When it comes to making dinners for my family I have to admit that I’m not the world’s best cook. Oh I’ve got plenty of Martha Stewart, Jamie Oliver, Rachael Ray, and Nigella Lawson cookbooks on my bookshelf but somehow they haven’t helped any when it comes to improving my culinary skills.
Now that isn’t a problem when you have money to burn, since there are plenty of gourmet options and quick heat and serve options at my supermarket, but since we’ve become more frugal after climbing credit card bills it was time for me and my family to learn how to save money on groceries.
Of course that meant making things from scratch since eggs and flour are much cheaper than a box of pop tarts but that isn’t quite so simple when your last batch of brownies got rejected by my youngest (who’ll eat anything). So is it really possible to save money on food if you won’t be entering MasterChef anytime soon?
Fortunately there is. And as one non-cook to another, here’s some tips to help you out.
Make a Meal Plan and Shopping List
I know I know, this one’s a no-brainer and you’ve heard it all before, but seriously I can’t believe how much simpler my life has been by creating meal plans. Usually I make a plan of things to make for five days (rather than the whole week) since that’s about all I can plan for (plus I tell Hubby that it’s his turn to cook on weekends).
We involve the whole family in this so each member gets to choose something one or two nights a week. If I have a plan (and a recipe) usually I can come up with something inexpensive and edible.
Become a Ninja Shopper
No that doesn’t mean donning the black headgear, but it does mean sleuthing out when your store discounts its main items like bread, dairy and meat. Usually it’s late at night, although this does vary from store to store. Then you just do your regular shop just when they are marking down the prices.
Use Store Brands for the Basics
While I can tell the difference between a generic chocolate cookie and a premium brand in an instant, that’s not the case with basics such as sugar and flour. Seriously how different can flour be? For the basics then go for the cheapest brands.
Oh and generic plain potato crisps – actually pretty yummy! Who’d have thought …
Know the Store Marketing Tricks
Grocery stores are big business and everything from the lighting to the music they play has been researched to the max to ensure that we buy more. It’s time to wise up to their little tricks and avoid them (or at least be aware of them) next time you are there. The music is usually slow because that slows us down so we spend more time looking at the shelves. Take your iPod and listen to something upbeat instead.
They always put the most expensive products at eye level so make sure you look up and down for better deals.
There is a reason why the milk is always at the back (so you have to walk through the store to get to it) and why the magazines and confectionary is at the checkout lanes (impulse buys). Don’t be tempted – stick with your list.
Yes You Can Still Buy Ready Made Meals
Even ready-made meals can be reduced in price or go on sale. Look out for the weekly specials and don’t be afraid to try a new brand or new product if the cost is right. And if you are lucky enough to have a store that accepts coupons (they don’t here in Australia more’s the pity) then you can save even more.
It is possible to save money on groceries even if you are not the world’s best cook. It’s just a matter of being organised and shopping smart.
You can do it!