Money on Food
By Nikki Willhite
Food is one of the most flexible expenses that we have, and
almost everyone can do something to lower their food costs.
Here are some tips:
*Build up a repertoire of dishes without meat; and serve them a
couple times a week. Meat is expensive, and isn't necessary every day. A couple
of my favorite meatless dinners are vegetable omelets and bean tostadas. I love
to take a corn tortilla, fry it, add refried beans, and then lettuce, cheese,
green onions, and tomatoes. It's easy and inexpensive.
*Stock up on basics when they are on sale. A well stocked pantry
saves money, especially when all the items have been purchased on sale.
*Know when an item is on sale by keeping good records of normal
selling prices. We all have computers. It is not hard to compile a list of items
we use on a regular basis. Then all you have to do is add the normal price. Or
you can keep it in a notebook you can carry with you to the store.
*Besides keeping your price book, have a computer generated page
for items you need that can be printed and kept handy to check needed items.
Make shopping a breeze by putting the categories in the order you find them in
the store you shop in the most often.
Check the items you must have on this list that you must buy,
whether or not they are on sale, and then leave wiggle room in your food budget
to stock your pantry with sale items.
*If you have several stores in your area, and you don't have a
favorite, shop at the store running the best sales ad in the paper.
*Remember that you can use a manufacturer's coupon together with
a store coupon for extra savings.
*Think about approaching food purchasing in a more business like
manner. Set of goal for price reduction when buying food. For instance, you may
decide that you will try to achieve a 20 percent savings on your food purchases.
Let's say cake mixes normally sell for $1.00 in your area. When
they go on sale for .80 cents, you stock up. Or, if you have a coupon that
brings the price down to .80 cents, you buy.
*Always compare the price-per-ounce or other unit prices on
*Shop twice a month, or biweekly.
*Follow the basics of shopping alone, not shopping when you are
tired, depressed, stressed or hungry, sticking to your list, and buying store
brands when they are of good quality.
*Buy a bread machine! They are very inexpensive now. It will
more than pay for itself with all the soup and homemade dinners you make. Most
people just don't have the time to make bread from scratch anymore. Homemade
bread, especially with some wheat flour added, is very filling and good for you.
Open a can of vegetable soup, or make your own, and you have a wholesome meal.
*Get in the habit of baking a few potatoes when you have the
oven on. When they cool off, put them in the refrigerator. Slice in half, grate,
and you have quick and easy hash brown potatoes. This goes well with an omelet
dinner meal as well as breakfast.
*Use prepackaged foods for convenience, and supplement them for
nutrition, flavor, and variety. Slice meats into macaroni and cheese, turn top
ramen into stir fry, add ham to au gratin potato mixes. This is obviously more
expensive than cooking from scratch, but much better than fast food if you are
*If you use a lot of a product, buy it in the largest, most
economical size possible, and then separate and store. For instance, we buy very
large blocks of cheese at Costco, cut them up, and then freeze them. This means
we only have to buy cheese a few times each year.
* Bake and freeze! If you are making cookies, make a large
amount and freeze them. If you don't have time to bake all the batter, just
freeze it. It's easy to take the cookie batter out later, thaw it, and then
slice and bake.
*Always closely inspect your food to make sure it isn't damaged.
I don't like dented cans, but unless they are bulging, they are usually safe.
Check fruit for bruises. It won't keep fresh as long. Buy your vegetables with
deep, rich color. Check potatoes for sprouts. Make sure your bread and pastry
doesn't have mold. Check the expiration dates and buy the freshest dairy
*Use those leftovers! Plan on using them. We make Sunday dinner
for our children and their wives, and always plan on eating the leftovers for a
day or two.
*Think about buying a freezer. We wouldn't think of buying meat
anywhere but Costco. It is much cheaper there, and the quality is so much better
than anywhere else in this area. We wouldn't have room to store it without the
*Don't buy non-food items at the grocery store.
*Don't spend any more time in the store than necessary. Get in,
make your purchases, and get out.
*Watch that cash register when checking out.You won't remember
all the prices, but keep a special eye on sales items.