It Costs 65% More to Buy a Dozen Eggs Than Last Year. Here's How to Cut Your Food Bill
- Cut food waste by using money-saving apps and freezing food that might otherwise be wasted.
- Bulk out meals with lower-cost ingredients, or simply by putting bread on the table.
- Batch cooking can save you time and money.
Food is getting more and more expensive. Check out these ways to reduce your costs.
This time last year, the average cost of a dozen eggs was $1.64, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This year, those eggs will cost you $2.71 -- 65% more. But you hardly need me to tell you that, you'll notice the cost of living increase every time you shop for groceries.
There are a lot of reasons for increasing food prices, from rising gas costs to global supply chain issues. Unfortunately, as a consumer, there's not a lot you can do to change what's happening in the world. However, there are some ways you can cut your food bill without compromising on the quality of what you eat. Here are four ways you can cut your food bill.
1. Reduce waste
About 30% of food in the U.S. is thrown away every year. A lot of that gets wasted before it even reaches our cupboards and fridges, but food waste is common at home too. That avocado you bought on impulse and then never got around to eating? Veggies you planned to cook and then your plans changed? It happens to us all.
The freezer is your friend -- whether for leftovers or fresh produce. Buying frozen produce is often cheaper than buying fresh, and it keeps for longer too. You'd also be amazed at what you can freeze without destroying the flavor or texture. For example, I freeze beaten eggs to use for omelets or pancakes. Just be sure to take them out of their shells first. Plus, if you use half a jar of sauce or something else, you can often freeze the remainder rather than letting it go to waste.
Freezing is also a good way to save leftovers. Rather than eating the same thing for three days in a row, pop a few portions in the freezer ready for a night when you don't feel like cooking. On that note, things won't last forever in your freezer. Try to check what's there once every couple of months and see what needs eating. Frozen chicken nuggets last a long time, but that doesn't mean you can keep them for decades.
Finally, check the temperature of your fridge and freezer. Your fridge should be 40° F or less and the freezer should be 0° F or less. We create a lot of food waste because it hasn't been stored properly and must be thrown away.
2. Use lower-cost ingredients
There are two ways to lower the cost of your ingredients. One is to buy store-brand products and shop at low-cost stores so you reduce the cost at source. Another is to find ways to bulk out your meals with ingredients that don't cost as much.
I'm originally from the U.K., where we eat something called Yorkshire pudding with our traditional roast beef. It's made from flour, eggs, and milk and in olden times it was used to fill people up before they got to the expensive part of the meal -- the meat. There's no need to make Yorkshire pudding, but you can follow the same logic and, say, put bread on the table to fill people up.
Bulk out your meals with less expensive ingredients like tinned beans, rice, oats, or potatoes. I often grate carrots into bolognese which makes it healthier, tastier, and cuts the amount of ground beef.
3. Consider meal planning and cooking in bulk
People talk a lot about meal planning, which can help to reduce waste and costs. It sounds great and works well for some people, but it doesn't suit everybody. If you don't want to plan every meal, that's OK. You can still avoid last minute trips to the store by keeping a good supply of nonperishable ingredients such as pasta, rice, and canned vegetables. Try not to impulse buy items if you don't know when you will cook them -- those are often the products that end up languishing in the back of your refrigerator.
Cooking in bulk or simply cooking a bit extra when you're making a meal is another way to save time and money. Think of it as making your own convenience foods for a lot less money. You don't have to cook from scratch after a long day at work; rather, you can cook a lot when you have the time and reduce the temptation to splurge on a ready-made meal. Plus, it means you can get better prices by bulk buying.
4. Use money-saving apps
I'm a big fan of apps like Too Good To Go and Olio that prevent food waste and reduce costs. Too Good to Go connects businesses with food that is about to go out of date with customers who want to buy. It lets you buy from restaurants, stores, and bakeries at about a third of the regular price.
It's also worth checking out cash back apps that reward you for grocery shopping. You can earn 1% or more on spending you were going to do anyway. On that note, if you have a rewards credit card, this can be another way to earn points or cash back on your everyday purchases. Just don't fall into the trap of spending more just to earn the rewards.
There are lots of ways you can cut your food spending. The key is to find the ones that suit you. There's no point in committing to drastic food cost cuts if you only stick to it for a few weeks. Or deciding to buy in bulk and then wasting a large proportion of what you bought because you didn't get around to cooking it. Instead, start gradually. For example, you can try being more conscious about what you're buying and how much you throw away each month. Set yourself realistic and achievable goals that you can stick to for the long term.
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