With the rising costs of groceries, it seems to be getting more and more difficult to find ways to cut spending without cutting flavour! Couple that with the desire to be eating healthier and making healthier meals for the entire family and the costs seem to have gone even higher! But fear not! The team at iCASH has found a few simple tips and a couple of easy life hacks to make your meal prep and menu planning a little less stressful and a lot less expensive!
PLAN YOUR MENU!
Don’t let the word “menu” scare you off! It just means that before even walking into the grocery store, you should know what meals you are planning to prepare this week. Having a written down plan of action and, of course, a list of ingredients avoids the expense of buying foods that you don’t need and won’t use.
If the idea of tirelessly surfing the internet in search of one weeks worth of meals has got you feeling a little overwhelmed, the solution is simple: there’s an app for that! There are many apps out there that help with weekly menu planning. Mealboard is a great option because, not only does it aggregate the ingredients for your recipes, but also the cost of the recipe as well. It also takes into account “pantry inventory” thereby using ingredients that you already have on hand to avoid wasting food and money.
BigOven is another great meal planning app with a focus on using up leftover ingredients. Food inventory management is one of the key ways to save money on your grocery bill. With thousands of recipes to choose from, there is something for everyone - even the most finicky eater!
These apps are great for meal prep help but there is also the old fashioned method of simply sifting through interesting recipes online, in magazines, or even in cookbooks (yup! they still exist!). You can even turn this activity into a family activity by getting the kids participate in the meal planning. Children love feeling like they are part of the decision process! Have each family member choose one recipe, write out the ingredients, and even learn to make it themselves. It’s a great way to turn a boring chore into family bonding time.
Before sitting down to meal plan, the first step is to take a look through your fridge and pantry to see what you can use up from last week. The second step, however, is to look through the weekly flyers of your favorite grocery stores. This is, still to this day, one of the best ways to find deals and rebates. With the knowledge of food items on hand plus the items that are on sale, you are armed with great tools to cut down on spending. The most expensive part of any meal is usually the meat or fish item so wait to see what protein specials your local grocery store has that week and then build your meal plan around those as your base.
Finding coupons is also a great way to save money on your ingredients. Using apps such as Checkout51 is an easy way to earn cash back on items that you would need to buy anyway. Just make sure to limit your purchases to ingredients and items that you actually need and resist the urge to buy things simply because they are on sale or they have a coupon.
RUMMAGE THROUGH YOUR FRIDGE!
Did you know that, according to a United Nations report, the average Canadian wastes 79 kilograms of household food every year. That is a HUGE amount of food waste (and therefore useless spending)! As previously mentioned, one good tip is to take stock of what items you still have in your fridge or pantry that can be reused. You still have vegetables from last week’s menu? Grab some rice and make a stir-fry! Got an overload of eggs? A quiche is a quick and easy healthy meal option! Keeping your fridge arranged with the oldest items in the front and the newest ones in the back makes it easier to keep track of what you need to use up first.
CONVENIENCE IS COSTLY
Convenience doesn’t come cheap! Have you ever noticed that the more convenient a grocery item is, the more expensive it seems to become? Take watermelon for example. A small, plastic container of pre-cut watermelon cubes is actually more expensive than buying an entire watermelon!
In 2018, Vice did a comparison piece to see how much the average shopper would save by forgoing the pre-cut, pre-packaged items and opting instead for the foods that required them to do the food prep themselves. The result was astounding! The average shopper would be $100 richer at the end of the month by simply skipping the convenient, pre-cut items! That is a huge amount of savings!
Next time you are perusing the fruits and vegetables aisles, take a look at the difference in price between the whole item and its pre-cut version.
If these tips and tricks sound easy, that's because they are! Healthy eating doesn't have to be costly or time-consuming. With just a few slight changes to our habits, we can see significant savings at the end of each month. If you need a little extra helping hand financially, iCASH is available 24/7 for all of your quick loan needs.