This time last year, the average cost of a dozen eggs was $1.64, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. This year, those eggs will cost you $2.71, or 65% more. But you don’t need me to tell you, you’ll notice the cost of living going up every time you shop.
There are many reasons for rising food prices, from rising gas prices to global supply chain issues. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do as a consumer to change what’s happening in the world. However, there are ways to lower your food bill without compromising the quality of what you eat. Here are four ways to lower your food bill.
1. Reduce waste
About 30% of food in the United States is thrown away every year. Much of this food is wasted before it even reaches our cupboards and refrigerators, but food waste is also common at home. That avocado you bought on a whim and never took the time to eat? Vegetables you had planned to cook, then your plans changed? It happens to everyone.
The freezer is your friend, whether it’s for leftovers or fresh produce. Buying frozen products is often cheaper than buying fresh products, and they also keep longer. You’d also be amazed at what you can freeze without destroying flavor or texture. For example, I freeze beaten eggs to use in omelettes or pancakes. Just be sure to take them out of their shell first. Also, if you’re using half a jar of sauce or something else, you can often freeze the rest rather than letting it go to waste.
Freezing is also a good way to store leftovers. Rather than eating the same thing for three days in a row, put a few servings in the freezer ready for a night when you don’t feel like cooking. On that note, things won’t last forever in your freezer. Try to check what’s there once every two months and see what needs to be eaten. Frozen chicken nuggets last a long time, but that doesn’t mean you can store them for decades.
Finally, check the temperature of your fridge and freezer. Your refrigerator should be 40°F or lower and the freezer should be 0°F or lower. We create a lot of food waste because it hasn’t been stored properly and needs to be thrown away.
2. Use cheaper ingredients
There are two ways to reduce the cost of your ingredients. One is to buy private label products and shop at low cost stores to reduce costs at source. Another is to find ways to flesh out your meals with ingredients that don’t cost as much.
I’m originally from the UK, where we eat something called Yorkshire pudding with our traditional roast beef. It is made from flour, eggs and milk and in ancient times it was used to satiate people before they got to the most expensive part of the meal – the meat. It is not necessary to make Yorkshire pudding, but you can follow the same logic and, for example, put bread on the table to fill people up.
Supplement your meals with less expensive ingredients like canned beans, rice, oats or potatoes. I often grate carrots in bolognese sauce, which makes it healthier, tastier and reduces the amount of ground beef.
3. Consider planning your meals and cooking in bulk
People talk a lot about meal planning, which box help reduce waste and costs. It sounds good and works well for some people, but it’s not for everyone. If you don’t want to plan every meal, that’s okay. You can always avoid last-minute trips to the store by keeping a good supply of non-perishable ingredients like pasta, rice, and canned vegetables. Try not to buy items on impulse if you don’t know when you’ll cook them – these are often the items that end up languishing in the back of your fridge.
Cooking in bulk or just cooking a little more when you’re preparing a meal is another way to save time and money. Think of it as making your own ready meals for a lot less money. You don’t have to cook from scratch after a long day at work; instead, you can cook a lot when you have the time and reduce the temptation to splurge on a ready-to-eat meal. Plus, it means you can get better prices by buying in bulk.
4. Use apps to save money
I’m a big fan of apps like Too Good To Go and Olio that prevent food waste and cut costs. Too Good to Go connects businesses with foods that are about to expire with customers who want to buy. It lets you buy from restaurants, stores, and bakeries at about a third of the regular price.
It’s also worth checking out cashback apps that reward you for shopping. You can earn 1% or more on expenses you were going to make anyway. On that note, if you have a rewards credit card, this can be another way to earn points or refund your everyday purchases. Don’t fall into the trap of spending more just to earn the rewards.
At the end of the line
There are many ways to reduce your food expenses. The main thing is to find the right ones for you. There’s no point in committing to drastic cuts in food spending if you’re only sticking with it for a few weeks. Or decide to buy in bulk and then waste a lot of what you bought because you didn’t have time to cook it. Instead, start gradually. For example, you can try to be more aware of what you buy and how much you throw away each month. Set realistic and achievable goals that you can achieve over the long term.
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