When I left DC for a month-long stay in Jacksonville, FL, I expected southern food prices to be comparable to those of a third world country. They’re not.
As it turns out, the financial pains of food inflation are experienced across the United States.
We all gotta eat. And most of us don’t want to dedicate three hours a day to coupon clipping.
Try these easy tactics to cut your grocery bill.
1. Skip prepared artificially flavored drinks.
What happened to beverages made from powdered drink mix, water, and sugar?
Country Time Lemonade?
Tang? Let’s hear it for Tang. If it’s good enough for astronauts, it’s good enough for yo’ dumb ass.
Go heavy on the water, light on the sugar, and you’ll stave off insolvency and adult-onset diabetes in one fell swoop.
2. Stop juicing.
There’s another word for all that pulp excreted from your juicer. It’s called food.
Pulp has loads of fiber, so if you hanker something sweet and liquidy, consider smoothies instead.
Grab bananas, strawberries, blue berries, and other freezer friendly fruit when they’re on sale.
Bonus: Never waste a banana again. Peel, cut, and freeze bananas to toss in smoothies.
3. Eat less.
Take the Portion Distortion quiz to find out how much American portion sizes have increased over the past few decades.
Save that extra slice of pizza for another meal.
With every additional bite after you’re satiated, your discomfort increases—all the way to the point that you’re just a stuffed, mouth breathing blob too miserable to focus or fall asleep.
Laboring in a hot kitchen for two hours is unimpressive. Especially when your efforts produce something that—if we’re honest—tastes marginally better than a $2 menu item from a late night Wendy’s drive-thru.
You can prepare delicious home cooked, no-fuss meals. French’s Chili-O makes the best chili seasoning mix. And McCormick’s sells a variety of delicious pasta, beef, seafood, and poultry seasonings.
5. Clean out your refrigerator weekly.
Groceries, unlike the plastic bag you brought them home in, don’t have a half-life of 55 kabillion years.
The additional space allows you to easily find food before it goes bad and helps you avoid buying items you already own.
6. Eat Ramen.
Kids these days aren’t too bright.
Recently, my 5-year old nephew snubbed my generous gift of one U.S. minted nickel. Yes he did.
Another five cents and he could’ve bought a pack of flash fried noodles.
Chuck the sodium laden seasoning pack. Instead, experiment with different sauces, broths, spices, veggies, and meats.
My favorite, albeit merely semi-frugal, ramen recipe includes bacon, Alfredo sauce, Parmesan cheese, black pepper, and red pepper.
And no, I don’t fool around with homemade Alfredo sauce or that ridiculously priced shaved Parmesan cheese.
7. Stop wasting food.
According to Dana Gunders of the National Resources Defense Council, “40 percent of food in the United States today goes uneaten.”
Learn how to properly store food. Transfer your restaurant leftovers from the Styrofoam carry out box to a glass or plastic food container with a lid.
Not only will your takeout last longer, but it won’t absorb the flavors of other foods in the fridge.
8. Learn how to cook a few meals well.
Often your first swipe at a dish is a fantastic, inedible failure. Think you’re the only one? Just ask the average Pinterest user.
9. Take a chance in the kitchen. As a novice cook, I’d follow recipes to the letter. If the recipe called for fresh parsley, I ignored the dried parsley sitting in my cupboard and used fresh parsley.
After discovering modifications could improve a dish, I took on more risks. The next time you’re short a few ingredients, either find a substitute or consider eliminating them altogether.
10. Read user comments before attempting online recipes.
I’m amazed at how many people shell out 4 and 5 star ratings for recipes they’ve modified beyond recognition. Commenters often disclose whether a recipe is too salty, too bland, too spicy, too greasy, or any other small factor that might yield a meal unfit for consumption.
11. Ignore food “expiration” dates.
“I dunno. Smell it.” That’s my canned response to questions involving whether my food has spoiled. It’s quite possible, probable even, that you’ll contract a nasty foodborne illness if you follow my lead . . . so don’t.
But don’t accept your supermarket’s word as gospel.
Many foods are perfectly safe to eat after the “sell by,” “best by,” “use buy,” or any other date posted on the packaging by manufacturers. Do your research.
12. Drink tap water.
I don’t care if you can buy forty-eight 16.9-ounce bottles of water for $3.99.
Grab a BPA-free water bottle and refill it for eternity (or until you leave it at the gym).
13. Load up on inexpensive foods.
I could list them all here, but why redo what’s already been done? Check out 25 Cheap Foods that are Good for You!
Also, plan your meals around seasonal produce as prices tend to be cheaper. Refer to Epicurious’ Seasonal Ingredient Map.
Of course you can increase your savings significantly by spending a few hours rifling through your local grocers’ weekly ads and snipping coupons from the Sunday’s paper, but if you’re uninterested in such tasks simply take the knowledge from this blog post with you the next time you hit the supermarket.
How do you cut your grocery bill without coupons?
Image credit: Why I Don’t Cook at Home from The Oatmeal