Food and Finances

It’s summer and one thing my family loves about this season is all the fresh fruit, especially berries. One of the best ways to eat more fruit and save is to pick your own. The cost savings are huge. This, however, is only worth it if you think picking fruit is fun, and everyone in your family enjoys it too.

Between inflation and the ever-increasing appetite of my tween and teen, my grocery bill has gotten very expensive. Sometimes I need to remind myself of some cost-saving measures to get it back under control. Here are a few things that help me reign it in:

Shop in season:

This relates back to berry picking. Not only does picking give us some fun outings in the summer, but the kids are enthusiastic and pick a good amount now compared to when they were toddlers and just ate as they picked. Fruits and vegetables that aren’t in season tend to be pricier and generally do not taste as fresh and flavorful. You’ll notice too that when buying things out of season, they tend to come from a long way from here, so there is an environmental cost as well.

Have a Plan:

Yes, I know, making lists seems like a lot of work, but trust me this one really can save us money. Having a list can also save a bit of time as well. Make a menu for the week and then make a list for the grocery store. Having the ingredients you need, and needing the ingredients you have, not only makes dinner prep easier and faster, but it also ensures that you waste less because you have a plan for it.

Make Weekly Menus:

Speaking of menus, there are so many great ideas online about how to stretch certain items into multiple meals. The four meals out of one rotisserie chicken come to mind. Not only is this a money saver, but again this is saving you time later in the week.

Try Not to Shop When Hungry:

I make terrible decisions at the grocery store when I’m hungry. I veer from my list and buy things I don’t necessarily need or want in the house.

Use Meat as an Enhancer:

Meat is one of the most expensive items on my grocery bill. One thing that has helped me is to think of meat as an enhancer instead of making meat the center of the meal. Cheaper cuts of meat like hamburgers, bacon bits, or ham hocks impart a ton of flavor to a dish without adding a lot of extra costs. For example, I buy soup bones, make bone broth in my instant pot, and then use the excess meat from the bone for a beef vegetable soup. When firing up the grill, I also look for tasty sausages and brats instead of expensive large cuts of meat. Also, if you have room in your freezer, buy extra meat when it is on sale.

Grow Your Own:

Even just having an herb garden has saved me a bit of money on the dried herb front. I’m not quite there yet, but one of my good friends basically doesn’t need to buy fruits and veggies for the entire summer because her garden is so prolific!

Leftovers vs Eating out:

Get creative and build the habit of using up leftovers. I make it a personal mission to use up leftovers and create something yummy. Soups are a great way to use up different ingredients in the refrigerator. I use old rice for soup, enchilada filling, or even rice cakes. Think about things you’ll enjoy eating for leftovers – lasagna and chili are favorites in my house.

Consider Buying Staples in Bulk:

Buying in bulk certainly doesn’t work for everything, there is some interesting research about what we throw out as a result of buying in bulk, but some things just make sense. I buy non-perishable staples in bulk. Things like canned beans, tomatoes, rice, ramen, and frozen fruit for smoothies. Another thing we have learned the hard way in my house – sometimes a lot of something just makes my kids eat more of it faster.

For me, I sometimes just need to re-evaluate and review my spending, shopping, and cooking habits. I am reminded that eggs are a wonderful versatile protein that can be used for lots of delicious purposes. Who says you can’t have an omelet for dinner? Also, why do I ever buy hummus from the store when it is so darn easy (and tastes better, if I do say so myself) to make at home? Why do we insist on a certain brand when most generic or store brands are just as good?

It is good to ask ourselves these questions, especially when we notice food costs getting more and more expensive. One added benefit of all this menu planning, list-making, and food prepping is we tend to eat healthier, too. If I cut up lots of veggies at the beginning of the week and we have easy access to them, everyone eats more of them. The wonder of wonders!

We love to hear from you, so please send us your grocery-saving ideas as well!

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