Meal planning and grocery shopping can be challenging when you need to stick to a budget. But with some discipline and a dedication to eating only healthy, this can be worked out in every household.
Here are some tips for those cash-strapped days when you tend to run back to junk eating:
1. Always plan your shopping
The benefit of planning your purchases is that it ensures that you only buy ingredients you need and nothing goes to waste. Without a list, it's also easy to get sidetracked at the store, which can lead to expensive purchases. Also, shop at the perimeter first. This will ensure that you shop only for whole foods, since the middle of the store often contains processed foods.
2. Think before you hit the grocery store every other day
It happens with most of us that we suddenly come across a recipe and check our kitchen cabinets to find one or two ingredients missing and we rush to the store for another purchase only to realise later that you could have actually made a meal with everything that's already in your fridge.
Try to stick to the drill of provision purchases only on one or two days of the week. This way, you and your family will slowly get into the habit of cooking with what is already in the kitchen!
3. Experiment with one type of cuisine for a week or month
Another interesting budgeting tip would be to focus on cooking one type of cuisine for a week, or even extend it to a month. The advantage is that you can buy the ingredients required for the cuisine in bulk, thus saving a lot of money by picking the right ingredients on offer at the supermarket and reducing wastage by utilising them in different ways over the time period. This could also be a great chance for you to create varied recipes and hone your cooking skills.
4. Shop local and then freeze it
It's always great to buy fresh produce, but foods that are not in-season can quickly add up to your burgeoning grocery costs. Always buy your fruits, vegetables, meats and eggs from local farmers. Or at least from the local product counters in supermarkets. Local and seasonal foods are generally cheaper and also at the peak of their nutrition. Produce that is not in season has often been transported halfway around the world to get to your store, which is basically not so good for either your health or your wallet. And if you find a really great deal, just buy extra groceries and freeze them to incorporate into your next meal.
5. Become a pro at the coupon game
Lots of local grocery stores offer memberships, so be sure to sign up and check their flyers to see what's on sale. Scour online grocery stores for loyalty programmes and coupons and always keep them handy. If you're not a fan of plans, consider shopping for groceries based on what's on sale.
6. Opt for less popular cuts of meat
You probably thought we were going to ask you to give up on eating meat to save money, didn't you? What if we told you that you can still enjoy meat and poultry when you're on a tight budget? The key is to balance it out by occasionally buying less expensive cuts of meat, like chicken thighs instead of breasts, or choosing the bone-in, skin-on cuts of red meat that are all super cheap, more nutritious and not lesser in taste either.
7. Love your legumes and grains
Beans and whole grains are the most underrated superstars in nutritional food. They are not just inexpensive but also great options to bulk up your meals, or even be a meal themselves. Have you ever tried mixing black beans with ground meat to make a healthy burger patty? Or how about tossing them together in a salad? Moreover, whole grains and beans keep you full longer and may also aid your weight loss plans. Double win!
8. Favour the leftovers
We understand that eating the same meal over and over again can be quite boring. So, try repurposing leftovers into entirely new meals. Things that you can make into a sandwich or salad later are the best, since they are easy to make and also loved by everyone in the family. Chalk out a day and time to do some prep cooking and make stuff that will last you the rest of the week.
By Manu Mahdi
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