If you’ve ever tracked how much money you’re spending each month, you’ll know that one of the biggest categories you can overspend on is food. In this day and age, we love our modern conveniences. But things like pre-packaged convenience foods, going out to eat and just not planning ahead when you go to the grocery store can wreak havoc on your monthly spending.
I’m the mother of 7 kids, and I have been a stay-at-home mom for the past 17 years. One of the ways that we have been able to afford to do this is by cutting corners in the kitchen. Here are some of our favorite tricks.
1. Don’t Wash Produce Until You’re Ready to Use It
Did you know that if you wash your produce it won’t last as long? There’s nothing worse than opening the produce drawer to find the strawberries you were going to use slimy and moldy. Instead of washing it when you get home, just stick it in the refrigerator in the packaging that it came in. This will prevent bacteria from growing prematurely, and will help you to not waste that food that you spent your hard-earned money on.
2. Ditch the Paper Products
Why use paper products when you can use the real deal? Instead of using paper towels and paper napkins, we use cloth napkins, dish rags and dish towels. We just throw them in the laundry and reuse them as needed. We rarely use paper plates either, unless we have a large gathering of friends come over for a meal.
3. Shop at the Less Expensive Grocery Store
In our area, we find that Aldi has the lowest prices on most everything. But in other areas, you may find that it’s a different store. Take some time to compare prices on the products you use the most. For an easy way to do this, make a list of your most-used grocery items, and then visit each of the stores and write down the prices at those stores. You’ll find the grocery store where you should be doing most of your business quite easily.
4. Eat Leftovers
If you don’t get into the habit of eating your leftovers, you’re leaving money on the table. You could take them to work for lunch, serve them to the kids, freeze them as TV dinners or recycle them into a whole different meal (like a roast into beef stew). Whatever you do, don’t waste that food! For me, I like to make a Crockpot Freezer Meal and get my husband a portion out for tomorrow before I feed everyone else. That way, we’re guaranteed to have a little bit left over.
5. Re-use Foil, Baggies & Old Food Containers
If you regularly use these items, you may want to try this little trick to save money in the kitchen. I grew up watching my mom do this, and know that if I need to cut corners, these conveniences are one of the first to go.
6. Make Your Own Dishwasher Detergent
Have you ever tried making your own dishwasher detergent? You can make it using ingredients you can find at the grocery store. Making your own is like paying pennies on the dollar for dishwasher detergent.
Try this recipe:
1/2 c citric acid OR LemiShine
1/2 c non-iodized salt
1 c borax
1 c washing soda
Mix together well, and use 3 tbsp per load. Be sure to use vinegar in the rinse compartment.
7. Buy Store Brands
Store brands are typically canned, boxed or jarred in the same factories as the more expensive name brands. They typically taste the same, too. Try switching out some of your nonessential name brands for the much cheaper store brands and see if you notice a difference.
8. Meal Plan
If you go into a store without a plan, you’ll come out spending a whole lot more money than you were planning. Be sure to make your meal plan at least a week at a time so you’re not making several trips to the grocery store throughout the week. If you think you don’t have time, I already have a One Week Freezer to Slow Cooker Menu that you can try out for free, so no excuses allowed! When you plan your meals regularly, you save yourself a lot of money. It means you eat out less and eat less boxed and convenience foods, which in turn saves you money.
9. Buy Food in Bulk
There’s certain foods that it pays to buy in bulk. You can find food at drastically reduced prices by watching the sales circulars, shopping the big box stores (like Sam’s Club and Costco) and by using coupons strategically. For our family, we buy our ground beef from a local farmer, our produce and canned goods from Aldi, and our cheese, peanut butter and other dairy products at Sam’s Club. We save $1.50 to $2 a pound by buying our cheese in this way. It really does pay to watch the prices at more than one store and to continually check back for sales.
I hope my tips on saving money in the kitchen pay off for you as much they have for me.
[Editor’s Note: You can use this free tool to track your financial goals, like building good credit scores, each month on Credit.com.]