Lowering your grocery budget is one of the most challenging things any household can do. At first, you can cut the treats and junk food. Then you switch to fresh ingredients over convenient pre-made meals. But from there? It starts to get into realms of changing how your family eats and what they eat. And if you don't have a bunch of tasty low-cost recipes memorized already, this is not an easy task.
But don't worry. With a few easy tips, you really can keep lowering the cost of your grocery budget without sacrificing the quality or quantity of your family's meals. Today, we're here to share our top tips on how to cut back on grocery costs without cutting back on nutrients and calories.
Lower Your Meat-to-Meal Ratio
The first trick is to lower your meat intake. Most American diets include more meat in each meal than we can actually digest into protein and nutrients, so it's usually safe to cut back as much as half a meat-portion per serving. And we don't mean serving half a hamburger. The most satisfying way is to disperse your protein into a bigger tasty meal of non-meat ingredients.
Learn to Make Stir-Fry
Stir-fry is different for every family, but is a great way to combine a lot of ingredients (mostly veggies) with the delicious flavor of spices and meat plus very inexpensive rice as your starch. Look up stir fry recipes you've liked in the past and don't be afraid to substitute cheap veggies for the costly ones in the recipe.
Shredded Chicken and Rice
Simple chicken and rice can also be surprisingly delicious and a great way to make a little bit of chicken go far in your family. Cook the chicken in a flavorful way (Worcestershire is a good choice) and shred it into a bowl of rice. Some people like it with soy, some with BBQ sauce, some with mustard.
Casseroles are another great way to stretch your meat into a big satisfying meal. Potatoes are your classic go-to starch filler for a casserole and cheese layers add more calories and protein without breaking the bank.
Spaghetti & Meat Sauce
And don't forget spaghetti. Meatballs can take up a lot of ground beef per satisfying meal. But meat sauce, on the other hand, makes that beef work a lot harder with tasty crumbles of beef dispersed into the sauce.
Know When to Buy Mix vs Ingredients
Your mother taught you that raw ingredients are always cheaper than boxed or frozen recipes. This is not necessarily true. Knowing your store's prices (and your cooking style) will help you make the most economic decision for ingredients and recipe supplies every time. Know when the pre-mixed is cheaper, when frozen is cheaper, and when it's best to stock up on low-cost ingredients like flour and sugar.
Spice Packets vs Spice Jars
Spice jars are surprisingly costly and are only economic if you use individual spices a lot in your cooking. Most people have 1-3 spices (or spice mixes) they use all the time. But for specialty recipes like tacos, a spice packet can save you a bundle if you don't cook with those spices all the time.
Fresh vs Frozen Mixed Veggies
Some fresh veggies are incredibly cheap to buy in the produce section in bulk. So if you cook with a lot of, say, broccoli and carrots, then buy them fresh. But if you need mixed veggies by the pound, sometimes a large bag of frozen veg is cheaper.
One-Time Box Mix Recipes
Then there are one-time recipes, like a birthday cake. It might be cheaper to make a dozen cakes with raw ingredients but if you don't bake often, box mixes are low-cost and a serious savings vs stocking up on flour, sugar, vanilla, etc. each rare time you bake.
Cheaply Satisfying Snack Cravings
Finally, we come to the snacks. Everyone has snack cravings but buying snacks can seem like a frivolous use of your limited grocery funds. The trick is to make your tiny snack budget go a long way. Instead of buying one box of your favorite cookies or chips, find ways to sate your cravings all week long without spending much at all.
Saltines vs Butter Crackers
Do you crave salty crunch? Most of us do, and chips or Ritz butter crackers are not the most cost-efficient (or healthy) way to sate that craving. Try saltine crackers instead, or even salted white rice at home. What you're really craving is little granules of salt on your tongue.
Crunchy Veg & Dip
Another solution for the salty crunch craving is veggies and dip. Carrots are dirt-cheap and broccoli is not much higher in price. Combined with a little ranch or hummus dip, you could get healthy and sate your snack cravings at the same time at almost no cost.
Bake Your Own Cookies
And if you crave sweets, try making them yourself. A cake, cookie, or muffin mix box actually makes more treats per dollar than buying your snacks pre-baked. Getting into baking is a great way to lower the cost of your sweet tooth.
Lowering your grocery budget doesn't have to mean giving up on good, filling meals for your family. The trick is learning to cook with less protein, learning your grocery store's internal economics, and sating your snack cravings without adding another $30 to the final grocery cost. For more practical financial insights, contact us today!