Tips on Saving Money on Groceries and Family Meals
It all started during the pandemic when toilet paper was scarce, and Amazon sneaky sellers asked for enormous prices for most everyday items. We’d been hoping for relief, but unfortunately, there hasn’t been much. Many of us know inflation has been at its highest since the early 80s. A recent report by USDA shared that the monthly grocery bill for a family of four has at least an increase of 30 percent, with an average increase of $200 more than last year. Meat is at 14 percent, eggs at 11.4, and fruit at a 10 percent increase from last year.
There are always tricks and tips for saving money while grocery shopping. As a former editor of popular lifestyle magazines where cooking and saving came hand in hand – I have learned many ways to save. Yet living in NY, we know that budgeting for groceries can be tricky as we do not have competing supermarkets.
New Yorkers are savvy and shopping at more than one market is the norm. Thankfully, stores such as Wholefoods provide affordable items with their Whole Foods 365 Value Brand, and luckily for us city dwellers, more Trader Joe’s have been opening where produce and dairy can be found at fair prices.
While no one has a crystal ball to know when shopping for necessities such as food (!) will get more affordable -here are tips and tricks I have learned as an editor (and mom!) and utilized with my own family.
Make a list
If on a budget, make a list and plan out your meals. This will help you focus on what you need by not loading your cart with last-minute items. Of course, be open to sale items and treats for the kids.
Nope, your eyesight is fine; veggies are getting costly these days. Frozen allows us to use only what we need and makes for great last-minute meals such as crockpot soups. Of course, now that most farmer markets are open after a long winter season, you can buy seasonal vegetables and whatever you don’t use- freeze before they spoil for later.
Save your veggie scraps
Veggie scraps like chopped carrots onions can be frozen and used later for soup broth. Not only does this make for a super tasty broth. It is also green AF -and you save money on broth.
Luckily a family meal sourced from filler foods consists of kids’ favorite meals such as pasta, rice, squashes (okay, maybe not that one), and beans. When it comes to a staple such as beans, you can buy in a can or purchase dry (so much cheaper), simmer in a large pot and make a few meals such as a simple rice and bean bowl, chili beans, or soft tortilla bean tacos.
Many grocery stores provide bulk offerings ( if they don’t -it is time to find a new store) at affordable prices. Meat buying in bulk can be overwhelming, especially when space is limited. So move over the spices and ice and make room in the pantry and freezer for bulk-friendly grocery items such as fish, ground meats, and chicken that you can separate and store in freezer bags for future meals.
Serve up more veggie dishes
Sure, there are meatless Mondays, but you can also do as our grandmothers did and serve casserole dishes like lasagna. Or do like my mother and make tasty tostadas with black beans with sautéed zucchinis in place of meat. I remember when my mother was into eggplants… before you go yuk -she was super creative, and the dishes she made were delicious. I didn’t know until I was much older that money was tight at this time (of course, it was the 80s, the last time inflation was super high!). All I recall is that the dishes were yummy.
Try not to throw anything out
One of my favorite things to buy is the rotisserie chicken at Wholefoods; not only is it at a great price it is already cooked! The bummer is my kids hate white meat, so I shred up the meat and simmer it in a chicken or vegetable broth, add oregano and spices and make tortilla soup. Push your store purchases to work hard. Are the tomatoes going bad? Freeze them before they do and use them later on for soups. Even leftover spaghetti can be turned into a casserole-be creative and save money in return!