How to Save Money on Food

Food costs are soaring, but even in tight times, you can trim your grocery expenses. Here’s a look at what to buy and when

Credit: Flickr/Annie Mole

Flickr/Annie Mole

These blackened bananas can save you money on groceries

Have you been looking for ways to trim your grocery budget and save on food costs now that prices are soaring?

Experienced penny-pinchers will tell you that even in tight times, tried-and-true strategies can still save you cash. Below, the best of the bunch.

Tips for Cutting Down on Food Costs

  • Buy in bulk. Anything prepackaged costs more, so make it a habit to drop by the bulk bins for staples. Rice, beans, flour, oats, even fancy dried fruit and nuts – take out the package and you’ll be shocked at how much less you pay.
  • Swing by the “slightly hurts.” Bruised bananas won’t hurt your banana bread, and blemished vegetables are perfect in a stew. Check for ripe avocados to make guacamole, papayas on the verge to freeze for smoothies, and day-old bread to serve tonight.
  • Go for discounts. For packaged items you don’t want to give up, like cold cereal, frozen peas, or tinned tomatoes, find the supermarket in your area with the best prices, or rotate weekly based on specials. When there’s a sale on something non-perishable that you know you use, stock up.
  • Become your own processor. Vegetable prices plummet when they’re local, in season, and at the peak of flavour. Why not buy and freeze your own corn or peaches, or put up relish or jam?
  • Don’t fall for the more-for-less trap. One soda costs a dollar, so a $5 twelve-pack is more than half off, right? Sure, so long as you don’t start drinking one a day instead of your former one a week.
  • Make it yourself. The highest-priced foods are still those someone else cooks. So get in the habit of preparing your own convenience foods like curry or soup. (If you prepare extra-large amounts, you can even freeze daily portions for next week’s lunch.)
  • Find the cheap cuts. Even high-end restaurants serve comfort food that’s simmered long and slow. Not coincidentally, the meat used in such dishes is usually far cheaper than steak or chicken breast. (Try a slow cooker to effortlessly break down tough cuts.)
  • Become a vegetarian – sometimes. The cheapest cuts of meat are still more expensive than alternatives like tofu or eggs. And a bean-based dish – think chili, salad, or dhal – can be as satisfying as it is frugal. (Plus, you’re doing the environment a favour, according to the folks behind Meatless Monday.)

Here’s a Meatless Monday recipe for Moroccan Chickpea and Vegetable Stew to get you started.