Some people love it (me!), and some people hate it. However, going grocery shopping is something we all do in some form or fashion. Lately, it seems food prices soar higher and higher, and no matter how many coupons and super saver cards we scan, the price still shocks us every time.
I know this is the case for my family, but in an effort to show that eating healthy doesn't have to break the bank, I have found a few ways to cut down on some of the costs associated with meal planning, meal prepping, and eating healthier in general. Let's take a look at the backward way I wade into meal prep!
Planning Around Protein
Typically the largest charge you're going to incur at the supermarket, besides coffee, is your protein source. Whether it's tofu, tempeh, beef, chicken, pork, or some other form, you'll be paying more per pound for your "main dish."
This may not be earth-shattering news to you, but the way I adapted my shopping habits around it is something I haven't heard a lot about. I plan out meals with every protein for every week. This seems like overkill, but it'll make sense in a minute. I meal prep for all three of us, and all three of us have different dietary needs. So, that's a set of recipes for each protein source x3.
Why all the extra work? Because once I get to the store, I head straight to the protein section of the store. Namely the meat or "health foods" sections. Without fail, there is always something either on sale or on manager's special. BOOM! That's what's for lunch!
It may be small savings, but sometimes you can find some fantastic deals that can really save you some major coin. Plus, once you become accustomed to what meals you can prep, you can do away with planning for each protein source separately. The meals will just kind of come to you!
Frozen. Fresh. Canned.
The next item on the list after protein is usually our produce. Depending on how fancy you're getting, this can also be an expensive venture. That's where flash frozen veggies come in! Here's the skinny. Most "fresh" vegetables and fruits have to be harvested while still immature, shipped out across the country/world, and then sit in the produce section until they are chosen for a culinary masterpiece. Know what happens when a fruit or veggie is picked? It starts dying.
Now, frozen produce can be picked at the height of ripeness on the vine. It is then immediately processed, thus locking in the freshness and nutritional value until you're ready to cook! The other thing this does is cut down on handling, shipping, and storage fees. Therefore you end up saving money, obtaining a nearly non-perishable stock, and get the utmost nutrition out of your food. However, watch out for pre-sauced offerings and frozen products that have added sugar or salts. Some companies try to sneak that in there, so keep an eye out on those nutrition labels!
The next best thing to frozen is, of course, the fresh produce you find in the front of your local supermarket. It requires washing, chopping, and more prep time. However, I'm into that kind of thing. Storage methods vary to get the most out of each type of veggie/fruit, so make sure to check the old interwebs for best practices. The newest craze out there is buying those pre-chopped plastic tubs of veggies and fruits. If you want to go that way, then be my guest; however, you're going to pay a premium!
Lastly, if you're just really needing to add some veggies or fruits to a recipe and don't want to break the bank, then canned produce would be your way out. They definitely have the most extended shelf life of any of our produce options. However, they're not always the healthiest. Canned foods tend to be packed with salt and sugar. So, if you're on the high side of blood pressure, you may want to keep an eye on that. Canned foods lend themselves well to pies, soups, and other baked goods. However, the canning process leaves their structural integrity diminished for more fresh dining options.
Other Tips to Save Your Piggy Bank at the Grocery Store
Don't be afraid to use coupons!
Be loyal! Loyalty coupons and cards do save you significantly over the course of the year.
Don't be tempted by brand names. Canned tomato products are my only exception to this rule. Hunt's is my brand.
Look up and down! Eye-level shelves stock the priciest items.
Consider dry beans over canned.
Don't go to the store hungry.
Stay away from prepared foods. (For your health and your wallet)
Try to eat what's in season.
Only buy spices you're going to use often, not just one-offs for a new recipe.
Bottled water is convenient, but Brita pitchers are more cost-effective.
Take the time to make a list. You can thank me later.
Don't bring the kids, if at all possible. They're the best conmen in the world.
Bagged salad isn't all it's chopped up to be.
Grow your own herbs. C'mon it's really not that hard.
Grate your own dang cheese.
Watch the loose potato prices. Bulk bags are more cost-effective.
Grocery shopping doesn't have to be a pain, and it doesn't have to break the bank. There are tons of tips and tricks out there to save you money and time. What is written above just so happens to be how I make it work for my kitchen. Mix and match and make it your own!