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Grocery shopping on a Budget
Cancer and chemotherapy treatments are expensive! So when you first start seriously cooking at home, one of the hardest things to avoid is spending too much money on food. The key to saving money is grocery shopping on a budget. Here are a few great tips to help minimize your food expense while maximizing impact.
Tips for Grocery Shopping on a Budget
1. Set a realistic monetary food budget and stick to it.
This is probably the hardest aspect of grocery shopping on a budget. But, it’s amazing how if you work inside your food budget, how your meals will change in quality and character very quickly. Setting a food budget helps you control your food cost and forces you to learn how much each item costs. This makes it easier to make budget minded decisions while making your menu. The best way to help you stick to your budget is to keep track of how much you are spending while you are shopping. This will help keep you accountable and help you to learn how much your food actually costs.
2. Plan a menu for the week.
When you plan a menu, not only do you have a road map of what you are going to create, but it allows you to cook similarly themed food items. This reduces the need to purchase a lot of unique ingredients. For example, let’s say you have a recipe that requires carrots, onions, and celery. This mixture, typically known as mirepoix, forms the backbone of almost every classic western culinary recipe. Just by using the mirepoix mixture, we can make recipes like soup, pot roast, and Shepherd’s pie. The variations are endless. Carrots, onions, and celery are budget friendly. They also last a long time in the refrigerator and are full of healthy fiber. So as you can see, using similarly themed ingredients can help you save money on a budget.
3. Don’t impulse purchase.
One of the biggest expenses you will run into when buying food at the grocery store is the impulse purchase. I, myself, am extremely guilty of perusing the cheese area and selecting a few things that topple the food budget right over. That’s why I always send my wife with the exact list of what I need. She won’t come back with extra things like a super rare piece of cheese that I absolutely had to try! Another thing that will make you impulse on food at the grocery store is if you go shopping when you are hungry. Don’t buy food when you are hungry. Eat first, then shop!
4. Prep and freeze perishable food items.
Aside from impulse purchasing, food waste is the biggest way to blow your grocery budget! If you are throwing away $20 worth of food every week, that’s $20 of loss on your grocery budget. That money could have been better spent in other categories of your life. What we do in our home, is take perishable food items, like fresh veggies, pre-slice them, place them into freezer bags, and simply freeze them for later use. $20 a week adds up to $1040 per year. That can buy a lot of other fun stuff like vacations, movie tickets, and video games. Don’t let that much money end up in the trash.
5. Use your leftovers to make other recipes.
A great thing about leftovers is that you can turn them into other recipes. For example, pot roast can be made into beef stew. Roasted chicken breast can be turned into chicken noodle soup. I like to play a game that I call “The Leftovers Game.” This is where I try to re-create a recipe of some kind while incorporating leftovers from a completely different recipe. The trick to this is proper seasoning and of course incorporating new and fresh food ingredients as well.
6. Eat your leftovers.
In our house, leftovers translates to one word: lunch. We eat our leftovers for lunch throughout the week. My wife can eat leftovers the next day. I, on the other hand, usually need to wait a few days. Leftovers, if properly stored and sealed, usually stay fresh for about a week in the refrigerator and longer in the freezer.
7. Organic ingredients are expensive.
Organic ingredients are significantly more expensive than their regular everyday counterparts. If you want to eat organic, by all means just go ahead and do it. But, you don’t have to feel guilty if you don’t. As a caregiver or cancer patient, your drive is to try and eat the most “healthy” foods available. But eating organic food is not in itself a stamp of quality. What makes something “organic” is incredibly misunderstood. What gives you the quality stamp of “caregiver of the year” is by making a conscious effort to make healthier choices in the meals that you are providing your loved one.
Organic ingredients have absolutely no measurable additional nutritional, health, or flavor benefits. An apple, whether organic or conventional, will still have the same nutrients. There are far greater measurable variances based on location grown, type of soil, sun exposure, and many other numerous factors. Because organic ingredients are not treated using modern preservation techniques, they also spoil faster. The best way to get organic food on your table is to grow it yourself. Then, and only then are you getting the freshest ingredients possible on your table.
One of the main reasons that people advocate for the use of organic ingredients is because they claim that organic farmers do not use herbicides or pesticides. That is simply not true. Organic farmers use pesticides on their foods just like conventional farmers do. The only way to guarantee that there are no herbicides or pesticides in your food is to grow your own food and not use herbicides or pesticides.
Grocery Shopping on a Budget is Easy
Now that you know all this information, you should have no problem grocery shopping on a budget.