The editors of Everyday Food magazine have put together a great issue devoted to smart savings at the grocery store. What they have also done, wittingly or not, is given modern-day credence to some time-tested philosophies that have proven successful to generations past. I outline a few of them below.
I'll never forget how thrifty my grandmother was at the grocery store, a characteristic she no doubt learned from her mother in wartime England. (When you survive financial hardship, it's hard to be lax about money.) She would not only clip coupons and watch for weekly savings in the flyers, she would also calculate, almost to the cent, how much she would spend each week on meals. The March issue of Everyday Food is the perfect refresher course on how to eat great food without breaking the bank. While the issue is packed with money-saving tips and ideas, I've selected four 'financial lessons' that really ought to be kept in mind when it comes to meal planning.
1. Think you can plan five weeknight dinners on just $50? I didn't either until I read this article. The editors broke out their calculators and came up with five really good dinner menus that do not sacrifice taste, nutrition or facility. They also provide a carefully planned grocery list to help it all come together. Among the savory selections: vegetable frittata with roasted potatoes and garlic, creamy pasta shells with tuna and spinach and chili-braised pork with green beans and mashed sweet potatoes. It can be done, folks!
2. Buy seasonal fruits and vegetables and look for those that are among the most inexpensive. Bananas cost just pennies a pound and their sweet flavour goes a long way to enhance desserts. They are also great additions to cereal and yogurt and are sometimes the perfect snack on their own. The editors showcase this humble and versatile tropical fruit in a myriad of delicious desserts, from ice creams to cakes to tarts.
3. Another old-fashioned idea that makes good financial sense: gather friends and family and eat in large groups, with each participant contributing something to the table. The modern-day term is 'pot-luck' but it's an idea that dates back centuries. Not only is it a great way to eat wonderful food and catch up with loved-ones, sharing also reduces your spending. Make it a part of your regular routine.
4. Slow cookers are ideal for budget cooking since you can make large batches of one dish (storing plenty of left-overs in the freezer) with just a few well-chosen ingredients. Even better: the work is done for you with just the push of a button!
More saving tips from the issue:
a) Before a big grocery shop, check your supermarket's circulars (many of them are posted online) and plan your meals around the biggest bargains.
b) The age-old advice still holds true: don't shop when you're hungry! You will end up piling on things you are craving at the moment but did not plan to buy. Make a list first and stick to it.
c) Packaged and convenience products are often more expensive than fresh or whole foods. Select one or two favourites and make sure they are worth it to you in time savings.
d) Use bulk bins to your advantage. Items like grains, beans, nuts and baking ingredients can be measured out so that you are buying only what you need to buy.