With the holiday season fast approaching, if there was ever a time to cut back on your budget and create a little extra breathing room, it’s now. Unfortunately, however, many of the most popular strategies–such as cutting coupons and shopping around, for example–can be too time consuming to be practical when your schedule is jam-packed with holiday events.
While I still definitely recommend checking for coupons quickly before you head to the store, clipping coupons doesn’t have to be your primary strategy–especially during this busy time of year. In fact, here are four great ways to reduce your food budget without clipping coupons at all.
1. Shop Your Pantry First
Instead of constantly running to the store to get the things you need for dinner, take a minute to shop your pantry first. What can you throw together from ingredients you already have on hand?
- Pasta Roni, chicken and peas
- Salsa Chicken (chicken, salsa and cheddar cheese)
- Meatloaf (hamburger, whatever else you have on hand–this one is very versatile)
- Macaroni and cheese with deli ham and broccoli
- Breakfast for dinner (eggs, french toast, etc)
- Leftovers from the night before
The possibilities are endless! Even if you truly don’t have all of the ingredients for a meal, by checking your pantry to see what you do have first, you can often come up with a dinner idea that only requires one new ingredients from the store–not five.
2. Substitute Ingredients
Alternately, if you’re only missing one ingredient from a recipe you want to make, you may be able to substitute it or leave it out altogether. For example, you could…
- Use Ritz crackers instead of bread crumbs
- Use plain yogurt instead of sour cream
- Use a different meat, vegetable, type of noodle, etc.
You can also make many of your own ingredients with things you already have on hand. For example, you could make your own:
3. Reduce Food Waste
How often do you throw leftover meals or ingredients away simply because you don’t get around to eating them? Instead of tossing them, use them up!
- Eat leftovers for lunch the next day (oldest first)
- Hold a weekly leftover night
- Meal plan so leftover ingredients will be used in another recipe later the same week
- Save extra vegetables in a bowl in the freezer to be made into vegetable soup
- Save chicken bones and turn them into homemade chicken stock (it’s easy–and yummy!)
4. Cook Once, Eat Twice
Are you guilty of going through the drive thru or buying frozen foods more often than you should because they are fast and easy? Save time and eat healthier with the “cook once, eat twice” technique.
The next time you cook your favorite meal, instead of cooking one batch, cook twice as much. Freeze the second half for later, and the next time you don’t have the time or energy to cook, all you’ll have to do is heat it up! Not a fan of leftovers? Why not trade with a neighbor? You can cook for both families on one night; she can cook for both on another. You don’t even have to have dinner together. Simply walk the dish over by dinner time. This way, you don’t have to cook nearly as often and you get to try tons of new and exciting meals.
Saving on groceries doesn’t have to require hours browsing through deals sites, clipping coupons and writing out match-ups. If you’re running short on time but need to see some big savings on your groceries, these four grocery savings techniques will help!
If you feel like you still want to use coupons to save money, here are the best places to find online printable coupons.