Trimming your food budget is one way to cut spending in tough economic times. Sue Perry, Deputy Editor of ShopSmart Magazine, has some money saving tips.
When it comes to food preparation, using some good ol' fashioned elbow grease can save you some money. "Anything you slice, dice and is already prepped for you is going to cost extra at the grocery store," says Perry. Instead of buying prepackaged lettuce or baby carrots, chop them yourself. The extra time invested can save you hundreds of dollars a year. "We calculated that if you buy a head of lettuce a week versus buying the bagged lettuce, you can save $73 dollars a year," says Perry. While that might not sound like a lot, doing this with all kinds of produce can really add up.
You can also save money - and add flavor - by buying fresh herbs rather than dried ones. "Sometimes, fresh herbs can save you money, especially the more delicate ones like cilantro, basil... and parsley and chives," says Perry. Dried versions of these herbs can go stale fairly quickly, so by buying them fresh, portioning them out and freezing any leftovers, you can save money long term.
When it comes to loose produce, keep in mind that buying in bulk - that means bags of potatoes, onions, peppers, apples, etc. - is cheaper than picking out those items individually. "We found a five pound bag [of potatoes] for $2.99, and then we found the same potatoes for 99 cents a pound," says Perry.
Sometimes buying in bulk isn't practical, though. If you have a small family, or your kids are grown and off at college, consider buying small portions of produce at your grocery store's salad bar. This works, too, for ingredients you don't use on a regular basis. By buying only what you'll use, you'll avoid having bulk buys spoil.
You can also try making your own salad dressing. "It's oil, vinegar and mustard. If you like it creamy, throw in a dollop of mayonnaise," says Perry. "It saves you three to five dollars a bottle."
For more money saving grocery tips, visit www.ShopSmartMag.org.
By Erin Petrun
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