Saving money doesn't mean you have to sacrifice flavor. Use these tips to make your shopping budget go further.
-- Plan ahead before you shop.
While it's tempting to run into the store on your way home to pick up food for that night's dinner, you'll save money if you plan ahead.
Plan the week's meals in the kitchen, so you can check the cabinets and the fridge to avoid buying duplicate items. Making a list ensures you'll have what you need on hand, and will help you avoid impulse purchases.
-- Reconsider convenience foods.
Compare the cost of convenience foods versus foods made from scratch.
-- Keep your eye out for bargains at the store.
Once you've put together your list, you can still save money at the store with some smart shopping strategies.
In the produce section, stick to in-season fruits and vegetables. In the deli, look for bargains on day-old breads and bakery products. Look for specials at the meat counter. Buy cuts of meat that are on sale and freeze the extras. Buy a whole chicken and chop it yourself to save a few more dollars at the store.
-- Let leftovers do double-duty.
Using leftovers for another night's dinner or a quick lunch helps cut cooking time and food costs. Use leftover pork butt in pulled pork sandwiches, or shred short ribs to serve with rice and beans.
-- Make freezer-friendly foods in big batches.
When your schedule and food budget allow, take a day to make big batches of your go-to dishes. Cook up a big batch of meatballs or chili, then freeze for later in the month. Freeze single-serving portions of soup for quick lunches.
-- Be creative with protein sources.
Try cooking cheaper cuts of meat. Tough, fatty cuts of meat like pork butt, pork spare ribs, beef short ribs and beef shoulder are inexpensive, and get fall-off-the-bone tender in a slow cooker.
Build meals around less costly grains. Stir-fries and pasta dishes are a great way to build a tasty dish around a small amount of meat, poultry or fish.