etc., etc.

1. Be your own baker. It's as simple as baking your own cookies, cakes, pies, and sweet treats. With a dozen basic ingedients, half a dozen extracts and spices, and a little flair for the creative - you'll be churning out bakery-style goodies in no time at all.
Avoid: premade cookie dough, premade pie crusts, frozen cakes and pies, and most baked-goods found in the frozen food section.
Buy (on sale or with coupons): flour, sugar, brownie mixes, cake mixes, oats, dried fruits, nuts, chocolate, a few spices and extracts, and baking powder/baking soda. I included brownie and cake mixes because of the affordability factor - when brownies mixes are on sale, I get them for $.11 a box and cake mix for less than $.50 a box. Check on line (or browse my recipe collection) for some ideas on recipes using premade mixes.

2. Cut out the convenience. Skip the frozen food section of your grocery except for a few items: juice, veggies, and the occasional deal on frozen meat (meatballs, ground turkey, etc.) By forgoing some of the convenience, you'll be able to control what goes into the food your family eats, and you'll be doing your wallet a huge favor. This also goes for canned foods as well. Skip canned beans and cook your own. Ounce for ounce, you'll save more than 50% and you'll consume less sodium. Packaged mixes like seasoning packets, cookie mixes, pancake mix, and premade spice blends can easily be made from scratch. I buy those items only when I can get them for pennies or free! after coupons.

3. Beat the butcher and get deals on deli meat. Buy meat uncut and chop it yourself. I just bought boneless beef round steaks and spent 10 minutes chopping 4 lbs. of it into bef stew meat and beef strips. This will be a huge help when it's time to make stirfry and fajitas. Take a boneless roast (beef or pork), season well, and roast. Slice the meat thin for flavorful, hand-crafted deli meats at a fraction of the cost found in grocery stores. The best part for me: I roast 2-3 roasts at a time in the oven (saving $$ on utilities) and it's easy. Roasting meat is one of the easiest way to prepare and very non-labor intensive.

4. Cook once, eat twice. Brown twice the amount of ground beef/pork/turkey/chicken and use the meat in 2 different recipes during your week. This isn't limited to meat, though. Boil up a double batch of pasta and turn a leftover pasta night into a wow night by topping pasta with sauce and cheese and bake. Look at the ingredients that pop up in your recipes week after week, there are always ways to precook basic ingredients so you'll have them ready for later in the week.

5. Eat in. Let eating out be the treat it used to be. Brown bag your lunch, schedule a date night or a night out with friends and let that be your splurge. By eating in, I mean no takeout, no deli-counter stops, and only allow yourself one exception per month. That will let you feel like it's a treat to have takeout, while keeping your eye on your budget.

Let's see how eat of these tips will affect your financial bottomline.

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