Food is usually a smaller part of a person's budget than items like rent. Yet, food spending can still add up. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that in 2018, the average household spent just over $4,000 on groceries to eat at home, with food spending rising 2.5% over the previous year. And since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, food prices have been climbing. Here are some tips to keep grocery expenses down when cooking at home.
Tip #1 Buy in Bulk
Buying foods in bulk usually costs less, as long as the items have a long shelf life. Make sure you choose foods that you like and cook with, because bulk purchases only make sense financially if you actually use up the large amount you buy.
Tip #2 Make a Meal Plan
At the beginning of the week, plan your meals for the next seven days. You can look at coupons and advertisements to find out which foods will be on sale; then you can plan menus around those foods. Another thing to think about when creating a meal plan is which fruits and vegetables are in season; seasonal produce is usually cheaper. Planning helps you create less expensive meals, and it's also helpful for avoiding impulse purchases that could go over your budget.
Tip #3 Make Your Ingredients Creative
Instead of purchasing tons of ingredients for every recipe, use substitutions of items that might already be on your list. Some examples of ingredient substitutions are using applesauce in place of butter and cranberry juice in place of red wine.
Tip #4 Buy Foods You'll Use in Multiple Recipes
If you only use one recipe for a certain food, that item probably isn't a good buy. You'll end up eating the same thing several times in a row before you use up the food, which could get boring. Then you might be tempted to throw it out, which would be a waste of money. Instead, buy foods you like to prepare many ways. For example, you can use eggs to make egg salad or omelettes. Use different sources to find new recipes for eggs so that you can use a carton of eggs in new creative ways.
Tip #5 Use Online Shopping Options
Many grocery stores now offer the ability to shop for items online, then pick up the groceries curbside, or have them delivered. While you will pay a nominal fee for this service, in most cases, you will save much more because you will be forced to stick to your list! Not going in the store means no opportunities for those impulse buys.
Following these tips will help you keep your food spending within your budget. Then, you can use the money you save to pay off debt or put it in a savings account.