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If you have been paying attention to the news recently you have probably heard or read that food prices for the rest of 2012 and 2013 are expected to rise 2.5 to 3.5%. This proposed increase is due to the impact of the severe drought on grain product foods and the grain fed to the animals. While that increase may not sound like much, if you look a little closer, the average costs of food over the last 10 years have increased about 38%, during the same time that many families have faced a recession. I know each of you could probably write a list of ways to save money on food, but here are a few of the best.

  • Planning meals ahead and using a list at the store are still the most important! You save money by purchasing foods on sale when you shop the ads.  Check your cupboards first; don’t buy food you don’t need.   By using these tips, you save gas and time by making one trip instead of three. That one trip also saves the cost of the impulse buys, usually snack foods you don’t need or for me a paperback book or recipe magazine. I like to keep a grocery list on the refrigerator to aid in planning my shopping needs.   One rule of thumb in our house is . . . when you use the last of an item, write it on the list.   Or you can use Let’s Move grocery list template available at http://www.letsmove.gov/sites/letsmove.gov/files/Grocery_List.pdf. Watch your trips to the big box stores – the larger package isn’t always the cheaper one – a calculator can make the math easier when figuring price per pound or ounce. Use coupons if they are for foods you regularly purchase and that will get eaten. Signing up for an email coupon club may be a good idea if your store accepts this style of coupon, not all do. When shopping and planning, keep in mind that you may be able to switch out a similar food in a recipe for less money. A recent example for me was a recipe that called for canned tomatoes and a package of dry spaghetti sauce mix – those 2 items cost over $1.30 – but I could buy a larger can of spaghetti sauce for less than a dollar.
  • Remember that healthy foods don’t necessarily cost more! When you decide to make healthier food choices you can cut out the cost of some empty calorie foods like soda, cookies or baked goods, chips, and many crackers.   Spending less on empty calories foods eases your budget, allowing you to purchase more fresh foods.
  • Use that refillable water bottle and make your own iced tea at home! A couple dollars a week for bottled water or $1 every day for iced tea (or even more for coffee or a latte) really does add up.
  • Be creative with left-overs or cooking foods that can be used in more than one way. Can left-over soup or pasta be heated and taken in an insulated container for lunch the next day? My daughter loves it when I heat up left-over chicken Alfredo for her the next day. I boil water to place in the insulated container to get it hot before putting in the heated food. It is also good to think about foods that can be used a couple different ways; can you put left-over chicken on pizza or add it to soup, use chili as a potato topper, or make individual pizzas with the last couple tortillas in the package? Almost anything can be put in a wrap or on a pizza – let your children help you experiment. Think about making extra of things like pancakes or waffles, instead of buying the pre-frozen package. Make a big batch on the weekend and freeze packages of 1 or 2 that can be heated in the toaster or toaster oven for a quick breakfast.
  • Think about your proteins, can you do a vegetarian dish or cut the amount of meat in a recipe? Adding black beans to ground beef or turkey in a recipe will allow you to use less meat, while increasing the amount of fiber. The same applies to other recipes such as soups or many of the Mexican inspired dishes – adding black beans, navy beans, or other beans, costs less than purchases at the meat counter.  Rinse beans to cut down on sodium.   Eggs can also be a good value. When was the last time you put a hard-cooked egg on your salad or had egg salad sandwiches?  Hard cook a couple of eggs at a time, you can eat them for breakfast or they pack easily for lunch.

Don’t forget to share your money-saving tips with friends and family members.

Writer: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ross & Vinton Counties, Ohio Valley EERA, http://ross.osu.edu/.

Reviewed by: Cynthia Shuster and Kathryn Green, OSU Extension Educators, Family & Consumer Sciences.

Sources:

USDA Economic Research Service: http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-price-outlook/summary-findings.aspx.

USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion: http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/FoodPlans/2012/CostofFoodJun2012.pdf.

Alabama Cooperative Extension System, 101+ Ways to Save Food Dollars, Barbara Struempler, http://www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/H/HE-0757/HE-0757.pdf.

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