Strategies to Cut Food Costs
How to reduce food costs for your family!
Nashville, Ark. – Let’s face it. If you have been to the grocery store recently, you know the cost of food is taking a huge cut of your household budget. Groceries are expensive. However, there are some things you can do to help reduce food costs.
One of the best ways to save at the grocery store is to plan your meals for the week before you shop. If you need half of a bell pepper for one meal, plan another meal during the week where you can use the rest. Planning will reduce impulse buying, over buying and food waste.
Do you like sales? Many people get excited about sales and have the tendency to overbuy just because the item is on sale. If canned vegetables are on sale, by all means, stock up. Most canned vegetables have a shelf life of up to one year. But if salad greens are today’s bargain, think twice before you grab a couple of bags. You can’t freeze lettuce so if you over buy some of it will go to waste.
The average four-person household wastes approximately $1600 of food each year, according to the USDA. That number is based on a report from April 2022. Think about the cost of food last year and how much food costs have risen in a year. We, as Americans, waste a lot of food and ultimately money when we throw uneaten food away.
Tips on saving money on your meals.
How can you save more money on your food bill? Meat may be one of the easiest ways to reduce costs. Think about how much meat you use in soup or casseroles. What if you reduced the portion of meat and add more veggies to the pot. Many meat-based recipes can be made with less meat without sacrificing taste or nutrition.
Consider adding more fiber to your family’s meals – not only is fiber good for you, but it also fills you up. Serve sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes; wheat bread instead of white; oatmeal instead of sugary cereal; popcorn instead of potato chips.
Frozen and canned produce (fruits and vegetables) tends to be cheaper than fresh produce, but not always. Do the math, each and every time you shop. For example, strawberries are super expensive right now. Strawberries tend to go on sale around Valentine’s Day. Plan now how you will add them to your meals and watch prices.
Frozen vegetables are just as nutritious as the fresh ones especially if they are flash frozen right after being picked. Canned vegetables can be high in sodium, so read labels and choose those that have less sodium.
Superbowl weekend is in a couple of weeks and many people are planning to host a watch party with lots of snacks and drinks. Instead of putting the cost on one person, have several guests bring a snack and drink to share. You may need to assign certain items so there will be variety.
Think how you will use leftovers and plan for them. Turn yesterday’s mashed potatoes into tonight’s potato pancakes. A bit of leftover ham makes a great topping for baked potatoes, a quiche filling, or as an add-in to fried rice. If you serve a roast chicken for Sunday dinner, make chicken pot pie the next night. But don’t stop there. Freeze the carcass and other last bits of meat for chicken soup next week. Or boil the carcass now for homemade broth to freeze and use later.
Planning meals helps to save time too. Look at your family’s calendar to see what activities are on the schedule for the week. On those nights when you’re on the go, pack healthy snack foods or use leftovers to prepare a meal fast without having to go through a “drive through.” Not only does it save time, but it saves money.
For more information on saving money on food costs, quick to prepare recipes or nutritional information, check out our webpage which is part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service. Or call the Howard County Extension Office at 870-845-7517.
Recipe of the Week
This recipe was found on the link above. It is perfect for using leftover cooked chicken. Carrots and green peas are the featured vegetables in this recipe, but you can swap them out for any vegetable that is on sale.
Chicken with Vegetables and Rice
1 (15 oz.) can carrots, drained
1 cup cooked chicken
½ chicken bouillon cube or ½ teaspoon instant chicken bouillon granules
½ teaspoon dried basil (optional)
½ cup water
1 cup cooked white rice
1 cup low-sodium green peas
Combine carrots, chicken, bouillon and ½ cup water in medium-size saucepan.
Add basil, if using. Bring to a boil.
Stir in rice; then add peas.
Remove from heat.
Cover and let stand 2 minutes. Stir gently and serve.
Nutrition information per serving (1 cup). Calories – 230, Fat – 2g, Sodium – 412 g, Carbohydrates – 33g, Fiber – 6g, Protein – 19 g
By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852