You can save money at the grocery store without giving up healthy foods.
The key is to keep a kitchen inventory and plan your meals based on what's in season and what's on sale. Stock up on bulk, canned and frozen foods when they're available at a reasonable price, and buy only enough perishables to last until the next shopping trip.
Take a look in your kitchen cabinets to see what you've got on hand. Make a list of everything you find -- either on paper or digitally. Personally, I prefer to keep a digital list that I can store on the cloud -- that way I can access my inventory when I'm at the store. That way when something goes on sale, I can see how much I have at home -- it might be worth picking it up -- if it's a good deal, and I know I'll use it before it expires.
Plan Your Meals
Make a full meal plan for the week, or at least think about some of the foods you plan on preparing, or what you like to have on hand. Take a look at the ads for your local grocery store -- or look at their website -- to see what's on sale. Mix and match your meals so you can make the most of the least expensive items.
When you plan your meals, choose several recipes that use the same perishable ingredients. For example, if chicken breasts are on sale, plan on roasted chicken breasts one night and chicken Ceasar wraps later in the week. Or plan a spinach salad one night and sauteed spinach the next.
Plan for Leftovers
So maybe roast beef is on sale, and you don't want three nights of it. Go ahead and prepare some do-it-yourself frozen meal items that you can store in the freezer. Freeze your foods in microwave-safe containers, or make foil pouches that can be popped into the oven.
Planning your meals takes time, but you'll save money. I've got plenty of tips for you:
- Buy a water-filter pitcher instead of expensive individual bottles of water.
- Buy bulk items when they are on sale. Same with canned goods, frozen vegetables, fish and seafood.
- Buy a whole chicken and cut it up yourself.
- When meats are on sale, you can buy larger quantities and freeze individual pieces in the freezer.
- Use freezer paper or freezer bags so you don't end up with freezer burn.
- Look for coupons online, and in newspapers and magazines.
- Use dry beans as a protein source -- they are much cheaper than meats (think black beans in your burritos instead of beef).
- Fresh produce is often a good buy, especially when in season, but choose carefully and don't buy more than what you will eat in a few days, so you don't waste any due to spoilage.
- Look for different ways to prepare your foods so your meals don't get dull. Potatoes can be baked, boiled, roasted or mashed.
- Keep your salads interesting by changing up vegetables and toppings.
- Skip the convenience foods -- they're expensive.
- Choose cheaper, leaner cuts of beef. You'll reduce saturated fat and save money.
- The cheaper cuts of beef need to be cooked at lower temperatures and longer periods of time so they're good for soups and stews.
- Make your own snacks - with mixed nuts, dry cereals, raisins and other ingredients.
- Divide the snacks into individual portions and keep them in bags to control calorie intake.
- Explore Once a Month Cooking. With this method, you prepare a month's worth of meals in one weekend. Perfect if you have a larger freezer.
- You can also go to meal preparation stores that offer high quality ingredients at a reasonable cost.