Thursday, May 1, 2008

Ways to Save on Food

We can cry and whine all we want about higher food prices, but it won't make a bit of difference. The only thing that we can control is how we handle this budget breaker. There are several ways that I tackle it; maybe they'll help you.

First, I shop only sales as much as possible. Rather than go into a long explanation of how my system works, I'll direct you here: Beat the High Cost of Food: Shop the Sales.

Secondly, I garden as much as I can. You may only have a window ledge in an apartment. Use it! You can grow lettuce, spinach, radishes, etc., and many herbs on a windowsill. When the weather permits, open the window so they get direct sunshine, or set them outside if you have a small place.

If you have a yard, this is the year to make a garden of it. If you already have a garden, make it bigger. Grow the things you eat.

That leads to the next thing: I can, freeze, dehydrate... whatever and however I can figure a way to save summer produce keeps my grocery bills lower the next winter. You can also use pickling and cold storage. Get some books from the library and read up on whatever you're not familiar with.

Fourth: Stick to the basics. Sure, it's nice to eat "high on the hog," but it's expensive, too, and not always healthy. Keep basics on hand - rice, beans, cabbage, carrots and more - and keep those expensive foods for special occasions. It's nice to have something special now and then, but special doesn't seem special if you have it whenever you want it, anyway.

"Waste not, want not" is a good thought to live by. Getting food is only half the battle. I make it a point to use leftovers. If I get tired of them the way they are, I disguise them in something else. Vegetables get pureed and added to meatloaf or frozen for stew or soup. Meat scraps get saved until there's enough for a mystery stew or made into sandwich spread. Fruits are made into sauces or ices. I don't use jelly or jam, but that's an alternative for those of you who do.

If you waste food you've worked hard for, what good did it do to get it for free or cheap? There are a lot of ways use it up in creative ways.

I very seldom just open a few cans and packages for dinner. I cook from scratch as much as I can. Cheap recipes don't mean cheap tasting food - far from it. You'll be surprised at the good things you can make when you start at the beginning.

There are more ways, like shopping alone, milling your own flour, buying at the source, etc., and I'm sure you have tips and ideas to add. The key is to not let the high price of food at the grocery store dictate what you can eat. There are other ways to get food and ways to stretch what you do buy at the store.

I think it's time to put on our thinking caps and figure it out.


  1. Another thing may not actually save money, but will make a tiny dent in the current situation. Buy grains other than wheat, corn, and rice. Most of the world's population is dependent on these three grains, and that's a recipe for disaster by itself, not to mention one of the main reasons for the increasing cost of food.

    These grains also have to be shared with livestock. As some countries get wealthier (China and India for example), they consume more meat, meaning that they need more grain to feed the animals.

    I have resolved to find alternative grains that I like and figure out how to adapt my recipes. I already like quinoa (which is pretty cheap bulk), and I'm going to try a variety of others, including teff, which is available at North African markets if you live in the city.

    Let's tell the grain companies and farmers that a) we're not willing to pay high fees for wheat and corn, b) encourage companies that are trying to add variety to our diet, and c) make choices to add variety to our diet where other don't have any options.

    That's my two cents.

  2. I just saw somewhere that if you take the roon end of an onion after you cut it off and put it in water it will give you chives. Also I save the leaves of celery and dry them to put them in dishes when I do not have celery or celery cost is higher

    Carol from Pueblo

  3. And a very good 2 cents it is, harper! More traditional grains that are still inexpensive would be oats and barley. Millet, amaranth, sorghum... there's a pretty long list of grains that many people have never eaten, but are good food. Some can even be grown in a home garden successfully.

  4. Carol, it's true that if you have an onion that has roots on it, you can cut it carefully, use the top two thirds or so and the roots will grow again. It won't be chives, but green onion tops and sometimes they'll grow very well. You can use these in salads or to cook with and they freeze very well, too.

    I save celery leaves, too!

  5. I save by planning for the leftovers. I keep single meal size containers on hand (left over from peanut butter, margarine, whatever) and freeze the left overs immediately. I usually have a week's worth of varied dinners in the freezer. there's one serving of this main dish per person and then I add plenty of side dish like salad, vegetables an a bit of fruit. Since starting this habit, I've cut my food waste dramatically. What isn't eaten (which is very little) ends up in the vermicomposter to help grow new herbs and veggies.

  6. Planned leftovers is a very good idea and one that I do myself. There are many ways to save on food!

  7. Growing sprouts is inexpensive and nutritious. As long as you buy seed in bulk and avoid the overpriced packets of seed.

    What would you consider a good food budget for a family of 6?


  8. Shawna, growing sprouts is a very good way to add nutrition as well as save money if you grow and save your own seeds. For many plants, that's not hard to do.

    As to a good budget for a family of 6, that depends on where you live and the types of foods you enjoy. I would probably shoot for $500, then adjust it as I could, trying to keep costs as low as possible without compromising quality and satisfaction.

  9. I do sprouts also and I get the seeds from our local health food store bulk section. I got about a pound for $1 and lots of sprouts for that price

    Onions, like so many other foods have prices that are out of sight. Used to be you could get onions fairly cheap. I have been buying in bulk at Sams club. You have to be careful with some of the buys at Sams cause sometimes it it cheaper there and sometimes it is cheaper at you local grocery store. I buy ketchup in the no 10 can and fill the ketchup bottle from that and freeze the remainder.

    Last year I put some onion sets in the garden that did not grow but this year they are growing nice and green and tall.

    I also plan on a larger garden than last year.

    Carol from Pueblo

  10. Sprouts are a good way to get cheap but good food, Carol. Sounds like you have a good handle on it all.

  11. I am planning on starting a garden. I know I should have already had everything planted, but I've been really busy. I also plan to chronicle everything in my blog, ending with how much money I saved by growing my own stuff instead of buying it. I think a lot more people should garden.

    - John //

  12. Yep, John, you're a little late getting a garden in for most areas! Best of luck with it.

  13. my God, i thought you were going to chip in with some decisive insght at the end there, not leave it with ‘we leave it to you to decide’.

  14. "Anonymous" I think you missed the whole point of the post. It was ALL about decisive direction.