As you gear up for the new year, we’re guessing that the task of tackling your budget is top of mind. How much should you spend in 2019? Can you spend less than you did in 2018 — and therefore, save more? A great place to start is by looking at the food that you buy, cook, and eat, and figuring out where you can cut back.
Here are some easy tricks to try to help you get smarter about how you spend. You’ll still have a delicious year, we promise.
1. Don’t buy a random ingredient if you only need a teaspoon for one recipe.
There’s always some wiggle room when it comes to recipes. If you’re faced with a list of ingredients the length of a CVS receipt, make an executive decision to only use the ones that you know for a fact that you’re going to use again. If they’re all absolutely necessary, here’s where you can get creative. Say a recipe calls for a smidge of Sriracha ranch. Instead of buying a whole bottle, make your own with … Sriracha and ranch.
2. Organize your pantry by expiration date.
You’ll definitely get more bang for your buck if you don’t forget about all of the things wasting away in the depths of your pantry! “First in, first out” should be your motto.
3. Shop for hearty greens that will stay fresher longer.
It’s the new year, so chances are you’re aiming to eat more healthfully. But here’s a word to the wise: Stockpiling bagged salad and certain lettuces isn’t the best route, since most of it will wilt before you can get to it. Opt for heartier greens like curly kale or shaved Brussels sprouts, which will spoil a lot slower.
4. Get smarter about how you store produce.
Tossing produce that’s wilted or rotting before you get to eat is the best way to waste your money. Buy only what you think you’ll be able to eat. And learn to use your crisper drawers correctly. If you’re buying less hearty leafy greens (like Romaine), try wrapping the lettuce in paper towels, and then put it in Debbie Meyer GreenBags in the crisper drawer. Your produce will stay fresher at least four or five days longer. Waste less, want less!
5. Embrace breakfast for dinner.
You guys once weighed in on the best budget dinners you make when you’re trying to save money,and so many of you suggested eggs! They’re super versatile (think: scrambled, poached, omelets, frittatas, etc!) and, more importantly, cheap. Pancakes, French toast, and egg bakes won’t break the bank either.
6. Buy family-sized meat packs.
When my family dropped me off at college, I made sure to go to the grocery store to stock the freezer. What’s one person going to do with a 24-pack of chicken breasts? EAT THEM FOR THE ENTIRE SEMESTER AND NEVER HAVE TO BUY MORE CHICKEN, that’s what! And we can’t forget about this brilliant meat-buying tip at Costco. (Hint: If you purchase a 10-pound chub from the meat department, it’s nearly $1.50 per pound cheaper than fattier ground beef.)
7. Freeze EVERYTHING.
If you think something is going to go bad before you can get to it, there’s always the freezer. Here are our five favorite ways that your freezer can save you money (and time!).
8. Check your receipts after every shopping trip.
People make mistakes! One time, I bought one avocado, and five bananas, and the cashier accidentally rang me up for six avocados. I checked the receipt when I got home, caught the error, and got a refund.
9. Don’t buy prepared foods when you can make something yourself — it’s double the price.
My grandma gave me the recipe for the world’s best chicken cutlets, so I would never cheat on them with the ones in the prepared food section. Not just because I’m a loyal granddaughter (which I am!), but also because they cost twice as much to buy them from the hot bar as it would to make them!
10. Learn to meal plan and meal prep.
The best way to get a handle on your food budget is to make a plan and stick to it. This can be as simple as chopping veggies ahead of time for quick dinner starters and as detailed as mapping out everything your family plans to eat this week. Check out our Next Week’s Meal Plan series for some helpful tips to get started!