When most folks start talking about cutting back on spending we think of major purchases, investments, etc. However, when you and your family start talking about where to cut spending in day to day living the budget for food seems to be often overlooked. There is a good reason for this – we still need to eat and the truth is eating less just doesn’t sound too appealing.
Here is some good news, with a few pointers you can cut back on your budget without having to cut back on your eating. Being an Italian food lover along with my family, I can tell you these tips work and you won’t go hungry!
1. Coupons really are worth the extra effort
Everyone loves to look for coupons, and yet how quickly we forget to use them. Every Sunday (or sometimes Saturday), your local newspaper will come out with a large batch of coupons. Some coupons or ads will only be good for that week, however the majority of the coupons will have expiration dates a few months down the road – sometimes even a full year.
When looking for coupons, consider your long term needs. If you only look for coupons for what you need immediately you may miss out on some major cost saving coupons for foods you will need next week or even next month.
In other words, look for coupons on items you consider a staple in your household, or for items which you know you will or might need for an upcoming holiday.
Common examples are olive oil, meats, sodas, crackers, jams, ice cream, etc.
2. Sales are not coupons
Unlike coupons which can last for months, sales are promoted by stores for shorter periods of time. With a coupon, you usually need to present the actual coupon to the check out attendant at the grocery store at the time of purchase. However, with sales, the reduction in price is automatic. Keep in mind that in order take advantage of the store sale you will be required to present or scan your members card or bonus card specific to that store.
One of the more costly areas of our food bill often tend to be meat purchases. Whether a cut of prime rib or just plain chicken breasts, taking advantage of sales can help tremendously. Since meats can be frozen for about 6 months on average, it is important to take advantage of these sales as they come.
If you do not see the advertised cut of meat available, talk to the butcher who will most likely either have some he has not yet cut or may offer a replacement.
3. Combine Sales and Coupons for maximum savings
Many people are not aware that coupons and sales can often be used in conjunction. For example, if you have a coupon from a manufacturer of a Dr. Oetker pizza for one dollar off, but the store has them on sale also reduced in price to $2.99 instead of the usual $3.99 – you can actually purchase the pizzas for only $1.99 per box!
4. Fresh sliced meats can help the budget too
Butchers are so often undervalued. We think they are there to just get the incoming meats cut and wrapped and out in the displays. However, butchers are also there to process any custom requests – and if they say otherwise talk to the manager or shop elsewhere.
One area which can easily save money is asking your deli department to slice your meat and cheeses for you. It always amazes me when I purchased pre-sliced packaged meats – not only are these less fresh but they are extremely expensive for just a few slices. Therefore, try pricing out your meats and cheeses at the deli. To stretch the dollar even further, ask the butcher to slice your items on the thin side. Don’t be intimidated, they use the best food slicers for accommodating a wide range of widths.
5. Avoid complicated meals
We can learn a thing or two from the Italians – they cook with minimal ingredients making sure everything is fresh and out comes a dish you would think is fit for a king. Learning to cook simply could be called an art – others might call it a byproduct of necessity. The key however is to learn that simple does not have to mean bland or boring. For example, to make a nice bruschetta for a pasta meal only requires 4 ingredients – Italian or French bread, garlic, olive oil, and chopped tomatoes. Serve it to your family and just don’t tell them how easy it is to make.
In case you’re curious about the recipe, preheat an oven to 425 F. Slice the bread into 1/2″ slices and brush olive oil on one (or both) sides. Bake in the oven for 4 minutes on each side until golden brown. Remove from oven, rub some fresh garlic on one side, add in the tomatoes (drained) and serve warm.
You can start learning simple recipes like this by investing in cookbooks designed for simple cooking, or simply do some online searches. There are a number of great websites such as All Recipes.com and FoodNetwork.com to name just a few. Remember, the less ingredients you have to buy the less money you have to spend.
Food is never one of the items we want to cut back on, so with some creative thinking and taking a little more time to be a strategic shopper – you’ll be amazed at how much you can actually save without cutting back on your food.
Liz Krause was born into an Italian family and in her early 20’s was able to visit her relatives in Italy, where she experienced the true art of Italian cooking. She is publisher of an Italian cooking website where she offers recipes and reviews such on common products used in Italian cooking such as the Cuisinart food processor 11 cup for making quick pizza dough, or the best meat grinder for home use when making items like Italian sausage or fresh meatloaf.