Are you looking for ways to save money? Many of us have been eating out less, and that often reduces spending. In addition, preparing meals at home can promote a healthier, more balanced diet1, and maybe even save you time. But cooking at home isn’t always less costly. How can you be sure that your at-home cooking is really saving you as much as you hoped?
Here are five foodie tips for planning your meal prep to help you stay on budget and protect against a growing grocery bill.
1. Buy Produce In Season
Not only are seasonal fruits and vegetables tastier, they are usually cheaper than the alternatives. Add some extra in-season veggies to protein-heavy meals like chili for some extra fiber (and flavor). And try preserving some of your seasonal produce. Freezing in-season fruit is a cheap way to have a taste of summer during the winter. Or try pickling veggies to extend their life. You can also make soup using seasonal produce and freeze it for quick winter dinners.
2. Buy Staple Food Items in Bulk
Keeping your pantry stocked with foods you know you will use is a great way to save money. Find a good sale on your favorite brand of beans or olive oil? Stock up—the limitation is often available storage space rather than money. If you have a basement you might be able to get a small set of shelves to store your extra foodstuffs. You’ll always have staple foods on hand, and buying on sale with save you money, too.
3. Visit Your Local Farmers’ Market
Of course, you’ll need to be sure you can stay safe during the pandemic. But if you can, visiting your local farmers’ market is a fun way to get locally grown produce at a great price. Make it a weekly event with your family to gather up all the fruits and veggies you will need to make your meals for the week. We have a great time at farmers’ markets and appreciate the chance to support local producers of quality foods.
You'll usually find some artisanal products, too, which can make for a bit of a splurge. Of course, you can have some small luxuries, even when trying to save money. Just choose them thoughtfully.
Many communities have other places famous for fresh food from various sellers, like Cleveland’s West Side Market or Seattle’s Pike Place Market. These are often an eclectic blend of the inexpensive and the exotic, and we find they rarely disappoint.
4. Search for the Best Price
Do you buy the ingredients for your meals at the store that is the most convenient for you? Taking the time to thoroughly research the most cost-effective place to buy groceries and ingredients for your meals can help you save money. Analyzing sale prices and coupons may seem tedious, but you will be proud of yourself when you see how much you saved!
Britta’s tip: Consider buying some store-brand items. Many are as good or better than the name brand counterparts. You may want to set up blind taste tests with your family. (There are exceptions, including basic items like toasted oats. Britta thinks that the method of making these not taste like cardboard must be a closely guarded secret.)
5. Put Your Leftovers to Use
The best (and easiest) way to save money on meals is to take your leftovers and repurpose them to make a new meal. Ken loves salads, but doesn’t always use up the greens in time. So the wilted greens go into a blender with chocolate protein powder, banana, peanut butter, water or almond milk, cinnamon, and ice to make a smoothie for breakfast or lunch.
Try using different spices and herbs to change the flavor of leftovers or favorite recipes. Or just repurpose what’s in your fridge: use leftover mashed potatoes and fry them into potato pancakes, make a meatloaf sandwich, or bake over-ripe bananas into banana bread. Wasting food costs you money, so you will always save money by using what you already have in your kitchen. If you try, you can find a way to repurpose almost anything.
Saving money with meal preparation can actually be fun, especially if you get creative. You and your family might even enjoy the challenge of spending less on meals. It’s a great place to start if you want to keep more money in the bank.'