With the economy still sputtering, more of us are looking for ways to stretch our food dollars further and maximize the savings that are available too. The good news is the savings are out there and with some simple planning a lil’ commitment at the beginning of the week, you can make the most of what you spend.
Step 1: Look at your spending habits and see where you have the most opportunity to make a difference. For instance, if you don’t use coupons, get those scissors out and start snippin’. You’ll be amazed at how much you can save by using coupons simply on what you’re currently purchasing.
Step 2: If eating out is your budget breaker, get cookin’ in your kitchen with some simply meal planning on Sunday mornings and budget-friendly Gluten-Free time saving recipes, even the busiest among us can make it work.
Step 3: If it’s buying things you don’t need that seems to be your weakness, create a running list and post it on your fridge for easy access to bring with you to every trip to the food store.
Just a lil’ commitment can save you a lotta money each month and help make your 2011 a year for stretching your food dollars and enjoying wholesome, Gluten-Free, pure foods.
- Plan Ahead
Set aside some time every Sunday morning to plan your weekly menu. Start with 3 meals for the week and cook extra for leftovers to toss into lunches and snacks. Even better, search online for your store’s weekly advertisements to plan your meals and make your list around brands and items on sale. If you find your schedule changing during the week, put some of the food you purchased into freezer bags and store in the freezer so it won’t spoil.
- Stock Up
Cash in on good deals and stock up on non-perishables and perishables that freeze well. This is a great time of the year to stock up on sales at all food stores to fill your fridge, freezer and pantry. Just be sure to check the ingredients of your non-perishables for hidden forms of gluten, MSG and other additives.
- Cook At Home
Love eating out? Don’t we all. This one is a no-brainer and can be easily incorporated into your weekly game plan by stocking up on whole grains and frozen vegetables with lean proteins that can be frozen and stored in your pantry and fridge for a quick and easy go-to rice dish, poached salmon, baked tofu or fresh salad. This way you’re also more likely to have leftovers, which stretches your budget even further. So, why keep on paying someone else to prepare your dishes at restaurants when you can easily save money and create a healthy dish right in your own kitchen.
- Buy Store Brands
I love store brands. Some of my fav’s…Shop Rite. Yes, I love their frozen veggies. They’re amazing. Seriously. Most store brands are taste tasted with quality equal to big-name national brands that tend to be pricier. Try some store brands on items you buy most and then go back and stock up on what you like.
- Brown Bag It
I’m a huge fan of the good ol’ brown bag. I think I was the only kid in school that brought my lunch everyday. And yes, even in the corporate world my brown bag is always sittin’ pretty in the fridge. Why? well it’s less expensive than eating out for lunch even with fast food ‘dollar menus’ and and other processed, packaged meals. Veterans of brown baggin’ say the amount they save weekly is anywhere from $20-$80 a week! On top of saving this good ol’ green cash, the food you prepare in your brown bag is usually much healthier, plus you KNOW what’s in it…and you can control the ingredients and serving size. Therefore, no need to fret over hidden gluten or other additives which are common in processed foods.
- Check Unit Price vs. Sale Price
This is a good one. I love standing in a food store trying to decide which is cheaper….the large can of diced tomatoes or the tiny little ones? One look at the unit price vs. the sale price and you can easily get saving! Just be sure you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck; you may find that a private label brand is less expensive than the name brand on sale. Crazy, isn’t it?
- Organize Your Pantry
How many of us find ourselves looking throughout the pantry and finding expired foods hidden in the back? Make a plan once a season to clean out your pantry, organize it and make lists of what you need to keep it stocked. You can organize the pantry shelves with the ‘near expiration’ foods in the front for easy access and reach to use them up before they expire.
- Loyalty Programs
Gotta love those fun lil’ food store loyalty programs. Sign up at your local store to reap benefits and savings if you do the bulk of your shopping at one store. With a club card, you’ll get personalized specials with savings on brands frequently purchased and other deals. Gotta love loyalty, right?
- Create A List
We’ve all spent hours wandering around the aisles of the food store, wondering what it is that we need, what we forgot and what we should purchase. The next thing we know, we’re back at home…forgot the salsa, bought $30 worth of useless food that you’re not sure how to prepare and can’t recall that great brand of yogurt you purchased last month…What was the name of that again? No more worrying about all this. Set aside your Sunday mornings to create a list of what you’ll need. Keeping a running list of items you need on your fridge is a great way to keep you and your wallet on track. Don’t forget your list when you head out to the store, but always take a look at the deals in the store when you get there to stock up on your favorites when the prices are slashed!
- Eat Before Shopping
Yes, my famous line. As I’ve written about this before…How many times have you food shopped when starving or hungry or haven’t eaten? What happens? Well, it ain’t a pretty picture because you’re more likely to fill your basket with everything and anything that looks good. If you happen to come into the store hungry, head straight to the produce aisles and reach for an apple or banana to nibble on while shopping (Just be sure to pay for it before you start nibblin’).