How to green your grocery shopping on a tight budget. The following are tips on how can you get what you pay for, and still afford to pay for what you get. You can do more than clip coupons and shop at low-traffic times. Here are a handful of tips for weekly budgeting success:
• Prioritize your list. Know what you can leave off the list if prices are higher than you expect. If you have trouble remembering or, have a pet who inevitably eats your list, get an app for your iPhone. No iPhone? Get the PDF version.
• Create a weekly menu. Plan to use the same ingredients in more than one dish. For example, use broccoli as an ingredient in a stir-fry the first time, only to have it reappear later in the week as a side dish. Just keep it simple–at least at first. The simpler the dish, the easier it is to reinvent the leftovers.
• Eat mostly plants. For example, for a dish like stroganoff, replace half the meat with mushrooms. As for eggs, try ground flax as a substitute when baking. (For one egg: 1 tbsp ground flax, 2-3 tbsp water, microwave in 15 second increments until the flax has an egg-like consistency.) You can buy a package of flax for nearly the same price as a dozen eggs.
• Reap what you sow. Most likely you can’t raise your own animals and wouldn’t want to, but you can raise your own veggies. Consider a raised box. You can buy one or build your own. Tomatoes grow nicely in larger planters. Keep an herb garden with your most frequently used herbs on your windowsill or front porch and maybe save your spare change in a piggy bank to get next year’s garden started.
• Buy what’s in season. You’ll find the best prices, and the best flavors, on the foods that are ready to be harvested today. Off-season greenhouse growth often comes with a higher price tag.
• Check the fridge, pantry and freezer before you shop. You may have a whole meal waiting to be reheated. You may only need one ingredient to create a main dish. Which brings me to:
• Shop dry. Some dried beans, some water, and a handful of herbs can be simmered on the stove one slow Sunday to produce a savory main dish. Pair with a simple salad and homemade bread or plain rice. While not necessary, a slow cooker is a great investment, especially as Fall and Winter approach.
Buy in bulk. Get grains, coffees, teas and cereals from bulk bins, and only buy what you need for the week unless the price is at rock bottom. Then buy as much as you can without going over your week’s budget. If you have some pennies left from last week (I call that rollover cash), use that to stock up. Apply this to produce too, like blackberries. You can easily freeze them for baked goods and smoothies later. If you can afford it, go for it.
• Pay with cash. I can’t tell you how many people gave me this tip before I tried it. The benefits are obvious, really. If you can only pay with what you have in your hands, you pay more attention to what you put in your cart and you don’t go over budget.
• Splurge–at the end of the month. If you get to the end of your pay period and there’s cash in your envelope, treat yourself or throw a party. You’re a success!