Food prices are rising, but there are ways to save money on your grocery bill.
Before you toss perishable food into your grocery cart, think about exactly how you'll use it. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Americans generate roughly 30 million tons of food waste each year.
Using leftover vegetables, poultry, or meat in soups, stews, salads, and casseroles minimizes cost and demonstrates your creativity in the kitchen. For example, have a roasted chicken for dinner one night and use the leftovers for dinner the next night.
Try topping a bed of fresh greens with vegetables, fruits, and slices of leftover chicken. Add a loaf of whole-grain bread, and presto! You've got a nutritious meal in minutes. You can also eat leftovers for breakfast or take them with you for lunch.
Consider buying store brands instead of pricier national brands. "All food manufacturers follow standards to provide safe food and beverage products of high quality," says Robert Earl, director of nutrition policy for the Grocery Manufacturer Association.
Many grocery companies buy national-brand products made to their specifications and simply put their own label on the products. Read the ingredient list on the label to be sure you're getting the most for your money.
Ingredients are listed in order by weight. So when you're buying canned tomatoes, look for a product that lists tomatoes, not water, as the first ingredient. Also look for simpler versions of your favorite foods. For example, buy oatmeal or simple flaked or puffed cereals that contain fewer additives and are less expensive (and often healthier) than fancier cereals.
Buy and Cook In Bulk
Joining a bulk shopping club like Sam's, Costco, or BJ's can be cost-effective if you frequent the club regularly. Bulk purchases can be a great way to save money -- as long as they get used.
You might also look in your community for shopping cooperatives that sell food in bulk at a substantial savings. Cooking in bulk can save both money and time, says Tallmadge. "Prepare food in bulk and freeze it in family-sized portions, which saves time in the kitchen," she suggests.
For example, making a big batch of tomato sauce will be less expensive (and probably tastier) than buying. Use sales and coupons to plan meals around what's on sale. Just make sure they're for items you would buy anyway.
Sunday newspapers are full of coupons and sales circulars to get you started. It's also a good idea to stock up on staples when they're on sale. "Buy one, get one free" is basically a technique to get you to buy twice as much as you need at half the price. At some markets, though, the product rings up half-price -- so you don't have to buy more than one to get the savings.
Use your freezer to store sale items that can be used at a later date.