Is your grocery bill pushing the boundaries of your budget? If so, now’s the time to start saving money, as food prices may continue to rise through 2023.
According to the most recent USDA food price outlook report from November 2022, grocery prices that month were 12 percent higher than the previous year. Food prices overall are forecasted to increase another 3.5 to 4.5 percent in 2023.
As the cost of food continue to rise, it’s important to find ways to keep your budget in check, especially if you’re on a fixed income.
With some creativity and a little effort, you can ensure you’re getting the most out of your food dollar. Here are five ways to save on food costs right now.
1. Bulk Buy Fresh Produce in Season
One of the best ways to protect against rising prices is by purchasing fresh produce when it is in season and plentiful.
Plan and research the growing season for fruit and vegetables in your area. Buy a large quantity when the price is right, which may be towards the end of the season. Then plan a freezer cooking or storing weekend and fill your freezer with frozen peas, corn, carrots and more.
Or take the opportunity to learn a new skill: You can try canning, preserving or dehydrating some foods for later. Good contenders for these techniques include tomatoes, zucchini, squash, peppers and green beans.
You may also want to partner up with friends and family to place a large order through a local farm to save even more.
2. Stock up on Dried Goods
Focus on buying your shelf-stable pantry staples in bulk when they’re on sale.
Depending on the items, buying in bulk may be less expensive than buying smaller quantities. Before you stock up, make sure you’re getting a good deal by comparing the unit prices, or price per ounce, of items in small quantities compared to bulk quantities.
Keep in mind, buying in bulk takes some planning—especially if you feed only one or two people. A pantry full of food that expires before you can use it won’t save you money in the long run.
Look for items with a long shelf life, like pasta, rice, lentils, beans, legumes, dry baking ingredients, herbs, spices and oats. And don’t forget to compare the store-brand prices against name-brand dried goods; use coupons for even more savings.
3. Beat Meat Prices with Wallet-Friendly Proteins
How much do you spend on supermarket meat? If you’re willing to go vegetarian or reduce your meat consumption, you could take a bite out of your food bill.
Reducing your protein portion size is one simple way to lower your weekly meat expense: Instead of an 8-ounce steak, choose a 4-ounce serving.
You can also stretch your food dollar by saving all your leftover meats, vegetables and dried goods as ingredients for a soup or stew recipe. This also helps to avoid wasting food.
Alternatively, replace expensive cuts of meat with inexpensive dried beans and legumes, and introduce meatless Mondays into your meal plan. Experiment with wallet-friendly proteins such as beans, lentils, barley and chickpeas. Look for these in bulk stores or the ethnic food aisle of your favorite supermarket.
These inexpensive and nutritious options could help you save money on your food costs and add some pizzazz to your weekly menu.
4. Pretend You’re a Pioneer Homesteader
Trying your hand at backyard homesteading could help you save on your grocery bill. Even better: Producing your own food may help you stay in shape and enjoy time outdoors in retirement.
Depending on where you live, your yard size, your climate and your interests, homesteading can fill your pantry and shrink your food costs. You could even save on eggs, which saw a price increase of 49% in 2022—more than any other category in the Consumer Price Index.
Depending on how many eggs you need, it might be a good time to try raising a few backyard chickens. Before getting started, check your local by-laws and the rules of your homeowner’s association, if applicable, to confirm whether you can keep chickens in your yard. Some places don’t allow backyard flocks, while others may allow laying hens but no roosters (due to the potential daily “cock-a-doodle-doo” noise!).
If you’re more adventurous, you might consider raising a few meat chickens, turkeys, quail, meat rabbits, or even raising a couple of goats to produce goat milk and cheese.
5. Grow Your Own
Growing your own produce is another popular way to cut food costs.
Short on outdoor space? Try container gardening on your patio or get started gardening by growing vegetables in a kitchen vegetable garden if you live in an apartment or condo. Growing vegetables indoors can keep you stocked up on lettuce, peppers and herbs all year, even as prices rise at the supermarket. You can also use grow lights over potted plants and small indoor hydroponic growing systems.
Wherever you start your garden, keep it simple at first and try planting a few packages of vegetable seeds. Once those seeds produce vegetables, try replanting your celery, garlic, lettuce, and onions to produce more fresh veggies and save even more. You might find you can grow your store-bought celery, green onions and lettuce by planting the bottom pieces, or try planting small, store-bought potatoes that sprout in a paper bag.
Get Creative to Save on Food
There are plenty of ways to combat today’s rising food prices. By adjusting your menus and shopping habits and finding ways to produce some of your own food, you’ll be better able to handle rising prices today and in the future.
What’s your best tip for saving money on food? Let us know in the comments!