Pandemic-related supply chain shortages, staffing issues and lots of other interrelated complexities have added up to inflation on food and groceries. Let’s be honest—none of this has been pleasant. Unfortunately, some of these supply and demand problems may linger. So, what’s a family to do when most people already feel like they’re spending too much on groceries? Here are four mission-critical strategies to keep your food spending under control.
Planning your meals and only shopping for the ingredients you need is the most important thing you can do to avoid spending unnecessarily at the grocery store. You’re less likely to impulse buy, purchase premade or precut ingredients or “fantasy shop”—picking up things you think you’ll make but never do.
Embrace Meatless Meals
Vegetarian recipes have come a long way in the last several decades. Now, there are countless creative ways to feel satiated, get your protein, eat healthy and enjoy tasty food without the meat. But more importantly, meatless options are less expensive. Beans, lentils, tofu and tempeh, veggies, jackfruit and frozen meat substitutes like the Beyond or Impossible brands are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cheaper alternatives. Plus, decreasing your meat intake is better for the environment.
Shop Your Pantry First
I only buy and keep what I need for each “shopping and food cycle.” I do know that many folks have a lot of non-perishable items lingering in pantries and cabinets that they haven’t gotten around to using. Now’s the perfect time to use those things and plan your meals around those ingredients. Have a half-full box of graham cracker crumbs in the closet? Google a yummy s’mores bar recipe. Did you buy a bottle of oyster sauce a few months ago because you needed one tablespoon for a recipe but haven’t touched it since? Time for an easy stir-fry. Taking inventory and planning meals around what’s already at home should be done all the time.
Don’t Be Wasteful
There’s no better time to be more mindful of how much food waste your household may be guilty of. Eat leftovers whether you feel like them or not. Think of ways to repurpose an ingredient. Keep dry pantry items closed tightly to avoid things going stale. Make eating highly perishable produce like berries and fresh spinach a priority. Inventory what’s in the fridge daily and eat accordingly. Replace impulse takeout with what’s already in the house.
Practice Gratitude Over Frustration
Times continue to be difficult for many. It’s important to remember how lucky we are to have the ability to shop for so much food. I’m not saying I don’t get annoyed when my store is still out of the item it’s been out of for weeks, or when the price of my go-to ingredients is raised again. But I look around the grocery store and realize how amazing it is that there are still so many things for us to select from. This is a good time to remind ourselves and our children of the many food insecure individuals right here in our town, state, and beyond. Better yet, it’s a good time to throw a couple of extra items, whether the price of them has gone up or not, into our carts and take some time to donate them to your local food bank or school district’s food pantry.
Current inflation and supply issues aren’t fun, but with some planning, reflection and charity, we can make it through successfully.