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Tips for Reducing Your Monthly Food Costs

Updated on April 13, 2017
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Sadie Holloway writes about enjoying the good life while living on a modest income. She loves finding creative ways to save money.

Check out these creative ideas for reducing your grocery bill while still serving your family nutritious and delicious meals and snacks.

Keeping a stock of flour and butter on hand is a fresh and easy way to save money at mealtime. A batch of fresh biscuits served with a roast is an affordable way to make the meal stretch further when unexpected company arrives.
Keeping a stock of flour and butter on hand is a fresh and easy way to save money at mealtime. A batch of fresh biscuits served with a roast is an affordable way to make the meal stretch further when unexpected company arrives. | Source

Stock up on the basics. Keep your fridge and pantry filled with basic cooking ingredients such as flour, butter, sugar, salt, oils, grains, eggs, spices and any other food ingredients that you use frequently. Be prepared: don't end up making an unnecessary trip to the supermarket, or worse, the corner store where food staples are usually overpriced. Having a well-stocked pantry will save you time and money because you won’t be tempted to grab impulse items. Buying your grocery staples when they go on sale is the one of the best ways to save money while feeding your family.

Get egg-cited about cooking with eggs! Eggs are a great source of protein and can be whipped up to make marvelous meals: omelettes, frittatas, quiches, popovers and French toast, to name a few. Hard boil and chop up some eggs for salads and sandwiches. Eggs eaten in moderation are a healthy and cheap alternative to meat. Many egg dishes also cook quite quickly so if you’re hungry and on the run, have some scrambled eggs for dinner!

Cutting back on meat consumption can save your family money. But don't worry; you don't need to eat mini hamburgers. Bulk up your meat patties with grains, break crumbs or crackers.
Cutting back on meat consumption can save your family money. But don't worry; you don't need to eat mini hamburgers. Bulk up your meat patties with grains, break crumbs or crackers.

Cut back on the amount of meat you consume. Have you heard of Meatless Monday? It’s a food movement to encourage carnivorous families to try going vegetarian once in a while. Try making a new vegetarian meal once a month or, better yet, once a week. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to cut back on your appetite for meat when you do it gradually.

If you do want to eat meat, a few creative cooking tricks will help stretch your savings. Ground meat can be mixed with bread crumbs, crushed crackers or rice to bulk up meatballs, meatloaf and hamburgers. (My mother used to make meatloaf with seasoned bread crumbs when we were kids to stretch her food budget. I never knew the difference and her meatloaf is still my all-time favorite comfort food!) You can also cut back on the amount of meat you buy by making dishes with cubed or sliced meat that can be cooked into stir fries or added to pasta and vegetable dishes.

Make the most of leftovers. Everyone knows that there are some types of food that actually taste better the next day, especially rich and hearty foods like pasta and sauce, chili and comforting casseroles. Overnight the flavors soak into the food, making the meal richer and more flavorful when re-heated.

Store your leftovers in the fridge in glass food containers with locking lids. Then make sure that the containers are put on the shelves right upfront in your refrigerator. If you can see the food through the glass containers, you're more likely to eat it sooner. If you store leftovers in plastic containers, even the translucent ones, that block your view of that yummy spinach lasagna, you might forget it's even there. (What a shame!)

If you don’t want to eat a full plate of leftovers, you can use cooked leftovers as ingredients in other dishes:

  • Blend leftover rice and pasta into soups
  • Add cooked veggies to stews and casseroles
  • Make your own croutons
  • Crush the last few crumbs in the bottom of your chips and cereal boxes and use them as a coating for fried chicken or meat cutlets
  • Make fried rice with leftover rice
  • Make shepherd's pie with leftover mashed potatoes and peas
  • Throw wilting, but still edible, vegetables into a slower cooker and make a comfy crock pot meal
  • Cut up cooked potatoes and pan fry them for breakfast
  • Melt hardened cheese into creamy sauces and hot dips
  • Add a splash of oil and vinegar to your "empty" jars of mustard, relish and other condiments; put the lid back on, swish, shake and swirl the jars to make one last serving of salad dressing
  • Use brown bananas and wilting (but still edible), fruits and berries in smoothies, cakes and muffins
  • Save used coffee grounds in a tub outside and mix with potting soil to grow your own herbs and vegetables

Remember to follow safe food handling practices when storing and re-heating your leftover food.

Hint: Out of vinegar to make a salad dressing? Steal some vinegar from the jar of pickles in your fridge! Not only will you be able to make a salad dressing without having to go to the store, you might find the dill and garlic flavor adds a tangy twist to your dish!

Dress it up. Make your own salad dressings, dips, salsas, condiments and seasoning mixes. Make only what you need to use for that meal or salad. You can find plenty of seasoning ideas and homemade salad dressing recipes online. You can also borrow good cook books from the library or ask friends and family for their favorite salad dressing and seasoning recipes.

Be cool. While this next tip isn’t about cutting back on the cost of food, it does cut back on the cost of preparing food. Try out some raw food recipes. By giving your oven the night off once in a while, you’ll be cutting back on your electric or gas bill. And you’ll be helping the environment, too!

Entertain during the day. Instead of cooking big, expensive meals for special occasions and celebrations, why not serve brunch or have a luncheon during the day instead? Salads, sandwiches, fruit, cookies and desserts, all made from scratch, can provide a lovely meal for your friends and family, at half the cost of an evening meal. And if a guest offers to bring a potluck dish to share, don’t turn them down! Tell them you would be delighted to serve their dish at your party!

Cucumber water can be just as refreshing as a bottled juice or soda. Not only is cucumber water a great way to cut back on the cost of beverages, it's healthier for you, too!
Cucumber water can be just as refreshing as a bottled juice or soda. Not only is cucumber water a great way to cut back on the cost of beverages, it's healthier for you, too!

Be a savvy sipper by making smart drink choices. Soft drinks, bottled juices, specialty coffees and alcohol are expensive and not essential for maintaining your good health. Replace soda and juice at each meal with water instead. It's better for you and could cut your weekly grocery bill by $ 5.00 - $ 10.00, depending on how much juice or soda you normally consume.

If you want to cut back on the cost of fancy spritzers and juices, plant a mocktail garden this summer!

Separating green bananas instead of keeping them in a bunch will keep them from turning brown too quickly.
Separating green bananas instead of keeping them in a bunch will keep them from turning brown too quickly.

Bonus tip for saving money at the supermarket! One of the best ways to save money on your grocery bill is to use non-perishable foods before they go bad. But how can you really tell which canned or packaged goods are still edible and which ones ought to be tossed right away?

Here's an interesting website that offers information on food best before dates.

stilltasty.com (Note Use of the information on this site is at your own discretion.)

Many national brand name products also have 1-800 phone lines printed on the packaging. If you can't find the best before date on a product or you aren't sure how old it is, these hotlines can help answer your questions about their products.

The next time you're tempted to order take-out dash out to the store to find something for dinner, check out an online recipe an ingredient matching site. You may find that you already have everything you need to make a tasty, nutritious, cost-efficient meal!

Stop buying food you don't need. Use what you have in the pantry. One of the best ways to save money on groceries is to stop buying stuff that you don't need. That may seem like an obvious money-saving tip but one that often gets overlooked especially when you think that you have already cut all the unnecessary items off of your grocery list. Sure, you no longer buy junk food and convenience items in favor of buying whole foods and healthier fruits and veggies. If you can't come up with any interesting meal ideas when you open up your fridge or pantry, go to an online site that lets you punch in what you do have and then the site brings up a few recipes that use all of the ingredients you do have.

What's your favorite way to save money on groceries?

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© 2013 Sadie Holloway

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