Many times, the biggest budget killers are actually small in nature. While your responsible side may pipe up to stop you from splurging on an expensive new dress, it probably stays quiet when you pay for a heavily marked up stick of gum at the gas station.
No one wants to be a penny pincher, but those little expenses do add up – and nowhere is that more apparent than with food. It’s easy for busy adults to justify eating takeout and frozen meals for simplicity’s sake, but those decisions seem a lot less harmless when you look at the big picture.
Developing frugal food habits is one of the best ways to cut your daily expenses, and even little changes could save you hundreds by the end of the year. Read on to see our favorite tips.
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Buy Frozen Produce
While the claim that eating healthy is more expensive has been debunked, many people still find it hard to justify the costs of buying fresh produce. The solution? Buy frozen fruits and vegetables.
Not only are they often more nutritious, but you don’t have to worry about them going bad as quickly. Cutting food costs is often related to food waste, so the less food you have to throw out, the less you’ll have to buy.
Base Meals on Ingredients You Already Have
If your focus is to eliminate food waste, plan your meals not based on what you’re craving, but on what you already have. With this approach, you treat leftover food like a retail manager treats inventory, cycling through everything regularly.
There websites such as recipematcher where you can plug in the ingredients you already have and get ideas for meals.
Make Your Own Broth or Stock
Most “make your own” strategies don’t take into account how much time it takes, but creating your own broth or stock almost no extra effort after you’ve roasted or slow cooked a chicken, or have a bunch of vegetable/meat scraps after cooking.
Homemade broth or stock is a great way to add more flavor to pasta and rice without buying it from the store.
Freeze Your Leftovers
Cooking in batches is the one of the best ways to save money, but if you can’t get through the food before it goes bad, you’ll just be throwing your dollars in the trash. Use sandwich or snack-size ziplock bags for single portions of casseroles, pastas, so you can quickly defrost it when you don’t feel like cooking.
Label these with the name and date so you aren’t wondering how old that chili is. Try to rotate through your frozen meals regularly, so they don’t get freezer burn.
Ignore Brand Loyalty
While it’s tempting to buy from your favorite companies, don’t ignore the store brands for staples and canned goods. You probably won’t be able to taste the difference, but your wallet will notice the savings. You can also experiment and see where you notice a difference and where you don’t. Even if only cut out a few big-name brands, you’ll still save money.
Plus, you can maximize savings & save with coupons.
Compare By Unit, Not by Total Cost
Instead of comparing items based on the cost you see at first, look at the cost per unit. Usually this will be per ounce. That will be the real determining factor when comparing two similar looking at items. In general, the smaller the package, the more you’ll pay.
However, if you don’t see yourself using up a big bag of spinach before it goes bad, then stick to the smaller one. You’re not saving money by buying more than you really need.