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New budgeters are often surprised by how much they’re spending on groceries. And it can be hard for them to cut back.
That’s totally normal, as it can take three to four months to regulate your new budget. In the meantime, though, you’re probably ready to start saving some serious cash. To help, we asked two Nashville chefs to share some budget-friendly tips on eating great for less.
Here are 13 smart ways you can trim the fat from your food budget.
Chef Andrew Little, Josephine:
1. Waste Not. The biggest tip I can give people who are looking to trim their grocery budgets is don’t throw anything away. Take a whole chicken, for example: For one meal, roast the chicken whole and cut it up. Save the leftover meat and make a chicken salad for another meal. Then simmer the remaining portions in water for two to three hours to make a broth for a soup. Now, with a single chicken, you've created (or at least started) three meals!
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2. Buy Seasonally. Another tip is to buy vegetables (lots of them!) while they’re in season. Not only are they at their peak flavor, but they’re also very economical since the market is flooded with that particular item. Also, take advantage of local farmers markets and make friends with the vendors. Some will even give you discounts for buying in volume.
3. Preserve Everything. This plays off of the previous tip, but can be hugely influential to the bottom line of your grocery budget. When ingredients are overflowing at the farmers market, buy in bulk and preserve them for the winter. Yes, it may seem like you’re spending more money during the summer buying in bulk and investing in canning jars, but think of each one of those jars of tomato sauce or pickles as an investment. During the winter, you can buy a pound of dry pasta for a couple of bucks and pull a container of your homemade “summer in a jar” tomato sauce off the shelf. Not only have you created a dinner for a couple of bucks, but also think how gratifying it will be to eat sauce you produced!
Chef Max Knoepfel, Music City Center:
4. Plan, Plan, Plan. Before you go shopping, make a list, compare store prices, and look for deals. And never shop hungry! You’ll end up buying way more than you need.
5. Grow Herbs. A store-bought pack of rosemary, mint or chives can run anywhere from $3 to $5. So even if you don’t have a ton of space to garden, it’s worth it to plant a few fresh herbs indoors or on your patio to save money. And if you can’t use your harvest right away, puree it into ice cube trays and freeze.
6. Skip the Packaging. A pre-packaged bag of lettuce with a dressing packet and mix-ins will cost double what a head of lettuce with some simple, homemade dressing will. Go for the unpackaged fruits and veggies whenever you can. They’re cheaper and usually healthier.
7. Look Out Below. Big brands ensure their stuff is stocked at eye level so you’re more likely to see it. Train your eye to look at the bottom shelves for similar items at cheaper prices. When you’re comparing, look at labels and ingredients to make sure the quality is the same.
8. Don’t Overbuy. Before you grab that six-pack of quinoa, ask yourself how long it will be sitting in your pantry. Discount clubs don’t always have the best prices, especially if you aren’t going to use half of what you buy! Be sure it’s something you buy frequently and that it’s a deal based on price per ounce.
9. Use What You Buy. According to Consumer Reports, a typical American family wastes about $1,500 worth of food each year. Save money by purchasing only what you’ll use and freezing any extras for another week’s meal plan—just don’t forget about it under all the ice cream and frozen peas!
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10. Store Food Properly. Wrap your lettuce in a damp paper towel to keep it crisp. Seal leftovers with a good cling wrap before you freeze them. Don’t wash fruit until you’re ready to eat it. And put ripe avocados in the fridge so they don’t spoil. When you store food properly, you can seriously stretch its shelf life.
11.Cook Simpler. Consider less expensive dinners once (or twice) a week like breakfast for dinner, a rice and bean casserole, or a simple one-pot stew. Make enough to eat on for a couple days (and maybe change up the side dishes) to make meal planning easier on yourself.
12. Go for Cheaper Cuts. Meat can get expensive. Buy a cheaper cut like pork chops, shoulder roast or chicken. They’ll be a third of the price of steaks, and they’ll taste just as delicious with the right seasonings.
13. Try New Recipes. Look at all those lingering bags of beans, rice and canned artichokes you have in your pantry. Then search the web for recipes that incorporate them into a single dish. You’ll enjoy something new and save money.
While you’re figuring out your new grocery budget, set a goal and try to stick with it.
While you’re figuring out your new grocery budget, set a goal and try to stick with it. If you need to adjust next month, that’s fine. As long as you’re saving money overall, you’re doing great!