It is no secret that inflation has affected many households within the United States this holiday season. More than ever, people are trying their best to make ends meet. As grocery bills rise, it is essential for families to know how to stretch the value of their dollars.
“Knowing what you have on hand is a big deal. Sometimes you buy stuff, and it gets lost,” says Jordyn Barlow, senior manager of nutrition services at the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank.
Jordyn suggests that taking inventory of what you may already have in your pantry is the essential first step to saving money. Not only does this allow you to make more appropriate grocery lists, but it can also help you make weekly meal plans with what you already have. Taking inventory also lets you know what is expiring soon, making meal prioritization easier.
Beans are both an easy food category to start with for stretching your food budget. They are also a great source of protein. Beans alone can be mixed with filling grains like rice or quinoa for a delicious meal. Even adding refried beans into ground meat can double your protein intake for a nearly similar taste.
If you happen to be out of beans, consider restocking with a bagged, dry version. Since these beans require cooking in water, you can easily watch portion sizes and effectively save the rest for other meals. Bagged beans are also low in sodium when compared to their canned counterparts.
You, or a family member, might be against substituting a meat preference with beans. However, there is still a way to purchase meat in a cost-effective manner. Buying your meat in bulk is the smartest decision for the current moment, as it can last up to six months in the freezer.
“When you’re buying bigger portions, it might seem more costly at the time. But over time, it’s going to be way more cost-effective than buying smaller packs,” says Jordyn.
If a bulk purchase may be out of budget, you can still get protein from meats packaged in water like tuna or chicken. These proteins can be mixed with simple condiments like mayonnaise, mustard, and relish to make a simple tuna or chicken salad. For a side dish, consider giving canned or frozen vegetables a try.
Frozen produce that is prepackaged works just as well as its fresh counterparts. You can even freeze fresh fruits and vegetables that you may be able to find on clearance yourself. Local grocery stores will offer produce sales throughout the year, but we also suggest buying from farm stands.
“Your local produce stands have what’s in season, and usually they’re way more cost-effective,” says Jordyn.
When it comes to purchasing shelf-stable snacks, try avoiding the individually packaged variety packs. Buying the original items in bulk helps you to portion them out to you or your child’s appetite size. For healthy snack options, try applesauce, fruits in 100% juice or water, and rice cakes.
Many of these items are foods we encourage people to donate directly to the Food Bank. If you are looking for help in acquiring some of these items from a member agency, please visit the Get Help section of our website or download our free mobile app for more information.