The hotter months provide an opportunity to be wise and thoughtful.
With lots of businesses opening up, it’s easier to get to the store now. But, you may still be worried about getting or spreading COVID-19. Or perhaps you are one of the millions of people who’ve lost a job since the pandemic started and you don’t have as much money for groceries as you used to. If that’s you, here are a few tips to spend less on groceries, and to conserve your trips to the store so there’s less potential virus exposure time for you and others.
1Make a couple of meatless meals every week.
Good meat is expensive, so why not use summer time to build more vegetarian options into your meal plan? Pick two or three days (let’s say Wednesday and Friday — the latter of which is traditionally a day of abstaining from meat for Christians) and make these your “no meat” days.
Some easy and inexpensive vegetarian ideas include: eggs, meatless tacos, salads, or rice bowls with beans and/or sweet potatoes seasoned with taco seasoning instead of meat. (Peel a sweet potato and cut it into very small pieces, then cook it in some oil on the stove until soft. Add cumin and chili powder and salt.)
A good summer dish that’s filling and inexpensive is cold pasta salad with cheese and veggies (think cooked carrots, peas, maybe even some finely chopped broccoli or cauliflower). Cook the pasta and add some on-sale or frozen veggies, a little bit of oil and vinegar or some salad dressing, and enjoy. Refrigerate the leftovers for an easy lunch. An eggplant is usually cheaper than a pound of ground beef, and tastes delicious baked with tomato sauce.
Vegetarian cookbooks for the budget-conscious (try Plant Based on a Budget, which is free to borrow digitally from most libraries) have lots of great ideas.
2To simplify grocery runs and avoid germs, use grocery store pick up options.
Take advantage of your grocery store’s pick up services. Order only the things you actually need. Keep the total dollar amount you can spend as your limit and remove anything from your ordering list that brings the total over that limit. Decide before you open the app how much you can spend, and don’t order your groceries when you’re hungry!
3Have some fun ice cream and toppings on hand for summer treats.
Save these for the times you’re tempted to go out. Then you can make a cone or sundae or float up at home for half the cost, the same taste, and a safer dining experience!
4Take a regular inventory and get creative.
At the end of each week or month (depending on how often you shop), look at what you have in your pantry instead of doing a last minute dash to the store. Do you still have some peanut butter? What about some of those things you stocked up for during quarantine that you haven’t used? Now is the time. If you’re stuck and can’t think of what to make, try googling the ingredients you have with the word recipe to see what comes up. Allrecipes has a tool where you type in what ingredients you have and they pull up recipes with those ingredients. (Look for ingredient search at the top of the Allrecipes page.)
Shopping on a strict budget can be tough, but it provides a lot of impetus for creativity in meal planning. Although it definitely requires more thought and attention, I’ve found that the more you get used to it, the easier it becomes. It is also much harder to throw food out, which means less food waste and better planning. Pair that with limiting your trips to the grocery store, and you’re now a more thoughtful, organized, and budget-savvy person. Win-win all around!
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