By Cathi Brese Doebler
What do you really need to survive? Food, water, shelter, clothes (especially warm ones when you live in Buffalo, New York!). Basically, when you go beyond those items, with a few exceptions, you are looking at things you want rather than things you truly need to survive. If you went back in time and lived 200 years ago, almost everyone you met would be living his or her life based on meeting their needs, and extra’s or wants would not even be a consideration. Today, in our culture, people often confuse needs with wants.
One need for everyone is food. Some of us love spicy food, some of us love sweet or salty foods; but regardless of the flavor, we all need food to survive. We don’t have a choice about needing food to survive. However, we do have a choice in how we get food, and there are ways to obtain this necessity that are more economical and easier on our wallets.
Eat meals at home rather than at restaurants
When you cook at home it typically costs less than buying a meal at a restaurant. I love when we get a chance to go out for a meal, but if you’re trying to cut costs, making your own meals instead of buying them at restaurants is a great way to do it. If you don’t enjoy cooking every night, try baking or cooking larger meals and either enjoying leftovers for a couple of nights or freezing your extra food for another night. And added benefit to eating meals at home is that they are usually healthier than foods you purchase at restaurants.
Look more carefully at the “cost per quantity”
Rather than just looking at the total price for an item, look at all of the information provided on the pricing labels. You can usually find the “cost per quantity” or “cost per pound” somewhere on the label. This helps you determine which product has the best deal or price for that day. Don’t assume the same products are always the best price. Looking at the labels can help you see that information quickly.
Shop around the edge of the store
Think about the set up of your local grocery store. The items along the edges are usually the items that add the most value to your family meals; fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, meats, and grains. The items sold in the center aisles of the store, however, may not always fall into the needs category, but more likely the wants category. Cookies, chips, soda, and more are usually in those center aisles. While fun to eat and drink these items, they are not necessities and can add significantly to your grocery bill.
When possible, buy in bulk
Whether you belong to a warehouse club that sells items in bulk, or you simply buy in bulk at your local grocery store, this can be a great money saver. Also, grocery stores will often sell family-size options that are typically a better price per quantity. However, be sure to only buy items that you really plan to use in large amounts. If you buy items in bulk that you don’t use often, you can waste both the food itself and your money.
Question the habits you’ve gotten into
Are there certain foods you purchase or eat out of habit? Could you choose something that has a better price? Perhaps you could try the store brand instead of the name brand you usually buy. Maybe you could serve water (which is healthier) instead of pop at the dinner table. What if you decided to eat an apple (which you can often buy in bulk) instead of that bag of chips for a snack? Think about your purchases and how you can alter them to eat healthier and cheaper.
Providing a healthy meal does not have to be expensive. Following these tips can help you both reduce your costs on food and provide healthy alternatives for your family.
Cathi Brese Doebler is the author of “Ditch the Joneses, Discover Your Family: How to Thrive on Less Than Two Incomes!” You can find out more about Ms. Doebler, her book (including more ideas on saving money) and her blog at www.DitchThe.com