The winter months are often a time when we re-evaluate our spending habits. For many, Christmas brought with it many family and friend gatherings. While these were lovely opportunities to reconnect, they can also be a little taxing on the grocery budget, as well as our overall finances. For many, the belt buckle tightens for more than one reason after Christmas! Fresh produce tends to also be a little more expensive during this season because we don’t have access to locally grown produce like we do in the warmer months. I thought I would take this opportunity to share with you some tips and tricks for eating well for less.
An important tool for our family has been to have a grocery budget and to work within that amount. Think about what you spend on average and if you are comfortable with that amount, make that your budget. If you feel you are spending too much, begin considering where you could cut some costs without sacrificing good nutrition or full bellies. Did you know that if you purchase coffee 5 days out of every week, you would spend a whopping $520.00 over the course of a year? Take your budgeted amount of money out of the bank and use cash to purchase groceries to avoid over spending. If money is tight, having a budget shifts the mindset from being controlled by money to you being in control of spending.

At Home…

  • Read the grocery store fliers before you go shopping.
  • Plan your menu based on what is on sale.
  • Check your cupboards and fridge for inventory before shopping.
  • Use a crock pot! It costs only about .50 cents to run for 8 hours. It also does a great job of turning less expensive & tough cuts of meat into something delicious!

Out and About…

  • Pack your own lunch and snacks. It will be less expensive and a whole lot healthier!
  • Make your own tea or coffee at home and use a travel mug when heading out.
  • Bring your own water bottle with you everywhere you go. We should be aiming to drink 8- 10 glasses of water every day.

Grocery Shopping Tips & Tricks…

  • Make a grocery list & stick to it. Make sure you eat before you go grocery shopping. You’ll spend more if you are hungry.
  • Do your grocery shopping on a Monday morning. There is often food marked down for quick sale after the weekend.
  • Shop at local markets and farms. You can sometimes still get local root vegetables and apples.

Making Groceries Stretch:

  • Cut up lettuce, wash & spin dry. Store in a container lined with paper towel to preserve freshness. When you leave the lettuce or other leafy greens in a plastic produce bag, it will often rot quickly.
  • Swirl berries in a solution of ¼ c. vinegar and 10 c. water. This will keep berries from going moldy.
  • Buy a bag of large carrots to peel and chop instead of baby carrots.
  • Store onions & potatoes in a dark, cool cupboard – preferably away from each other. Put an apple in the potato bag to keep potatoes from sprouting.
  • Highly perishable food should be stored in the coldest part of the fridge

This article first appeared in the Elmira Independent, February 27, 2015.