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Trim your food bill: Top tips to eat better for less

Posted 03.03.2021
Trim your food bill: Top tips to eat better for less

Many food movements have emerged over the years to help people eat better. There’s the slow food movement that encourages people to swap out fast food for locally grown sustainable produce. Locavores only eat products grown and produced in their vicinity.

This could be a 50km or 100km radius or even much less, as Vicki Robin suggested in her book: Blessing the hands that feed us: Lessons from a 10-Mile Diet. You’re also probably familiar with the organic movement, freeganism, and the nutraceutical movement … the list goes on and on.

Regardless of how you choose to spruce up your eating habits, you’re bound to appreciate it more if it doesn’t blow up your food budget. The good news is there are hacks, tips and tricks you can employ to eat better for less. Whether you call it thrifty eating or frugal feeding, here’s how to maintain a lightweight food bill without skimping on nutrition and taste.

How to shop better for less

When you’re at the supermarket and gliding between the aisles, these handy shopping tips will help you save more when you finally check out at the till:

  • Buy store brand. You’ll likely find little difference in quality between store brands and name brands, and yet there’s a sizeable price difference between the two.
  • Buy frozen, canned, or dried food. This allows you to load up on cheap but nutritious alternatives without worrying about food longevity.
  • Shop in bulk. Chances are you can always put your money on buying in bulk being cheaper. That means you can stock up on staples like whole grains without forking out much.
  • Keep up with the seasons. When produce is in season, it’s usually cheaper, so you can fill your cart and freeze later where possible.
  • Take advantage of discounts, promos, coupons, etc. There’s a goldmine of cheap but quality food to be discovered if you make it your business to go on the hunt. This includes reading supermarket ads and checking for sales (usually, the store shelf stickers will show you the way). You can also keep an eye out for damaged goods that are still okay to chow or perishable foods close to expiration. In the same vein, taking advantage of loyalty cards, cashback apps, and coupons can cut your budget some slack. Combining all these actions can lead to humungous savings.
  • Get familiar with food prices. This helps you compare offers between different stores, and it’s easy to tell if you’re really getting a good deal on a sale. If you’re able to notice a big drop in prices, you’ll always know the perfect time to stock up.
  • Load up on vegetarian food. The smell of a barbecue can be divine, but favouring vegetarian foods such as beans and eggs adds more fibre and nutrients at a lower cost. Alternatively, you can buy meat in bigger cuts – whole chicken is usually cheaper, for instance.
  • Don’t buy organic all the time. Although organic food is a big hype, it can be costly. Do your research to find out which conventional produce in your area has low contamination levels so you can buy at a cheaper price with peace of mind.
  • Skip the junk food shelf. Junk food is almost always calorie-dense and tends to jack up your food bill. If soda and chips are regulars in your diet, removing them and making healthier choices can reduce your grocery bill.

Preparing meals and cooking on a budget

When you’re tinkering in the kitchen, there are also some ideas you can use to cook on a budget:

  • Create a menu. Use the plethora of recipes on the internet to tailor your menu to what’s in your pantry. Planning a menu also helps keep you on track when you go shopping.
  • Cook in bulk. If you find cooking all the time a hassle, doing it in one go helps you avoid slipping into an expensive snacking and takeout habit.
  • Recycle leftovers. Leftovers are future meals waiting to happen, so toss things like leftover veggies and meats into stews and salads instead of the trash.
  • Store produce properly. There’s an art to storing fruits and vegetables to keep them fresh for longer. Some veggies go in the fridge and potatoes in a cool dark place where it’s not crowded. Fruits like apples and bananas can quickly go bad if kept together (they produce ethylene gas which triggers overripening of nearby fruit) so watch out for this.
  • Cook food for “on the go.” Whether you’re travelling or working, pack and take lunch with you, so you don’t have to buy.
  • Freeze to avoid waste. You can enjoy out of season fruits and vegetables by freezing them. Also do this for anything that’s freezable so you can dig in at a later date.
  • Grow your own food. Exercise your green fingers by planting your own vegetables and herbs. You can even plant produce like potatoes and celery straight from the supermarket. If garden space is a problem, pots and containers can also do the job.
  • Invest in some kitchenware. Slow cookers, pressure cookers, and Tupperware are just some of the things that make cooking and food storage more convenient for you.

Eating better for less when dining out

Dining out has its own place in your social life. Instead of shunning restaurants completely, you can still give yourself a break here and there as long as you make an effort to cut back. Here’s a list of tips to help reduce the cost of eating out:

  • Avoid expensive drinks and alcohol
  • Trim your bill by not ordering dessert and appetizers
  • Look for restaurants that let you bring your own beer or bottle (BYOB)
  • Ask for a doggy bag for your leftovers
  • Dine out for lunch – you’ll likely find a cheaper menu than at dinner time
  • Target happy hour
  • Find out where the cheap all-you-can-eat-buffets are happening
  • Search for restaurants that offer discounts, deals, and bargains

Keep blending those low-budget food ideas

Eating better for less takes some serious dedication, and it’s sometimes a slippery slope when that pizza craving comes calling. But the journey to a healthier diet and wallet is paved by incorporating the above-mentioned tips and ideas one at a time. You may even discover more ideas to keep the ball rolling on saving more while getting quality nourishment.

So when it comes to what you buy and eat, keep avoiding consumerism traps while chasing those best-buy deals, and you’ll be good to go.