I’m not a big spender. I’m not a clothes horse, I rarely eat out, and I’ve set limits on my personal allotment of Caribou Coffee white chocolate mochas. But I’m struggling with one area of my budget … groceries. It seems like no matter what I do, the dollars I spend each month on food continue to rise. So this week I’m looking at ways we can all keep our eyes on our grocery budgets while feeding our families nutritious meals.
One important way to spend less on groceries is to simply use all of the food you buy. I cringe when I find myself throwing away brown lettuce, soft celery, or leftovers that have been shoved to the back of the fridge and forgotten. Cutting down on the amount of wasted food is key. Leftovers can be easily packed for lunch at the office or school. Keep them stored toward the front of the fridge so you remember to eat them before they end up in the trash. Look at what’s in your fridge and cupboards before you shop and build your weekly menu around ingredients that you already have. I discovered two half-used containers of wild rice in my cupboard, so my family’s going to be eating wild rice casserole this week. You can always find a new recipe by going to a favorite web site (epicurious.com or cobornsdelivers.com, for example) and entering an ingredient that you want to use. You may even end up discovering a new family favorite!
Another great idea is to see what’s on sale or what you have coupons for and build your meal plans around those items. Chicken on sale? Your grandma’s homemade pot pie recipe gets added to the menu. Have a coupon for ground beef? It’s taco time! If apples are on sale, it’s a good week for apple crisp.
Have your family try out vegetarian recipes a couple of times a week to save on your grocery bill. Beans and lentils are often cheaper sources of protein than meat. You can make lentil soup, black bean quesadillas, veggie lasagna, or a peanut sauce with stir-fried vegetables.
Another wise move is to keep some frozen staples on hand. If you discover a family pack of meat on sale, use part and freeze the rest for later. Keep a supply of frozen vegetables and other ingredients in the freezer. Rather than spending money on last-minute take out, it’s cheaper (and usually healthier) to keep staples on hand for the nights when you don’t have a plan for dinner. Boil some frozen ravioli, steam some frozen broccoli, cut up some apples, and you’ve got a quick, easy meal.
Now I’m off to look up some new wild rice recipes. And after I save money on groceries, I may have to go treat myself to that white chocolate mocha.