Experts share the best ways to save money on food when prices rise

Like many shoppers, I have noticed that my food bill is getting bigger every week: food prices in February were 7.9% higher than a year ago, according to the US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. To compensate for my family’s packed spring schedule, I had also turned to shortcuts such as pre-packaged snacks and meal kits, which further increased our overall bill.

To counteract this pressure, I used all my savings tricks: opted into my grocery store’s loyalty program for extra discounts, used a credit card that gave me bonus money back on grocery purchases, and planned our weekly menus around sales. Still, shopping for my family of five continued to give me decal shock.

For extra guidance, I turned to budget and cooking experts with experience in making food spending more manageable, as the USDA predicts that food prices will continue to rise and grow by 4.5% to 5.5% in 2022. Here are their top tips for to save money on food:

CHECK WHAT YOU CAN

While so much about the economy may feel completely out of our control, including rising interest rates, inflation and supply chain challenges, our food spending is actually an area where we have a lot of power, says Erin Lowell, a Bowdoin, Maine-based lead educator at You Need a Budget, a budget app. By spending more time cooking or replacing cheaper ingredients, you can feel an immediate saving effect, she says, unlike with other costs, such as bills or rent, which can be harder to change.

Lowell suggests assessing how much effort you are currently putting into minimizing your food expenses and taking that effort to the next level. For example, if you are currently ordering pizza for delivery, consider buying a nice frozen pizza for a quarter of the cost. If you are already buying frozen pizza, consider making your own from scratch for just a few dollars ingredients.

PLAN YOUR MEALS

“When people spend too much on food, it’s almost always because they eat out too often,” says Jake Cousineau, a personal finance teacher in Thousand Oaks, California and author of “How to Adult: Personal Finance for the Real World.” ” He says that planning in advance is the key to fighting the temptation to order last-minute pick-up.

“If you cook on Sunday and make six to seven meals, you are not faced with the decision ‘Shall I order or cook?’ Every night,” says Cousineau. pasta and salad later in the week. “You can do heavy lifting on Sunday and then mix and match all week.”

Planning also helps you avoid food waste, which is another budget killer, warns Rob Bertman, a certified financial planner and family budget expert in St. Louis. Louis. “Buy in bulk for things you know you will go through, but if the food is in the freezer or pantry and thrown in the trash, it will be expensive.” He and his wife keep a list of the potential side and main courses they have on hand in the freezer, refrigerator and pantry so that they do not forget to use these ingredients.

BE RESOURCE IN THE KITCHEN

Maggie Hoffman, a Brooklyn, New York-based digital director on the cooking website Epicurious, suggests that you swap recipe ingredients for the ones you already have at home. “Be confident in your cooking: If you have farro, use it instead of brown rice. Use hot sauce or vinegar instead of lemon.”

Hoffman also recommends “next-overing”, which turns the previous night’s dish into something new. Roast chicken one night, for example, can be enchilada fillings the next.

Beans, which are generally cheap, are also a flexible staple, she adds. You can serve them for themselves or add them to salads or soups. “Beans are still the best there is. Just give them a little marinade, add the garlic and make sure they are spicy.”

KEEP YOUR CABINET WELL STORED

Investing in staples can stop saving money because then you can quickly make last minute meals instead of ordering. “I try to keep five to ten simple, budget-friendly meals in the house all the time,” Lowell says. For her, that list includes ingredients for homemade pizza, frozen fish with french fries and a pasta dish. “It’s never expensive, and I’m always happy to eat it.”

LINK ON YOUR COMMUNITY

Although some local food banks have eligibility requirements, many are open to all members of the community who need the support, says Willa Williams, a financial coach in Orlando, Florida, area coach at Trinity Financial Coaching and co-host of “The Abundant Living Podcast.” Some neighborhood gardens offer the same way society vegetables and other products at harvest time. “The food is here, so come and get it,” she says. “It prevents you from spending your food budget.”

My food bill is still higher than I would like it to be – even the smartest shopper can not outsmart this level of inflation – but it’s more manageable with these tips. And my children have learned some of their frugal habits, such as the simple pleasure of cooking lentil soup for dinner and the savings that come from packing their own snacks.

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This column was submitted to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Kimberly Palmer is a personal finance expert at NerdWallet and the author of “Smart Mom, Rich Mom.” Email: kpalmer@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @KimberlyPalmer.

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NerdWallet: How to save money: 22 proven ways https://bit.ly/nerdwallet-how-to-save-money-22-proven-ways

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