Easy Ways to Cut Food Costs

Grocery costs continue to rise. There's some talk price hikes might slow down in 2022, but I wouldn't count on it. In my experience, retailers rarely go back to lower prices unless there's a glut. I don't see that happening any time soon.

It bums me out when I grocery shop. Scoring deals or savings is now a rare thing. What passes for a great sale is higher than what was normal for the same item last year. 

Case in point: I used to buy rib eye steaks on sale for $4.99 a pound in 2020. In 2021, the sale price is now $7.49 a pound. That is a mighty price hike.

In a few weeks holiday shopping and cooking commences. Historically, that was always when food prices dropped to their lowest. I'm not sure we'll see that this year.

Retailers have us by the throat and they know it. This is my go-to strategy to help defray costs.

  • Plan your menu on whatever goes on sale that week.

  • Buy groceries that have gone on clearance.

  • Buy less tender cuts of meat. Learn to marinate and cook them in a crock pot or instant pot. Only last night I cooked a tough piece of meat in my instant pot and it melted in your mouth like butter.

  • Eat leftovers. Extra rice becomes stir fried rice. Leftover taco meat gets folded into scrambled eggs the next day. Leftover chicken becomes chicken salad. Leftover steak can go into quesadillas with grilled onions and peppers.

  • Make meals extra large and turn the extras into freezer meals.

  • Buy whole roasts. Did you know you can buy a whole roast and the butcher will slice it for you for free?

  • Grow a garden, or at least a few pots of herbs and tomatoes.

  • Go in with a neighbor (or two) and buy the bulk sized bag of flour, sugar, rice, or beans. Split it between you.

  • Buy food under generic labels.

  • Buy produce in season.

  • Never buy prepackaged produce that's been cut or processed. Chop and process it yourself.

  • Check your inventory. Empty your freezer or fridge. See what you have and use it up first.

  • Shop at ethnic grocery stores. Many items are cheaper there.

  • Don't be afraid of dent and scratch items. As long as the container is sealed, it's safe.

  • If you do find a good sale, stock up. I have a policy to always buy one for use and one as backup. It's saved me many a trip to the grocery store.

  • Plan menus. You'll be surprised how handy it is to use up food that always seems to get forgotten.

  • Make more soups and stews.

  • Buy all or part of a cow (or pig). My niece and a nearby neighbor do this yearly and they get better quality meat at a good price.

Even trying a couple of these tips will help a lot. If you don't have a crockpot, buy yourself an instant pot. And for a great fajita marinade, try this one. These fajitas are a huge hit with friends and family.

It's not easy to save money this year. I'm a pro at it and even I'm having a hard time. Don't give up. If your stores are keeping their prices sky high, get creative with your budget. Learn to cook with less meat, grow a garden, or pool your resources with family and friends.

It's doable, friends. Don't give in to retail pressure.


Angela Brown said…
I am reminded of supply and demand and how the utterly jacked up factors that impacted both supply and demand are in a frenzy to make up for what happened.

Like you, I don't expect prices to go lower.
Maria Zannini said…
Angela: I expected price hikes when meat packers couldn't process all the cows and hogs ready for slaughter, but I think they also used that as a cover to artificially raise prices higher.

The only one losing out on this deal is the consumer.
Lynn Viehl said…
I'm trying to stretch our food budget by using less meat and shopping at a local Spanish market, which has better prices on produce and meat. I also shop around at several stores for the best deals on things I use a lot of, like laundry detergent and dish soap. Here Target often has the best prices on cleaning products.

My trick: we have a regional bread manufacturer outlet store near us that sells their soon-to-expire baked products at half to a quarter of the price we'd pay at the market. Since we go through a loaf of bread every week I don't mind buying it with only seven days left before the expiration date. It's .99 at the outlet versus three dollars at the market, too. What's weird is the bread I buy cheap there is always fresher-tasting than the more expensive stuff at the market.
Maria Zannini said…
When we lived in the city we used to have a nearby bread outlet. It was great! And I noticed the same thing as you. For some reason it tasted fresher than the new stuff at the store.

Bread eating is hit or miss at my house. We either binge on sandwiches or toast or not eat bread at all that week. I've taken to buying the 2-pack at Costco and freeze them.

One day of thawing and it tastes as fresh as new.
Mike Keyton said…
Yep, it's going to get worse before it gets better - if it does. Frugality is my middle name except when my daughter comes home with her fancy tastes : )
Maria Zannini said…
Mike: Sadly, that's me with my mother.

I've since learned not to bother buying anything until she gets here though, since she disapproves of my choices unless she picks them out herself. Mind you, it would be the same product from the same store, yet she would be sure her choices were superior.

I gave in to her foibles years ago. It's just easier on my brain.