How low can you go? What if circumstances required you to live on the tightest of budgets? You’re staring at bills and the only area with flexibility is the grocery store.
Can you do it? Can you actually scrimp and cut and coupon your way on a very tight budget? I don’t know about you, but my throat tightens just thinking about it. And yes, I have had to do this both long ago and in the not-so-recent past.
Of course dining at restaurants is out and you’ll quickly realize that processed food costs a lot more than making it yourself. What you’ll soon realize is that cooking from scratch actually doesn’t take that much longer. That’s a good thing.
Strategies for Living on a Food Budget
Here are some ideas to get you going with your food budget.
Couponing is a waste of time because the least expensive food rarely has coupons. But double check some of your must-haves with the grocer’s website and see if you can download a coupon or two. Remember most of the food that offers coupons has low nutritional value and you want to …
Maximize your nutrition. Start in the produce section and try to buy as much fruit and veggies as you can. Keep in mind canned and frozen produce is often cheaper than fresh and offers nearly the same nutritional value. Then look for lean proteins and fill in with extras as your budget allows.
Look for store deals. You should ask employees about special deals. They can point you to the dented can or leftover section or let you know if there’s a discount for buying in bulk. For some stores, like Whole Foods, you can actually ask for a Value Tour and they will show you around the store and give you some saving secrets. It’s well worth your time and Whole Foods has been known to bestow tour participants with goodies like in-store coupons and food samples.
Go ethnic. Specialized grocers often carry certain staples and spices for a lot less. Check these out and see if they fit into your food budget. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much you can save.
Use your freezer and pantry strategically. Being able to store dry goods and frozen foods for longer periods of time means you can take advantage of stock-up sales when they happen. This can make such a difference in your budget!
Allow treats when you can. A little flour, sugar, butter, and chocolate chips, and you’ve got a cookie treat for yourself and your family. The recipe on the side of the bag of chips only costs about 6 cents a cookie! Try to get a little extra when and where you can; it makes the budget constrictions seem a little easier.
Good luck with your budget tightening and share your tips below! We’d love to hear them.