Saturday, September 23, 2023

How to Reduce Food Costs

Food ranks among the average American’s top five monthly expenditures. The battle for your wallet is often quietly fought at the dinner table, where the desire for convenience and comfort sometimes conflict between nutrition and cost.

According to the USDA, U.S. consumers spent an average of 11.3 percent of their disposable personal income on food in 2022. While 30 to 40% of all food produced in the U.S. is wasted, which ends up costing approximately $161 billion every year.

By making goals for your kitchen and making some small changes such as taking inventory, and using food creatively, you can have a major impact on your food budget.

How to Reduce Food Costs

Reducing food costs and waste starts with tracking and monitoring the food coming into your home. Some families order food in bulk, but then do not have a system in place to use up that food. Then those items linger in the freezer or pantry and it may be difficult to use all of that food before it spoils.

Consistency is key here when it comes to saving money on food by cooking from our own kitchens rather than eating out regularly.

We purchase food in order to feed our families, and one of the reasons we choose to do that is an effort to save money. So, we need to use up that food rather than let it go to waste, which would end up costing more money in the long run.

To reduce food waste, here are some steps you can take:

Calculate Your Food Costs

Calculating food costs in your home can be a time-consuming task, but staying on budget with your finances could help you save time, money, and food in the long run.

Be Consistent When Taking Inventory

When a grocery order arrives, you should always inspect the contents to ensure that you are not accepting food (and therefore, paying for it) that is past its prime or damaged and unusable.

Checking inventory regularly can give you an idea of how and at what rate your food is being used or wasted. For example, if you notice that you have an item that is going unused and spoiling, change your grocery order to a lesser amount to reduce food waste. Conversely, if you’re running out of mozzarella cheese before your dinner service even starts, you need to increase your grocery order.

Work with Your Food Suppliers

Once you have an idea of how much food your family uses at a given time, you can work with others to lower your food costs. If possible, shop around and see what competing food suppliers are willing to offer you. My friend’s Dad would make deals with the produce sellers at the flea market where they both sold items,

When purchasing food, there is also the option to cut out the middleman and go straight to the source which includes local farms and farmers markets. We often see homemade signs selling eggs in people's yards. Buying food locally ensures that you’re getting the freshest products possible while also supporting your local economy.

Manage The Food You Purchase

When it comes to food, the harder you’re willing to work, the more you can save. Below are some ideas on how to save money, while also making good tasting food.

Offer a limited menu. By limiting your menu, you can cut the number of ingredients you need in your kitchen. This will definitely help reduce food costs and food waste.

Take extra time to do the prep work yourself. For example, buying a chicken that is already deboned, skinned, and portioned is going to be more expensive than just buying whole chickens.

Keep track of food prices and how they can affect your shopping list. For example, a drought in California would affect the avocado harvest, so it probably wouldn’t be the best time to introduce avocados in your menus.

Use Portion Control

Controlling food portions is an excellent way to reduce food costs. If your family is unable to finish a dish consistently, the portion is too big. Use food scales, measuring cups and spoons to serve the proper amount of food to your family. Serving smaller portions will help lower your food costs.

Use the First In, First Out Method

The first in, first out method is pretty straightforward: use the first ingredients that you put into your pantries and refrigerators first. This forces you to use the oldest food first and ensures you’re always stocked with fresh ingredients. It also helps prevent food from expiring without being used.

Tips on How to Reduce Food Waste

Here are a few ideas for using leftovers wisely and reducing food waste.

Save vegetable scraps like onion skins, carrot peels, and mushroom stalks for making homemade vegetable stock.

Don't throw away any stale bread. You can use it to make things like croutons, breadcrumbs, and bread pudding.

Shred up roasted chicken and turkey the following day and use the meat in a soup or stew.

Food waste can have a big impact on your food budget. But by shopping the sales, looking for markdowns, buying locally, serving reasonable portion sizes, and using your ingredients creatively, you can reduce food costs in your frugal kitchen.

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  1. Great advice. I can't stand waste and try to use every bit for something!

    1. Thank you, Cheryl. I feel the same way about wasting food.

  2. Those are all very good tips. I do most of those although a written inventory is not something we do. We do check to see what is cooked before we cook more which could lead to spoilage of older food. Tommy is very good about checking dates and further organizing food. He informs me if we need to eat something or use it soon. He also is amenable to eating up everything. It helps if everyone in the house agrees on eating up what is cooked, what is about to spoil (salads), generally not throw out food. We are not perfect, but it would be expensive if we did not pay attention.

    1. Yes, it can get very expensive if you’re not paying attention. I’m glad Tommy helps in that department.

  3. I need to work harder on the portion control part. Still the leftovers are another meal or used for lunches. Learning how to make sure nothing goes to waste. Making a menu is a great way of making sure you use what needs to be used.

    God bless.

    1. You and me both on portion control, Jackie. Some days I’m better than others though. Yes, making a menu helps so much.

  4. I have been scouring zero food waste blogs and vlogs and have tried several of their suggestions. So far so good___anne in the kitchen

  5. Well written article. No chocolate goes to waste in my house. LOL.
    Have a great week. Barb

    1. Bahahaha! That is so funny, Barb. That is true in our home too. hehehe ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. Great article! I have been shocked at what people are willing to pay for convenience. I 'm not even sure people are aware of how little work it often is to just prep it yourself. We can supply our kitchen with rice for 2-3 months for the cost of one microwavable pouch of precooked rice. We have a number of salvage stores here so we save a lot of money there but we have to be careful not to buy things we will not eat because even fifty cents an item adds up quickly and it really pains me to throw things out. But, we can buy things like a tub of potato salad for fifty cents and I cannot make it for that. We really have to guard against buying too much just because it is a deal and that goes for any store. Having been a family of seven when the kids were growing up can sometimes be hard to shake!

    When I plan menus I think through what is here that needs to be used and plan to use those items up. Leftovers are planned into our menu or portioned out and frozen. Freezer meals often keep us out of the drive thru line! Also, when the grill is going we add some other meats like a pack of hotdogs which we freeze to pull out and microwave. We mostly always have grilled hamburgers in the freezer that can be reheated from frozen. Of course adding extra chicken to the grill is like money in the bank for sandwiches and salads.

    When we buy a rotisserie chicken at Sam's I make sure to use every bit of it. We are much less inclined to eat the legs and thighs so I pull those off and put them in a casserole dish and cover them with BBQ sauce. They go in the fridge for a reheat in the oven for a meal in a day or two and they are so good. I have a suspicion that a whole lot of those chickens are thrown out minus the delicious breast meat.

    We spent way less than the average Americans on food and I plan to keep it that way! I have other things to spend money on that are way more fun and useful.

    1. Thank you, Lana. This is such a great comment with so much valuable information in it. That is a shame to think that Sam’s Club would throw out everything but the breast on the rotisserie chickens, but I’d say you’re right about that. We have a United Grocery Outlet here, but their prices have been steadily rising in recent years, so it’s time for us to be on the lookout for a new one.

    2. We have a GO store about an hour away and they have great meat sales on Tuesdays. You can follow your store on Facebook and they post them every week. I think tomorrow our store has ground chuck and chuck roasts for 3.69 a pound.

    3. That sounds like a great resource, Lana. I would follow the store on Facebook too.

  7. Oh my gosh Belinda, did I need to read this today!!
    My husband and I wasted a decent amount of food in the past two years, unfortunately. During the pandemic, every video I watched on YouTube scared me because everyone was saying to buy this and buy that to store because you won't be able to find it anymore. So that's what we did but we didn't have a plan on how to use it all before it expired.
    We have been going through everything this year...disposing of anything that has expired (that just killed me) and donating a lot to our Church for the foodbank. I will never let any videos scare me like that again...not that they did anything wrong, but we need to have a plan in place. We are keeping an inventory of all of our food and have cookbooks to help us with recipes, so nothing goes to waste again. It was a tough lesson to learn! Thank you for always share such great ideas! Janel in NJ

    1. Thank you so much, Janel. That was so sweet of you to say. And I agree with you, cookbooks will help you use up that food so much. I’m always leading through various sources of recipes for new inspiration. That was a great idea to donate some of the food to the food bank. It will definitely be put to good use there. Keeping an inventory helps me so much. I just go thru my list after dinner and mark off anything I’ve used, so it stays up to date. I send you best wishes to use up what you have wisely. I know you’ll do a great job. ๐Ÿ’•


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