How to Extend Your Grocery Dollars Without Extending Your Time in the Kitchen
I have a constant struggle between my desire to make delicious and nutritious meals, my need to remain within a given budget, and the limited amount of time I want to spend in the kitchen (none). This struggle tends to lead me to eat out at restaurants or pick up food at a drive-thru on my way home. This usually means sacrificing the quality of the food my husband and I eat, and spending much more money on food than I should. I’m sure this sounds familiar to most of you… I know I’m not alone!
I have found that making a few changes can save us money and time, and enable me to feel good about what I put on the table each night. Here are some suggestions:
- Buy fresh foods that are in season. Foods that are in season are usually priced better than those that are grown year round and flown from far away places to my supermarket.
- Buy from bulk bins. Instead of having large amounts of specialty items in our small pantry (such as flours, nuts, grains, and spices) I go to a store that has bulk bins and buy only what I will need for the recipe I have planned. This saves space and can also save money since things don’t expire before I can use them.
- Stock up on items you commonly use when you find them on sale. Remember, only do this if they have a long shelf life, or you will be wasting money and badly needed kitchen space.
- Eat less meat and dairy. There are many protein sources that are much cheaper than meat and dairy that are high-quality proteins. Consider beans, quinoa, tofu, or tempeh for a change.
- Eat more raw foods. To save yourself time cooking, eat something raw such as a fruit or vegetable. Salads are an easy fix. Try a Greek salad, “Steak” and potato salad, or a black-eyed pea salad.
- Cut your own fruits and vegetables. You will waste a lot of money buying pre-cut produce, so cut your own as soon as you get home from the store to save time later. Try putting single servings in a sandwich bags so they are easy to grab for snacking later.
- Buy frozen family size entrees that can be used as the center of a meal. Add grains, salad, vegetables, or bread as sides to round out the meal and get your money’s worth. I like to buy the party-size lasagna. With just the two of us, we can get a few meals out of them.
- Make a double batch when cooking or baking and freeze half. Soups, casseroles, bread, muffins, cookies, etc. all freeze very well. It does not take much more time to make two casseroles instead of one. You will appreciate the extra work when you can pull a needed meal out of the freezer during an especially busy week.
- Soak and cook your own beans. Beans are a very inexpensive source of protein and fiber. Soak beans during the day and then put them in a slow cooker on low for about 8 hours.
- Buy frozen vegetables. Frozen vegetables maintain much of the nutrition of fresh vegetables. Buying frozen vegetables gives you an opportunity to bulk up a meal inexpensively with minimal preparation time. Try using a bag of frozen peppers and onions in your next stir-fry.
- Grow a garden. If your climate allows, grow a vegetable garden. However, anyone can save money by growing a herb garden within their kitchen.
- Eat oatmeal instead of cold cereal. Oatmeal is extremely nutrient dense, easy to make in large batches, and inexpensive. Instead of buying pre-sweetened packages, buy oats in bulk and sweeten yours the way you like it at home. To save time, I like to make a large batch in the slow-cooker and portion it out for the week. Just grab, heat and go!
Bonus tip #1: Use some of these fun products that will make spending time in the kitchen a joy instead of a drag!
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Do you have any ideas to add? How do you save money on groceries? Share your ideas in the comments below.
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