The secret of cheap and healthy meals
Want to keep your food costs low during these times of rising costs? Stick to these rules: Set a budget and never pay full price.
I know you hate the word budget. So do I. And we need to get over it. All it means is that we decide ahead of time how much we will spend on food for the week (or month), and we stick to it. And when that amount runs out, we stop buying.
The second rule means you must stop buying anything that is not on sale. Items have to really be on sale, not just on a “special” that may not be on sale at all. If you are careful to do this, you will easily bring your food costs down to what they were a decade ago. And you’ll eat well, too.
Following the first rule is easy. Do it now. Determine how much you will spend to feed you and your family per week. Now, take the amount you are allotting for groceries (as opposed to fast food, restaurants, school lunches and so on) and place that amount in cash in an envelope marked “groceries.” When it’s gone, it’s gone until next month.
The second rule is going to take some work. Find out what’s on sale in your supermarket(s) before you go so you can make a list beforehand. And don’t worry. If you shop at a typical U.S. supermarket, there will be great sales in every category you can think of, including healthy choices in the produce, dairy and meat aisles.
You can collect the weekly print ads for your store(s) of choice and use them as your guide. Or visit any number of websites that will have this kind of information organized and categorized for you like SavingsAngel (membership fee required) and GrocerySmarts.com (free access). But don’t assume these sites are flawless. They often miss important unadvertised sales and don’t always post all of the grocery store chain sales either. Consider this information a general guide to what’s on sale.
That’s it: Just two rules to follow. Before you have time to object to the idea of cheap and healthy food in the same sentence, here’s a sample of what’s on sale in my supermarket right now: Foster Farms split chicken breasts, 88 cents per pound (50 percent off the regular price of $1.69), fresh blueberries at $1.50 for 6 ounces (70 percent off the regular price of $4.99) and Hass avocados selling for 77 cents each (62 percent off the regular price of $1.99 each). And that’s just a tiny start. I’ll be you can guess what’s going in my freezer this week. At that price for chicken, I plan to stock up.
I’m sad to tell you that after 16 years, my beloved resource, The Grocery Game website, has shut down. It was quite possibly the most reliable resource for matching coupons with grocery sales in all of the major supermarkets — including unadvertised sales. TGG has been my personal grocery-shopping companion for all of these years. I wish the founder and owner, Teri Gault, the very best. But it’s hard to keep good people down, so I’m anxious to see what her future holds.
In the meantime, I look forward to all your feedback on resources and sites you are using to supercharge your grocery savings. I’d also love reviews for those of you who decide to test SavingsAngel. I’m quite curious to see how that site compares with TGG.