3 Fresh Ways to Chop Your Food Budget

Clip coupons. Shop sales. Stock up. While everyone seeks ways to save on food costs, most "tips” sound like a stale rerun, repeating the same conventional knowledge over and over.

by John D. Ivanko
3 Fresh Ways to Cut Your Food Budget - Photo courtesy Rachael Brugger (HobbyFarms.com)
Courtesy Rachael Brugger
Once you’re able to harvest fresh produce from the garden, use up what you have left in your pantry before buying more groceries.

Clip coupons. Shop sales. Stock up. While everyone seeks ways to save on food costs, most “tips” sound like a stale rerun, repeating the same conventional knowledge over and over. Maybe we should rewrite the old coupon-clipping rulebook and add a dose of frugality and innovation. Here are some fresh perspectives on saving a dime while saving the planet.

1. Use up food.
Every year, when we can start harvesting fresh produce from the garden again, our family goes on our annual “food-buying detox diet.” As best we can, we stop buying food, cold turkey. This isn’t as depriving as it sounds, as we focus on eating through the pantry, using up all those items we already purchased that are often lingering near expiration dates.

Sure, we might need some fresh items, such as eggs, but our costs drop significantly when we force ourselves to use up that quinoa we bought on a impulse food purchase 8 months ago. Such creative frugality often results in interesting, new, favorite recipes, such as our Peppermint Biscotti, inspired by a bag of accumulated restaurant mints. Admittedly, peppermints aren’t exactly the highest quality of nutrition, but from a planetary perspective it makes sense to use what you already have.

The average American household now throws out more than 1 pound of food a day, adding up to more than 450 pounds of wasted food a year. (Note, these numbers do not include compostable peels and scraps.) We’re loosing valuable cash and resources simply by not using up what already exists in our pantries.

2. Restaurants equal treats.
Recently, Lisa has been scanning photos from her family albums. Traveling down memory lane of her only-child upbringing, she quickly realized the majority of her family photos consisted of a picture of she and her parents when we they were all dressed up and about to go out to dinner for a celebratory birthday or holiday meal.

Can you remember the last time you took a picture because you were about to go out for a special meal? Thirty years ago, restaurants meals were ranked as special, savored occasions—not an excuse for a quick meal. Not only did treating restaurants as treats save money, but it’s a classic example of achieving more through less. Lisa still has warm visions of some of these early restaurant outings with her parents because they were special. Today, as a society, we eat out so often that memories blur.

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3. Learn through travel.
What does travel have to do with your food budget? The next time you’re on the road, especially if you’re in another country, try to keenly observe how another culture approaches food and meal choices. In many cases, what comes as second nature to other cultures can be a totally novel concept to us Americans.

For example, while visiting our friends, Donald and Rene, in Scotland, I never saw these two throw out a tea bag after a cup of tea. Understandably, folks in Scotland love their tea and drink a fair amount, but Donald and Rene always used each tea bag at least twice—a simple measure, but one that quickly adds up to cost savings. Using a tea bag twice is literally the same as if the tea was on sale for half off. Packaging and all the resources needed to make and ship the tea also get sliced in half.

When rethinking the same old, same old, a dash of innovation and a fresh perspective on old habits can go a long way in building up that triple bottom line in anyone’s household budget.

Savoring the good life,

John and Lisa's Signatures

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