The food budget is one of the most flexible household expenses because there are many options when planning a weekly menu. Armed with basic cooking skills and a desire to save money, it is easy to create tasty, varied meals without sacrificing flavor. Budget meal planning is the key to saving money at the grocery store.
Initially, it may take some time to put together a weekly meal plan and shopping list, but it will quickly become second nature. Try these six tips to make a frugal grocery list full of ingredients to create tasty, filling meals in spite of a tight budget.
Keep an open mind and think about simple ways to cut back. For example, purchase seasonal produce instead of pricier imported produce. Try store brands. (Save the receipt because store brands often have a money back guarantee.) Use inexpensive protein-rich ingredients, such as beans, in place of meat.
Use Scratch Recipes Instead of Packaged Mixes
Simple choices, such as making gravy from scratch instead of using a mix, can save a significant amount of money. Homemade sauces are another thrifty way to spice up meals. The Argo cornstarch website, ArgoStarch.com, has some great recipes. (Try the white sauce to top steamed veggies.) Save money by combining homemade sauces with pasta or rice instead of buying boxed dinner kits.
Discover New Recipes
Read magazines and websites, such as FamilyCircle.com, for new recipes and menu inspiration. Try creative substitutions to save time and money. For example, substitute quick-cooking couscous for rice.
Explore International Cuisine
Pasta, rice and beans may sound boring, but think in international terms to create affordable meals. Spaghetti, fried rice and taquitos are only a few of the delicious, thrifty entrees that use these three versatile ingredients. Foods such as pizza and tortilla soup are restaurant favorites, but cooking these dishes at home is easy and affordable.
Make a List
Make a budget-friendly meal plan and detailed shopping list before going to the store and facing temptation. This does not have to take long. Start with breakfast, which can be the same dish daily or multiple times per week. Dinner leftovers, soup, baked potatoes and tacos make cheap, satisfying lunches. Dinner options are flexible, but it is best to avoid expensive ingredients or use them in moderation.
Wasted food can derail a frugal meal plan. Take care to properly wrap and store foods to avoid waste. Eat leftovers or use them to make another dish, such as burritos. Stick to the meal plan and use ingredients before they spoil.