Versatile Food Shopping: Save Money on a Good Diet

by The Smarter Wallet on March 12, 2010

When it comes to food shopping, I now keep an open mind. Doing so has helped me save money on a good diet! There are cheap meals you can cook at home to stay frugal.

I’ve got a new pact with myself when it comes to doing the food shopping each week. I’ve agreed I will not go within ten feet of any prepared ready meals.

Now don’t get me wrong — they’re nice as far as convenience is concerned. But you can never be sure of what’s in them, and when it comes to the price, I know I can cook meals that are far cheaper and more nutritious any day of the week.

The one thing I had to do before I actually swore off ready-made meals and got more creative with my food shopping was to clean out my refrigerator. I’ll sheepishly admit that I don’t do this nearly as often as I should. But half the time, stuff gets pushed to the back of my fridge and forgotten about –- even though it is still in date and perfectly good to use.

food shopping

Versatile Food Shopping: Tips To Save Money on a Good Diet

So here’s how I started. I cleared out the refrigerator and made a list of what was still in there. I defrosted the freezer and did the same thing there. Then I went shopping and stocked up on cheap essential items that can be used as basics for lots of different meals. This is how you can save a lot of money every time you go food shopping.

Take the humble potato for example. You can use this in so many ways, and if you buy more, they’re generally cheaper. I chip them to create huge oven chips with the skins on. Add a splash of olive oil, salt and pepper, cook them on a high heat for a half hour or so and they’re better than any shop bought high priced chips you’ll ever buy.

Basic vegetables and organic food can be used in plenty of different ways too. One of my latest favorites –- and it goes a long way too –- is to slice up some raw potatoes, throw in some shallots (or sliced red onions if you like, as they’re cheaper) and make up a sauce to pour over the top. And this sauce is dead easy –- I put some milk, grated cheese, salt and pepper into a saucepan and add a bit of flour to thicken it. Then I stir it until it thickens and pour it over the top of the potatoes and onions.

Once it’s cooked it provides an alternative to basic potatoes and a nice side dish to lots of different meals too. And you can freeze it in portions and defrost it whenever you need some. This is how I think about every meal I make and cook now: how many portions will I get out of it? Can I make it using basic ingredients? And do I need to buy any new basic ingredients for future reference and use? Here are a couple of creative dishes you can try on your own: check out this healthy breakfast idea using oatmeal and this easy meal idea involving frugal soups.

I can’t tell you how much this has transformed both my food shopping and my cooking. I used to go down the same aisles and pick up all the same things constantly, without even giving a thought to buying anything new or different. But now I don’t miss a trick, just in case it provides something cheaper for my cupboard and a good idea for a new recipe or two.

Try it yourself –- you never know how buying some new and wholesome ingredients can save you money as well as inspiring some great new dinners.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Len Penzo March 13, 2010 at 11:44 am

What time is dinner? :-)

Best,

Len
Len Penzo dot Com

2 The Rat March 13, 2010 at 2:32 pm

I think that when someone incorporates a healthier lifestyle by eating and exercising, everything ends up to be more inexpensive for a lot of reasons.

On the food side, even though good foods like vegetables are typically more expensive than bad foods, you are getting nutritious ingredients into your diet. Plus, I find you tend to eat less in the evenings because you’re watching the mid section, which leads to less food consumption.

On the exercise side, by investing today in gym and fitness clubs, or just doing outdoor activities, you will likely be saving a lot in health care expenses down the road.

This past week, my local grocery store had a sale on some fresh rump roasts, so I bought 3 and froze two of them! Also, after eating one for supper, we save the leftover meat for sandwiches the next day.

Nice post!

3 Anon March 15, 2010 at 12:13 pm

I suggest going to your local Chinese neighborhood for veggies. Prices are cheaper and there are so many products you will not find anywhere else! Fruits are especially interesting: rambutan, mangustin, longan… And if you want a conversation topic — try durian ;)

4 The Smarter Wallet March 15, 2010 at 9:47 pm

Thanks for the suggestions. I grew up in Asia so I had all those fruits on a regular basis. Durian isn’t that bad but it tastes pretty cheesy IMO. Lanzones are the best though, and star apples.

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