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Smart Ways to Stretch Your Food Budget

Food is an essential part of life. And, depending on the type of food you buy and how much you need to feed your family, it can also make up a major part of your household budget. Research shows that four-member families spend between $135 and $310 a week on groceries, not including restaurants and to-go meals.

If you're trying to trim your expenses, your grocery bill could be a good place to start! Here are some simple strategies to help you stretch your food budget and save on your next grocery trip:

#1: Take inventory before grocery shopping

Smart grocery shopping starts before you even leave the house! Look through your pantry, fridge and freezer and take stock of the ingredients you already have. It's easy to forget about canned goods or unopened sauces hiding in the back on your shelves. This way, you'll avoid buying multiples and may even get some recipe inspiration.

#2: Plan weekly meals

Going to the grocery store without a list or plan can lead to overspending on items you don't need. To avoid this problem, make time to plan out a menu for the week or month. A simple web search can help you find affordable and delicious recipe ideas!

As you're looking for recipes, check weekly ads or apps to see what's on sale at your local grocery store. Planning your meals around the deals will help you save money and stretch your food budget.

#3: Use the same ingredients for multiple dishes

Another meal planning tip is to buy versatile ingredients that you can use for multiple dishes. For example, chopped onion can be a topping on “Taco Tuesday" and tossed into a soup later in the week. When you repurpose ingredients, you'll buy fewer items at the store and reduce food waste!

#4: Stock up on pantry staples

Keeping your pantry well-stocked can help you save money and cut down on last-minute trips to the grocery store.

Here are some go-to ingredients for quick, easy and budget-friendly meals:

    • Canned or dried beans can be used for soups, salads and casserole dishes!
    • Rice often comes in bulk and can be added to many different meals. 
    • Vegetable, chicken or beef broth add flavor to any dish, especially soups and stews.
    • Dried pasta is easy to make and has a long shelf life.
    • Oatmeal is great for breakfast and baking.
    • Canned (or frozen) fruits and vegetables are convenient and healthy choices.

#5: Save the leftovers

Making the most of your leftover meals will help you save valuable time and money. Not to mention, you'll avoid tossing out perfectly good food. 

Store leftovers in small portions using air-tight containers or plastic wrap. Generally speaking, most precooked food can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days or frozen for 3 to 4 months. Plan a “leftover buffet" for dinner once a week or try repurposing previous meals. For example, if you have leftover chicken, add it to salads, mix it into fried rice or wrap it in a tortilla for lunch. The possibilities are endless!

Saving money on groceries is all about planning ahead and getting the most from your purchases. With a lower grocery bill, you'll free up money to put towards other expenses and financial goals! 

Want more budgeting tips and tools? Wright-Patt Credit Union (WPCU) is here to help! Check out our easy-to-use budget worksheet to create a monthly spending plan that accounts for your grocery needs. ​