We haven’t given up on helping you keep your New Year’s Resolutions to spend less and weigh less (hopefully you haven’t given up yet, either).
Today we’ll tackle another big potential budget- and belt-buster: shopping for groceries and eating at home. The good news is that you can save money, calories, and time, without making major disruptive changes in your routines.
Instead, try these five little tweaks over the next few weeks.
1. Instead of making a list . . .
. . . build your menu around the items that are on sale at the various stores and supermarkets. You can subscribe to their email lists and friend them on Facebook, but the easiest way to get the latest discounts is by subscribing to this very newspaper.
Once you have an idea of what ingredients you’re going to purchase, you can visit SuperCook.com to get recipes based on what you have brought home.
This site is also a great tool to help you use up long-forgotten items in your freezer and cupboards.
2. Instead of grocery shopping after work . . .
. . . go after you have finished dinner. The stores and checkout lines will be much less crowded, you won’t go through that “get home put away the groceries and make dinner” rush, and you’ll have more time to consider prices and choices.
As an added benefit, you’ll be shopping on a full stomach, and therefore you will be less tempted to buy the types and amounts of foods that your wallet and scale tell you to avoid. If you must go right after work and in a hurry, at least have a healthy snack before you get to the store (note: grazing in the produce aisle is frowned upon at most supermarkets, according to multiple admonishments we’ve received from store employees).
3. Instead of buying snacks . . .
. . . in bags and boxes (such as chips and crackers), get an air popcorn popper and a pound of raw kernels. Certain snacks can cost as much as one hundred times the cost of a similar serving of popcorn, and if you minimize the amount of butter and salt you use, popcorn is a much healthier choice to munch.
And air-popped popcorn requires juuuuust enough time and effort to prevent you from eating too much, compared to opening and finishing a big bag of potato chips before you realize what you’ve done.
Why not microwave popcorn? The cost is much closer to that of prepackaged snacks, and often has more fat, salt, and other chemicals than you would add while making your own.
Plus, inadvertently leaving the microwave on too long while popping the popcorn can cause a permanent stench that may reduce the resale value of your home.
4. Instead of fresh produce . . .
. . . buy it in frozen form, especially if you plan on cooking with it later. It will cost less, is easily storable for future use, and the nutritional value may even be higher.
If you’re buying vegetables for snacks, kudos to you. But the cost rises for convenience, so if you have a little time and a sharp knife, buy the vegetables in their rawest form and cut them in to snackable sizes as soon as possible.
For fruit, consider the costs of those apples and oranges, and weigh the alleged nutritional benefits against the price per unit. You will probably find that bananas offer as much or more for much less money, especially if you buy them at a store that is part of a . . . uh, “quick trip”, (wink wink).
5. Instead of cooking dinner nightly . . .
. . . make a big recipe in the crock pot on the weekends (and have that for dinner that night). Then freeze the leftovers in single-serving plastic sealable bags, labeled with the entrée name and date prepared.
After seven weeks of once-a-week crock pot cooking, you’ll have enough saved up to have a new menu item each night. n some cases can even be accomplished simultaneously.