Let’s face it, food is the most crucial part of our life. We need food to live and we need the right food to be healthy. We spend a good part of our week planning meals, budgeting for groceries & going to the grocery store not to mention all the cooking and cleaning that follows.
Really, for most though, it has become wasteful. We waste money on junk food we don’t need, we waste money buying food and not using it before it goes bad, and a lot of us waste our perfectly edible leftovers.
There are a lot of different ways we can help reduce waste and consequently, reduce our food cost. Meal planning, buying in season foods, reducing our meat, dairy, processed and packaged purchases, learning to eat leftovers and learning where to grocery shop are all ways we can maximize or food budget while minimizing our waste.
Meal planning. Meal planning allows you to shop for exactly what you need. Make a list & stick to it. When out grocery shopping don’t be sucked in by sales or food that looks appealing. Grocery stores are designed to suck shoppers into buying more than what they need. More sales equals more profit for them.
I used to plan my meals for each day of the week. Monday stir fry, Tuesday tacos, Wednesday pasta, etc. Until I started realizing sometimes my appetite didn’t align with what I planned last week. Maybe on Tuesday I didn’t want tacos and really wanted pasta, and it almost discouraged me like I had to follow my daily meal plan. Now I pick 7 meals for the week and I pick and choose what I want as the days come.
Buying in season foods. When fruits and vegetables are in their highest peak of production they cost less. When they aren’t producing the most their prices increase. Basic supply and demand. A great app I found to keep up with local seasonal foods – SFG – seasonal food guide. Pick your state and month and it gives you a long list of food currently in season. This can help prepare your meals and grocery lists for the week. It also helps keep a good variety going over the months so you don’t feel stuck eating the same meals.
Cutting out what you buy. Since going towards a more plant based lifestyle our food bill has almost been cut in half. Meat, dairy, packaged & processed food are not only a huge burden on the environment and our health, but our wallets. Eating beef, chicken and fish topped with cheese or eggs 7 days a week is extremely costly compared to beans, vegetables and grains that have the same nutritional value, especially if you can buy grains and beans in bulk.
Packaged food is usually full of sugar and has little or no nutritional value which ultimately makes you need more food because those packaged snacks do nothing to sustain your hunger or fuel your body.
So when meal planning and shopping be conscious of your decisions, pick more vegetables, beans and grains and less dairy and meat. Really cut out all the processed and packaged snacks all together and opt for fruits for more sustainable snacks.
Leftovers. This is a huge factor in reducing food cost. We used to throw away food that would have been great lunches for work and then either bought lunch or made something else for lunch – wasteful for money and food. Now we usually have 2-3 different leftover dinners to choose from for our work lunch already packed up and ready to go.
Learning where to grocery shop. You can shop at the local big chain stores or you can find smaller food markets that typically have equal quality and better prices. Depending on where you live you should have a variety of stores to choose from – check out their local ads over a few weeks and see who seems to continue to have the lowest prices. Don’t be afraid to hit two places for your needs – maybe a bulk store for things like your dry goods and a local produce stand for your weekly produce. Spending a little extra time figuring out the best stores can save a whole lot of extra money.
So what does a typical week look like for us? We hit 2 stores every weekend and a couple times a month we hit a third store for some zero waste bulk items.
Produce stands – one of the perks living in Florida are the endless amounts of produce stands in every town all year long. We don’t buy everything on this list every time – just what is planned/needed for the week but here is a general list:
- Sweet potatoes
- Baked potatoes
- Green onions
- White and/or red onions
- Sweet peppers (1-2 of each color)
- Yellow squash
- Corn on the cob
Here are photos from 2 separate grocery hauls.
Then we stop at our local Aldis for some non produce items. Again we don’t buy all of this every trip:
- Almond milk
- 3-4 different types of beans
- Vegetable broth
- Crushed tomatoes
- Dressings & seasonings
- Peanut butter
- Orange juice
A few times a month we stop at our local zero waste shop and stock up on some things like:
So what kind of meals do we make in one week? Here’s 7 dinner ideas with a sweet treat included that cost me $75 to buy.