Oregon has finally gotten into summer and this past week we’ve had some really hot weather. We also had a lot of fires start during a lightning storm and it seems like most of the eastern side of the state is on fire. There have been homes lost, but so far I haven’t heard of anyone losing their life, so I’m thankful for that. This drought stuff is serious business! So, instead of living in such a lush green state, I’m kind of hanging out in a dry brown one right now. That’s what’s happening in my neck of the woods, but lets get back to our food budgets. Prices are skyrocketing on almost all food so if you haven’t made changes to how you shop and plan, now is the time to start!
10 Ways To Fight Rising Food Costs
1. Eat at home. I know a lot of you are probably already doing this, but the fact is- prices on meals out are rising just as fast as food prices. Unless you stop for a quick .99 cheeseburger at a fast food joint, a sit down meal is going to cost you more. When our family of 6 eats out, it’s at least $50.00. And we economize by ordering adult sized meals for the kids to share instead of pricier kids meals, we only drink water and we skip dessert. It’s just the way it is for our family- we can’t eat out very cheaply. So, I always think about it like this: How many groceries could I have bought with that $50.00 we just spent on dinner out? It used to be a lot more food than I can get now, but it’s still more than just one meals worth. So, if you aren’t cutting way, way back on eating out or cutting it out altogether- now is a good time to consider doing so.
2. Plan your meals. If you walk into the grocery store without a list, chances are that you are going to pick up random things that won’t really make a meal. That deal on canned green beans might be great, but if you don’t have a plan on how to use them what good does it do you? Plan your meals out at least a week in advance and take a list to the store. Stick to the list! Avoid the middle isles of the store, shopping the perimeter where the meats, dairy, produce and breads usually are. Try to get in and get out as quickly as you can to avoid adding extra items to your cart.
3. Buy in bulk. Everyone says this, but it isn’t always explained how to do that. The easiest way is to plan meals around a similar item, like chicken. You can buy a bag of boneless chicken breasts and make several meals from that. We would plan something like fried chicken, bbq chicken pizza, and chicken salad. As you can see, there are a lot of different flavors going on so it isn’t like you’re eating baked chicken every night of the week. Another example is oatmeal for breakfast. A large container of oats is very inexpensive, but you can mix it up by having baked oatmeal, oatmeal with mix ins and oatmeal breakfast cookies on your meal plan. If you plan around bulk purchases, you will save money.
4. Eat meatless meals. We eat at least 2 meatless meals a week to save on expensive protein costs. Let’s face it- beef and pork prices are skyrocketing and where I used to lean heavily on ground beef as a cheap source of red meat, I can no longer do that. So, we go meatless! And, honestly my kids and husband do not care. We make burritos with homemade refried beans, black beans, cheese, onion, tomato, mexican rice, lettuce, sour cream and salsa. They are filling and we are usually using up a bunch of leftover things out of the fridge from other meals throughout the week. Another meal we really love is breakfast for dinner. Our hens always lay really well, so I never have a shortage of eggs in my fridge. Biscuits and gravy with fried eggs, waffles, pancakes or french toast all have a place on a meatless meal night. We’ve also done HUGE salads, pasta dishes, baked potatoes with tons of veggies, cheese, and sour cream. There are a ton of meatless options out there and they really help the food budget.
5. Barter. If you can bake bread, but don’t have room for a garden, look around to see if you can barter with a friend or neighbor who gardens, but can’t or would rather not bake. Trading services for what you need is an excellent way to keep your bill low. Maybe you have a garden with a lot of extra produce, but you can’t keep chickens where you live. If you can find someone who would like to trade you garden scraps for their birds in trade for eggs, you’ve made a really great deal. Not everyone has the same talents, and I’ve found that people will generally be really open to options like bartering.
6. DIY it. There are very few things you can buy in the grocery store that you can’t make cheaper, better and more delicious with a homemade version. Learn to bake your breads, snacks, baked goods, and more. There are tons of websites out there with recipes to homemade crackers, granola bars, fruit snacks, cookies, cakes, pies, fast food knock off recipes and more. You can find just about everything you’d ever look want. Branch out and try making homemade yogurt, canning your own fruits and veggies, or even raising your own chickens for eggs or meat.
7. Hunt, fish or forage. Stretch your grocery budget by hunting, fishing or even foraging for wild edibles. Again, there are a ton of sites out there that cover foraging and they are super helpful. When our family fishes, we can put quite a bit of fish in the freezer on a good day. That means we get to have a super family day and save on groceries. Learn different ways to prepare wild game and fish.
8. Learn to stretch a meal into 2 or 3 or 4. This has been one of my best pieces of advice to offer to people wanting to make a dent in their food budget. A couple of examples of stretching a meal are these. Bake a whole chicken and make a nice meal of it. The, pick the leftovers off and use the bones to make a stock. Add some of the leftover chicken to the stock and make chicken noodle soup, chicken and rice soup or chicken and dumplings. Later in the week, you can use the tiniest leftover bits of chicken to make chicken fried rice for another completely different meal. You can do the same thing with a beef or pork roast….bake your roast the first night and have that meal, then stretch it to make BBQ pork or beef sandwiches, pork fried rice, beef barley soup, add the beef or pork to burritos or make tacos from it. Learn to take your leftovers and make a completely different tasting meal and watch your budget have a bunch more wiggle room.
9.Use coupons and shop sales, if possible. I know that there are not a lot of coupons out there for the items that I buy at the store when it comes to food, but I do try to use coupons on my non food items as much as possible. Things like parchment paper, plastic wrap, sandwich bags, toilet paper, dish soap, laundry detergent and those types of things are included in my grocery budget, so the less I spend on them the more I save for actual food. I make as many of my own cleaners and soaps as I can, and then use sales combined with coupons to cover the rest.
10. Stock up. When there are good sales and store it for times when the sales are slim. I know that this isn’t going to be possible for everyone, because space just doesn’t allow for it a lot of times. But, if you find a good deal on rice or beans, being able to stock up on those items IF YOUR FAMILY EATS THEM will save you money later on when they are no longer on sale. This also allows you to build up a really hefty pantry with a lot of basic staples so you are just purchasing perishables, spices and the other small things needed to make complete meals. Just be sure that you store your bulk purchases properly so that they will stay fresh and usable, or else you have just flushed money down the toilet.
That’s how I help my family keep the budget from inflating as fast as food prices are. What are your best tips?