5 Ways to Easily Reduce Your Grocery Bills Now

It’s no secret that everything looks more expensive now. I’m in a situation where I’m fortunate in some ways. I work from home and recently gave up my car after moving to a quieter city. In addition to escaping relatively unscathed from rising gas costs, I haven’t had to worry about premiums or formula shortages because I don’t have kids yet.

I still have food to buy, though, and I’ve seen my grocery bill total grow on recent trips. I love the feeling of going to the market and shopping with no plans, simply guided by vibes (i.e. what looks best and freshest).

But this way of shopping is not sustainable now. So, a few weeks ago, I sat down and meticulously planned – with old-school pen and paper – five ways to reduce my grocery bill.

And it worked: using a few simple measures, I successfully reduced my bill over the next few weeks by between $20 and $35. It’s not a ton, but it definitely adds up!

Without further ado, here are some steps you can take today to cut costs in your home kitchen:

First, buy your pantry

Whether I’m trying to cut costs in the face of inflation or slash my kitchen bills while saving up for something special, the first two places I look inside are my own pantry and freezer. Again, this is a pen and paper process (or the Notes app).

Set aside about 15 minutes before meal planning to make a list of handy items that can be used to prepare the next week’s meals. I noticed some frozen bananas, a few scoops of almond butter, and some oat cream accidentally included in an Instacart order. I knew these ingredients could be used to make smoothies for the week, and I wouldn’t have to buy anything else for breakfast.

Related: Lentils, Canned Fish, and Chickpeas – Oh My God! Dispatches from my Large Clean Out Pantry

Did you buy shelf-stable items like beans, pasta and rice at the start of the pandemic? In the months that followed, some of those ingredients were pushed to the bottom of my pantry, and I re-purchased the basics I really didn’t need. If, while rummaging through items, you find something expired, spoiled, or needs to be thrown away, this is a great opportunity for a quick pantry cleaning. It also makes it easier to identify what you have on hand and what you really need next time you go shopping.

Make a list of trades you can make

As you write your shopping list, make a mental or physical note of the economic trade-offs you can make. For example, rice wine vinegar is typically about $1 or $2 cheaper than white wine vinegar. While it’s definitely a little sweeter and smoother, it’s a perfectly good substitute. Chicken thighs cost less than chicken breasts; bagged rice runs less than instant rice; and chopped green olives can replace capers. Frozen salmon and cod are cheaper than fresh and really shine in the right recipes (i.e. when cooked with coconut milk, scallions and frozen peas and served with rice).

The trick here is to avoid buying something that requires additional work to the point where you don’t use the ingredient. Let’s say dried beans are cheaper than canned beans – which they usually are – but you know you won’t have time to soak them, season them, and wait for them to fully cook for dinner. This is a case where saving a few extra cents isn’t worth it.

Meal plan, focusing on vegetarian and vegan meals

One of the quickest ways to cut my grocery budget is to shift focus to plant-based meals. Meat is expensive, especially good quality meat. Plant-based proteins such as Impossible and soyrizo products can also be expensive.

Fortunately, we are in a season where there is an absolute abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables to plan meals. The other day, I bought a pound of strawberries for $2. Half were made into jam, while the other half was served with yogurt and homemade granola made from a few unfinished pantry items, including nuggets, walnuts, flaxseeds, and maple syrup. board.

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Due to its versatility, corn is a staple in my kitchen this time of year. One of my favorite meals these days is fresh corn cut from the cob cooked with coconut milk, a little chicken or vegetable broth, and some peppers. I put some on the rice and top it with chives and a little lemon. Not only is it delicious, but it also costs less than $1 per serving.

If you’re running low on plant-based meal ideas, visit the cookbook section of your local library. There is usually a small trove of international cookbooks – some of which have achieved great popularity and some of which have not – featuring plant-based recipes that will get you excited to cook with produce.

Try recipes that elevate cheaper cuts of meat

However, I totally understand if you’re not getting the idea of ​​going completely vegetarian or vegan overnight. If you’re looking to incorporate meat into your meal plan, one way to save money is to focus on elevating less expensive cuts of meat. For example, top round steak (also sometimes labeled London broil) is a tough but versatile piece of meat. It requires a little slow, slow cooking to release its tenderness, so this is where a Dutch oven, Instant Pot, or slow cooker comes in handy.

Most people think of turkey as a holiday protein, but frozen turkeys are pretty cheap this time of year. You can substitute chicken for turkey in a variety of meals, such as curries and soups.

Have a plan to use every part of your ingredients

Who among us has never bought a bunch of special ingredients for a particular meal, only to leave the remaining portions of those ingredients languishing unused in their pantry or drawer? While this is sometimes the nature of “kitchen design,” it’s ideal to have a plan for using leftover bibs and bobs from one meal to the next when you’re trying to keep costs down.

Reserve the chicken and turkey bones to make the broth. Blend the remaining herbs with the dredges of your Greek yogurt to make a sauce or pasta sauce like Sohla El-Waylly did here. Carrot tops make a great pesto, and jam leftovers are a killer cocktail starter.

Budgeting can seem terrible if you let it, but it can also be a very satisfying way to exercise your creativity in the kitchen. I wish you delicious (cheap!) food in the coming weeks.

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