Cutting costs is one of the best ways to finish each month with a few extra bucks in your pocket. There are many things that pop into mind when you think of saving – electricity, gas, heating, and so on – but few of us ever think of our diet as a means to save money. There are a few tricks that can help you save a lot on food with some extra work put into it – not too much, of course – but also keep eating well and healthy (and save on drugs, too).
1. Bagged salad mixes have to go
The easiest way to make a healthy, delicious salad is to grab a pre-packaged salad mix from the shelf of the supermarket, throw in some roasted chicken breast and dressing, and eat it. These products are usually heavily overpriced, though, and you can’t keep them in the fridge for long – in a few days they go from fresh, crunchy leaves to a gross, green slime.
Buying entire heads of lettuce, radicchio, red leaf or escarole – and making your own salad mixes – is a much better idea. Full heads of salads can be kept fresh for much longer in the bottom of your fridge, offering you a fresh dose of vitamins for days – and they also cost less.
If you have the space and a green thumb, you can also grow your own salad leaves – seeds are even cheaper, and your salad gets “renewable” this way.
2. Stock up the basics
Staples, like beans, rice, oil and pasta, can be acquired in large packs for a lower price per pound – especially when they are on sale – and won’t spoil for a long time if you store them right. This way you will always have reserves to reach out for – a bit of stock, some rice and some spices, and you have a risotto ready in minutes.
3. Buy fresh spices
Taste is very important for eating well – and a good taste can be created by using the right spices. Fresh spices – like marjoram, rosemary or thyme – might look much more expensive when on the shelf of a supermarket, but they can be dried out and used for boosting your food’s value for a long time. Take a look on the back of spice mixes, identify the herbs used in those you like the most, and stock up on spices whenever you can. In the long run these are much cheaper than any super spice mix you can think of.
4. Buy the whole chicken
Using skinless, boneless chicken breasts is very convenient, but the chicken has other parts, too, that can be much more delicious than the lean, white meat on the chicken’s chest. Plus, the boneless – skinless breast is among the most expensive fresh meats you could choose.
A whole chicken can be de-boned for stews and other meals, it can be roast in the oven or grilled, and the bony parts can be used to make chicken stock, that can be used to enrich other foods (and can be stored indefinitely in the freezer, in vacuum bags or plastic containers).
5. Frozen is your friend
Contrary to popular beliefs, foods (with a few exceptions) don’t lose their properties when frozen. Fresh foods look more appealing, of course, but frozen ones – especially vegetables – are as tasty and healthy as fresh ones, and usually cost much less. Besides, transferred to the freezer soon after purchasing them assures a much longer storage.
I, for one, don’t buy any fresh peas, kernel corn, baby carrots or broccoli any more – I go for frozen ones. I save on their price, and don’t compromise when it comes to their taste.