21 tips to feed your family for less

Want to cut back on food costs and eat well at the same time? It can be done -- it just takes a bit of shopping know-how and some creativity

It’s no bargain if you don’t use it Before you make a grocery list, know what you have in your pantry, fridge and freezer. There’s no point stocking up on canned tuna when you’ve got 10 cans at home you haven’t even touched. While it’s great to have a full fridge or freezer, if produce is constantly turning to mush, or you still have on-sale meat from a year ago, it’s time to use what you have before seeking out more bargains.

Meal plan, preferably for the week Grocery store flyers are now on-line, which makes bargain hunting easier, allowing you to build specials into the weekly menu.

Make a list (but be flexible) Lists are great as they force you to stick to your meal plan and avoid expensive impulse “treats” that are tempting. However, be flexible – If you’ve planned to make chilli with ground beef, but ground chicken is on sale, just use the chicken in your recipe instead of beef.

Time is money Try to shop at the closest store to home with the best prices and sales. Great deals at stores that are further out don’t always save you money. Travelling to save a few cents with today’s high gas prices just isn’t worth it.

Cut coupon clutter Only clip and save coupons you’ll really use. Keep them in an envelope in a convenient spot such as your purse or car (instead of stuffed in the kitchen junk drawer).
Don’t go hungry, to the grocery store that is It often leads to impulse buying, which usually means more costly and unhealthy purchases.

Volume buying – is it better? Usually, but not always. Before you buy in bulk make sure you have the storage space and plan to use the item. Unused spices are no bargain when they take up precious cupboard space and lose their flavour.

Stick to the outside Shop the outside aisles of the supermarket first and avoid the more expensive packaged goods found in the centre aisles.

Remember the small guy While the superstores can have incredible deals, don’t overlook your neighbourhood fruit and vegetable stand or small independent grocery store. The prices and selection might be better.

Splurge on your favourite Treat yourself to premium ice cream, yogurt or preferred name-brand cereal, but only when it’s on sale. Then stock up.

Shop locally Buying seasonal produce is good for the environment, the farmer and your wallet.

Key recipes All you need are a few pantry-based recipes to turn to when the fridge is bare, which can happen even with the best planning. With the ingredients ready to go, it’s a lot cheaper than take-out.

Look for deals
• Value packs of chicken and ground beef — label and freeze into portion sizes
• Discount racks – overripe bananas for banana muffins and banana bread; bruised fruit for crisps, pies and sauces; overripe vegetables for roasting and soups
• Day old bread for French toast, bread crumbs and bread pudding
• Near expiry meat – to serve that night or label and freeze
• Make sure to compare unit prices when you buy large sizes of grocery items to see if they really are a deal

Eliminate waste
• Use up vegetables and meat in stir-frys, omelettes, salads and pizza
• Left over cheese bits are good for macaroni and cheese, noodle casseroles and cheese melts
• Vegetables, unfinished broth cartons, leftover bacon or tomato paste are good ingredients for soups and stews

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