5 tips to cut your grocery spending, from a recipe developer

  • As a recipe developer, I’ve learned a few things about how to reduce my grocery spending.
  • I make more plant-based dishes because fruits and vegetables are cheaper than meat.
  • I also buy in bulk, buy store brands, and choose whole produce rather than pre-cut, shredded, or sliced.

The United States Department of Agriculture predicts that food at home prices will increase between 10 and 11% and food out of home prices between 6.5 and 7.5% in 2022. We have all seen it at the supermarket: for cost $1.99 are $2.55 or more. When it all adds up, your grocery bill is vastly different than it was before.

However, there are plenty of ways to lower your grocery bill without sacrificing taste or creativity in the kitchen. Here are five ways to save on grocery costs that I’ve discovered as a recipe developer.

1. Make more plant-based dishes

Not only are vegetables better for your health and the environment, they’re also good for your pocket.

In general, vegetables are more affordable than meat. Hearty vegetables like butternut squash, eggplant, and mushrooms make great meat substitutes, especially in pasta sauces and stews. For example, use cubed eggplant ($1.68 a pound where I shop) versus ground beef which averages $5 a pound.

Plus, adding vegetables to your meat sauces increases your yield. Instead of using two pounds of ground beef for the chili, reduce the meat to one pound and add two cups of chopped vegetables.

2. Stretch your key ingredients

Cutting your grocery budget doesn’t mean cutting your creativity.

We cook a lot of Latin and Asian dishes at home with rice as their base. Rice is very affordable and one of the most versatile ingredients for cooking at home. Most cultures use rice in their cooking, so it’s a fun way to explore new recipes.

At home, we prepare three cups of rice which are spread over two days of meals. On the first day, I serve the rice with Puerto Rican baked red beans and chicken. The next day, my husband uses the leftover rice to make nasi goreng, an Indonesian fried rice dish. Two completely different dishes are prepared from the same basic ingredient.

3. Do a little extra work

Generally, pre-cut and shredded items cost more by weight than whole products. It takes a few extra minutes, but buying the whole product and cutting it yourself will save you money.

Buying cheese on the block and grating it at home saves you a few bucks, but the cheese tastes fresher because it’s made in the moment. Kids love grating cheese, so this is a great way to get them involved in the kitchen.

Chopping your vegetables at home only takes a few extra minutes and will save you money. Dried beans are also a fantastic way to save. On average, you’ll save almost half the cost with dried beans compared to canned ones. Soak them the night before to save time. Bonus: they taste so much better than the canned variety!

4. Buy in bulk

For granola, bean, grain and nut lovers, the bulk section is your best friend. It lets you control how much you buy and helps you avoid food waste.

When buying family-size or bulk products, I make sure to check the unit price when buying food. For example, when looking at the cost of cereal, a family price per unit is 0.19 cents per ounce and a regular size can is 0.29 cents per ounce.

5. Choose Store Brands

Many brand name foods you see in the grocery store are made in the same facilities as brand name products. What is the difference? Marketing budgets and brand image.

For example, a box of Wegman’s brand linguine sells for 0.99 cents, half the price of the brand name version ($1.99). An 8 oz block of Great Value Cheddar Cheese (Walmart brand) sells for $2. The leading brand sells the same weight for $3. Experiment with different store brands to find the ones you like best.

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