This is the second in a two part post on minimizing your grocery bill while eating a gluten free diet. If you’d like to share your best grocery shopping tips, or commiserate on the price of groceries, please leave a comment and join in the discussion.
6. Set a maximum $/pound.
When I shop I try to only buy food that is less than $1.99/lb. For me this has been a pretty easy strategy because I tend to shop around the edges of the grocery store, where most products are sold by the pound. Think produce and meat (well not meat for us, but you get the idea). If I find a great deal on a food that will store well (like potatoes) I stock up. Otherwise I just try to keep in mind the foods that are usually under my price limit and plan meals around them.
7. Shop from your pantry.
Before I even sit down to plan my weekly menu, I peruse the pantry, refrigerator and freezer to see what foods I have on hand. Usually I find that there is some sort of produce that needs to be used, or a pantry staple that has been lingering in the cupboard. These items become the foundation of of my menu for the week to ensure that I’m using what we have and not buying food we don’t need.
8. Do your own food prep.
In short, the more that fresh foods are processed the more they cost – boneless, skinless chicken breasts cost more per pound than a whole chicken. So, if you want to reduce your grocery costs, start prepping your own food.
Before we switched to a vegetarian diet I would often buy large packs of bone-in chicken breasts and then spend 30 minutes or so deboning all of them and packaging them for the freezer. It’s not a fun job, but it’s not really that difficult and it saves money.
Produce, on the other hand is something that I don’t mind prepping. In fact it’s sometimes fun to whack a big chef’s knife into a head of cabbage. Food prep is a learned skill, and the more you practice the faster you’ll get. Check the Lessons Index for a few lessons on veggie prep.
9. Drink more water; eat healthier snacks.
Okay, this one may be tough. Stop spending money on food that is bad for you. My philosophy on this is that my grocery dollars are precious and they need to provide as much nutrition as possible. We have almost completely eliminated junk foods and sweets from our diets. If we do have them, we make them at home.
Not eating junk food is a habit that we worked on over time. If you try to cut it out overnight you’ll probably feel deprived and discouraged. Instead we eliminated things from our diet as we were ready to give them up. For instance I stopped eating ice cream when dairy foods started causing a lot of tummy issues. Other items fell out of our diet when we went gluten free or vegetarian and we’ve just never bothered to replace them.
We are currently working towards reducing our chip and beer consumption. Instead of chips we are using more fresh veggies for dipping and we’re trying to figure out how to bake tortilla chips in the oven.
10. Eat less meat and dairy.
I have to admit that before we switched to a vegetarian diet, I wouldn’t have liked this idea. I associated vegetarian meals, especially those filled with beans, with poverty. I also couldn’t imagine that beans could taste good since they never had in my experience.
Now that we’ve been vegetarian for almost 18 months I completely disagree with myself. The main reason that we decided to stick with a vegetarian diet after we completed a 30-day trial was that the food was so much more flavorful than what we were accustomed to.
All that said, beans and tofu are much cheaper than meat. Even if you just eat vegetarian for a few days a week you should see some cost savings. Be adventurous and explore some new recipes and you might just surprise yourself.
I should caveat this by saying that soy and rice based dairy products are usually more expensive than cow based. We still eat cow cheese and sour cream, but we have greatly reduce the amount of these foods in our diet. Over time our taste buds have adjusted and we find it easier to use smaller amounts.