Reading statistics like this can cause a lot of anxiety, if, like many of us these days, there's not a lot of flexibility in your food budget. And most of these articles leave you feeling like there's little you can do to cope with rising food costs except try to funnel more of your monthly budget towards them. Here's the interesting thing, though - the weekly cost per person to feed our family hasn't increased in 20 years.
Yes, you read that right. 20 years.
Back when I was in graduate school in the early-to-mid 90's, my husband and I spent on average about $50 per week on groceries for the 2 of us, or $25 per person.
Currently, we average right around $100 per week for our family of four, or, yes, *still* $25 per person. And that's with 14 and 16 year old boys who are pretty much perpetual eating machines. Also, while we don't buy exclusively organic, we do regularly buy a number of organic foods, compared to 20 years ago when we didn't buy any at all.
If food costs have gone up so much in just the past couple of years, how on earth is it possible that we're still spending the same amount per person as we did 20 years ago?!?
There are a lot of reasons for this. One of them would be that while our food expenditures were certainly modest 20 years ago, we weren't the hard core uber-frugal food shoppers we are today.
The other major reason that our average per-person cost hasn't changed in 20 years is that there are a LOT of things you can do to help decrease your food expenditures, and most of them have been routine for us for many years.
7 Things You Can Do To Keep Your Grocery Bill From Rising
1. Make sure you're buying foods on sale at their rock-bottom prices.
While the *regular* prices of many foods has increased significantly, interestingly, the rock-bottom sale price has not risen nearly as much. Stockpiling foods when they go on sale at their rock-bottom prices has always been a big part of our savings strategy, and it's helped insulate us from rising costs.
2. Ditch unnecessary (and mostly unhealthy) extras.
If you're feeling really pinched, now is the time to stop buying pop, chips and other high-cost, low- nutrient foods. You may want to rethink cold cereals as well - in my opinion you're not getting very much nutrition for the high price (there are plenty of other things to eat for breakfast - try homemade granola or muffins, toasted homemade bread with peanut butter, leftover cornbread, French toast, oatmeal or eggs just to name a few!)
3. Decrease your food waste
The average North American family throws out 25% of the food they buy. This is heartbreaking for many reasons, but when every food dollar counts you need to get this number as close to zero as possible. Eat leftovers as soon as possible, and regularly assess fresh foods so you can freeze them before they spoil if necessary. Store and rotate bulk-purchased foods properly so you'll use them up before they go bad.
4. Buy in bulk
Buying staple foods in large quantities often leads to big savings (up to 50% or more). Some of the items we buy in 10-15 kg quantities are flours, oats, cornmeal, rice, coconut and raisins. We also buy 30 lb boxes of ground beef from a local supplier at an incredible price!
5. Seek out alternative food sources
This one often happens naturally when starting to buy more bulk foods. If you're used to shopping at one or two stores for all your food needs, there's a good chance you can be getting much better prices on some things elsewhere. No one store (even a discount store) has the best prices on everything! Combining this strategy of purchasing food from a variety of sources plus the previous strategy of buying in bulk means you can achieve significant savings *without* having to spend more time grocery shopping.
6. Make friends with low-cost, high-nutrient foods
I don't think it will be a surprise to anyone that beans are at the top of that list, but they don't have to be considered a punishment :) There are plenty of delicious meals that star this frugal food staple; try Chickpeas with Potatoes & Peas, Spicy Black Bean Bake, West African Style Baked Beans or Sausage and Lentil Stew, which stretches 2 sausages to feed 4 people! Carrots, green peas, eggs and sunflower seeds are a few other great examples of high-nutrient budget-stretching foods.
7. Build your skills
Making as many foods from scratch as possible will shave lots of dollars off your food bill. Learn to make your own bread and yogurt (no special equipment required!) or grow some of your own food (you can even swap some of it with your neighbours). None of these is particularly difficult or time-consuming, especially once you've mastered the basics.
Yes, these are all basic principles of feeding your family well on a tight budget. At a time when so many families are struggling with their food expenditures, more and more people need to learn these strategies. So, if all of these suggestions are "old news" to you, please pass them on to someone else you know who would be grateful to learn these concepts. And if most of these ideas are new to you, you may find my book, Cheap Appétit: The Complete Guide to Feeding Your Family for Less Than $400 a Month (While Eating Better Than You Ever Thought Possible) to be a valuable resource!
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