Preview: If surging food costs got you down this year, here are 13 practical tips for lowering your grocery budget in 2024.
I don’t have to tell you that 2023 food prices were shocking.
It seems everyone was talking about it. Did you notice the staggering number of social media posts where people asked, “How are folks affording to live?!”.
One journalist caused outraged after suggesting that people struggling with inflation should skip breakfast. Thankfully, not everyone in the public view is so clueless. And rising grocery bills aren’t in your imagination.
Chloe Riley, executive editor of Supermarket News, a grocery trade publication, says that 2022 saw price grocery costs increase at an almost unprecedented rate. According to the US Department of Agriculture, prices for food at home rose 11.4% last year—and that’s after spikes of 3.5% in both 2020 and 2021.BonAppetit
If one of your goals for 2024 is to reduce your grocery bill, read on.
How to Get Your Grocery Budget Under Control in 2024
1: Learn to Love Beans and Rice
They’re among the cheapest sources of good nutrition available. Beans and rice are infinitely flexible. Use your imagination to add variety. Try cooking your rice with some coconut milk and a bit of spice to make it sweet and yummy. Or add a little vegetable or chicken broth to your cooking water for rice. Try curry or other earthy spices with the beans.
Even if you’re not vegetarian, check out vegetarian cookbooks from the library for inspiration with beans and rice recipes.
Having a bowl of beans or rice on the table when serving other main dishes can help keep always-ravenous teenagers full. (Ask me how I know.)
Eating more beans is a crucial part of my strategy to lower grocery costs. I created a free printable to share, called 30 Days of Beans. It has fresh ideas for including beans in your daily diet.
You can get it instantly, just enter your name and email below.
2: Meat: Size Matters
Portion size truly matters, especially when it comes to the pricier items on our plate. A serving of protein is supposed to be the size of a deck of cards. Unless you’re a professional athlete, a hamburger patty or chicken breast as large as your face is too big.
One tip I practice in order to reduce my meat consumption and up the veggies? I eat my main dish on top of lettuce greens (typically inexpensive). If I have a cheeseburger, I eat it on top of salad. Pizza? Also goes on salad. Not only does this stretch the main dish, it’s great for your waistline.
3: Try Loss Leader Shopping
I know it’s a pain to shop at more than one store. However, if you buy only the loss leaders advertised in stores’ weekly ads, you can save a boatload of money. Tip: use A.I. to create a meal plan based on the sale items.
If shopping at more than one store sounds exhausting because you have little kids, pregnancy fatigue, busy work schedules or whatever, then brainstorm ways to outsource this. Ask your partner to stop by the store on their way home, giving them a detailed list of what to buy. Or team up with a friend who will hit the store on her side of town.
4: Price Book
A price book is simply a notebook (or spreadsheet or note in your phone) with prices of items you typically buy. It helps build awareness of what you’re paying for everything, so you know what’s really a great deal.
When you see an awesome price, stock up.
You can build a price book the lazy way by simply keeping your receipts for a few months. Or you can go all gangsta and visit several stores in your area, jotting down prices.
A price book has another benefit: it helps you calculate which meals are truly frugal.
Most people have all these misconceptions about what kinds of meals are cheapest and what kind are not, and I’ve discovered sometimes that what people thought was cheap wasn’t actually that cheap, and what people thought was expensive wasn’t actually expensive, either.Penny @ Penniless Parenting
5: Stretch it Out
Focus on meals that stretch out the animal protein. Examples include: chili, soups, stews, casseroles and main dish salads. A meatloaf is going to cost far more than a pot of chili filled with beans and veggies.
6: Baby Got Bulk
You can buy 20 pound bags of rice at most grocery stores and eat that for pennies a serving. Other sources of bulk grains and beans include health food stores, co-ops, and Asian or international markets.
You have to spend more initially to take advantage of bulk savings, but you will save money in the long run.
Note: this is a reader-supported site that contains affiliate links, including Amazon associates links, meaning if you click through and make a purchase, I earn a small commission. Thank you!
I buy bulk oats, beans and rice on Amazon.com. I like Augason Farms brand.
7: Eat More Eggs
Eggs have traditionally been a frugal protein. However, the price of eggs exploded in 2023, and initially this increase was blamed on avian flu and supply chain disruption. Recently, a jury awarded millions in damaged, claiming that price gouging is to blame.
Thankfully, the price of eggs is falling again. So omelets, quiches and frittatas are back on my menu for quick, easy, frugal meals. They can be customized to your family’s liking with small bits of leftover vegetables, cheese and meats.
8: Try these Cheap Eats
Baked potatoes with melted cheese, a little diced bacon, green onions or broccoli. Baked Potato Bar is a family favorite, and it’s nutritious and cheap. I put bowls of various toppings on the table, and each person has a large baked potato on their plate. The kids can dress up their potato as much or as little as they like.
Here is another: BBQ Black Beans + Sweet Potatoes.
Slice sweet potatoes and sprinkle with salt, then douse with a little olive oil and then sprinkle garlic powder on top. Bake at 375 on a baking sheet. When soft, top with a little BBQ sauce and black beans.
Fried Rice. Heat a dash of oil in a large saute pan and cook chopped onion until soft, add an egg or two (scramble). Then add your favorite veggies: garlic, peas, carrots, sugar snap peas, etc. Stir in leftover rice and top with a little soy sauce or teriyaki sauce for flavor.
I love the Tightwad Gazette cheap cooking ideas, “leftover wizardry” and universal recipes for quiches, muffins, etc that can be adapted to whatever you have on hand.
9: Avoid Convenience
Avoid lunch meats, boxed cereals, instant oatmeal and other convenience foods like the plague. Not only does this stuff cost too much, a lot of convenience foods cause your blood sugar rise sharply and then fall. This makes you feel hungrier and more likely to overeat later.
Remember, manufacturers add food additives and multiple hidden flavors to prepared foods to make you want to eat more! Read the book Mindless Eating for eye-opening, distasteful (ha!) truths about Big Food and their sneaky tactics that hijack our hunger signals so sell more products.
10: Make Rubber Chicken
Buy chicken whole when it goes on sale for .49 a pound (even better, buy two). Roast them in the oven with an orange peel or whole lemon cut up and stuffed inside the skin, sprinkled with garlic, herbs, salt and pepper.
Day 1: Eat the chicken for dinner with vegetables you cooked alongside the chicken (carrots, onion, potatoes, etc).
Day 2: Cut all the bits of meat off the carcasses. Use it for casseroles, chicken salad sandwiches, soup, and any recipe that calls for cooked chopped chicken.
Day 3: Boil the carcasses for chicken stock (adding onion, celery, spices etc for flavor and a little apple cider vinegar to extract calcium from the bones). Use the broth with any leftover chicken for soup.
An average-sized family can easily get 3 meals out of one chicken with this method.
11: Refrigerator Stew
I’m famous for my homemade soup, thanks to my mom, who was known for whipping up a meal, Stone Soup style, from almost nothing. “Refrigerator Stew” is a great way to avoid food waste, and some of my creations were huge hits (too bad I can’t exactly recreate them!).
Keep a container in your freezer for small amounts of leftover vegetables, grains, meat and beans. When the container becomes full, you have the makings of a great soup.
Start your soups with mirepoix (diced celery, onion and carrot) sauteed in butter, add homemade chicken broth (made from leftover bones and skin you saved) and you can’t go wrong.
12: Waste Not
Avoiding food waste is the fastest way of lowering your grocery budget. Get serious about this and it will make a huge impact.
A few ideas: Never toss out stale bread or the ends that no one wants. Make them into home made bread crumbs or croutons instead. Throw bread into the blender and pulse until you have crumbs, and sprinkle on casseroles or wherever bread crumbs are called for in recipes. For croutons, cut bread into cubes, toss with oil and seasonings, bake until toasted. I store these in the freezer and use them for salads.
If you have fruit that is over ripe, but not moldy, mash it up and bake it in muffins and breads or freeze to use in smoothies.
13: Drink Responsibly
For health and to save money, drink more water. Juices, sweet teas and sodas aren’t good for our waistline or our teeth and we’re better off without them. Eliminating these will lower our grocery spending, since they offer almost no nutritional value and are overpriced. Water is nearly free! Alcohol is also expensive, so anyone struggling to buy food is wise to give it up.
Turns out, skipping your breakfast isn’t necessary if you want to spend less on food in 2024.
See also: Cheapest Foods to Eat – Lowering your grocery budget with one simple strategy
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