If the food crisis does in fact hit us hard, here are some tips to consider to stretch your grocery dollar.
Eat Seasonally: Only eating what grows locally throughout the year. This means that you eat strawberries in June and apples in October and don’t bitch about having to wait for the things that you love. You’ll save money by not eating food that has been marked up due to being shipped from another part of the world.
Buy foods That Have Longer Shelf Lives: Dried beans, legumes, seeds and nuts can be found in the bulk aisle and are much cheaper than meat when you need a protein source. Grains can also be bought in bulk, just realize that the more processed and instant a grain is, the higher the price will be. It’s not hard to cook grains just plan accordingly because you’ll need extra time. Or make them ahead and reheat as needed. If you’d rather fly by the seat of your pants when it comes to meal prep, invest in a pressure cooker to keep your cooking time to a minimum.
Cook Large Quantities Of Food To Freeze For Later: Cook a large pot of grains and when done, spread them out on a cookie sheet. Place the sheet in your freezer for about 20 minutes or so. Once the grains start to freeze a little, break them up into chunks and place in a zip lock freezer bag. When you need rice for a recipe, pull out a cup or so from the bag, and use it on the spot. This is also a great thing to do with cooked chicken, cubed beef, and ground meat, to give you the luxury and convenience of frozen foods without the expense.
Get Creative. I remember watching my mother-in-law rinse barbeque sauce off her chicken leftovers so as to sauté them with peppers, onions and Italian seasoning for another meal. Your family wont notice and if they do – so what? There’s nothing wrong with leftovers. My family places bets on how what I make on a Sunday is going to show up like a stalker later in the week.
Make Your Kids Finish Everything. Instead of buying extra to ensure nothing in the pantry is ever gone completely, I now wait until we’re out of items before I restock them. By forcing my kids to finish a box of cereal there’s more chance that the entire box will be eaten. If I buy a new box too early, they’ll abandon the old box and let the remaining contents go stale.
Coordinate With Your Neighbors. I often ask my friends if they want to split a large super-sized version of a food that I like from Costco. The big bag of carrots is cheap, but there’s no way we’d ever eat all of those, so I only buy them if and when I have neighbors that want to split them with me. This allows you to get the deal without wiping out your cash flow. This also may save you a trip to the store and thus gas as well.
Don’t Be A Frozen Or Canned Food Snob: I agree that fresh is best, but canned or frozen lasts longer and is cheaper, so do what you have to do. My family has never looked down their nose at a pot of soup made from canned beans, frozen mixed veggies and broth made from bouillon cubes. The money I save by using processed ingredients, I put toward a fresh loaf of crusty bread instead.
Bake More: My kids have been baking more cookies instead of buying sweets at the stores. If you’re really pressed for time, you can buy a tub of Toll House Cookie dough already mixed and ready to go. Again, I agree that fresh is better, but if you’re short on time and need a sweet treat solution, buy the dough. You can always jazz it up with walnuts or add some oatmeal to give it your own twist.
Lower Your Lunch Box Standards: I stopped buying juices, individual chocolate milks and bottles of water and now give my kids a water filled thermos every day. No one’s complaining. Those cookies that my kids have been baking are used as treats and I rely on raisins, dried cranberries, applesauce and other dried fruits with long shelf lives in lieu of fresh fruit. The Halloween stash that they get will provide lunch snacks for most of November which will save me some dough.
I’m sure I’m forgetting other tips and techniques. Feel free to add to my list in the comments section.