13 Ways to Save on Produce and Meat
Grow your own veggies. Even if you can only afford enough space on your patio for a few potted plants, every little bit helps. A quick Google search will turn up many useful guides for beginners. I recommend trying bell peppers and tomatoes.
Buy fruits that are in-season. They will generally be cheaper and taste better than when buying out-of-season.
When buying leafy greens like lettuce or cabbage by the pound, tear off and discard brown or otherwise inedible leaves before placing them in your cart, if your store allows it, to avoid paying for the extra weight. This also goes for corn husks on fresh corn sold by the pound. Stores will have a bin set up in the produce department for such waste.
Compare prices of onions and potatoes to those in pre-packaged bulk bags. The larger bags might be a better deal. Plan to eat or cook and freeze all of the veggies within a week, because it won’t be worth your money if they go uneaten, to be discarded later.
Consider buying un-trimmed celery if the price per pound is cheaper. Celery leaves are edible can be used as seasoning in stews, salads, and other dishes. They can also be used as a replacement for parsley if you’ve run out. I’ve found a great way to store celery that keeps it from getting limp too quickly: Trim off any brown spots, then wrap the entire celery bunch tightly in a long piece of aluminum foil. Wrap this in a second layer of foil. Store it in the produce drawer in your refrigerator for up to three weeks. I’ve found it works far better than storing it in plastic.
When buying fresh herbs, wash them immediately upon returning home from the grocery store. Trim and discard any rotting stems. Wrap in damp paper towels and store in the refrigerator in plastic bags. You can also bunch them together and store them upright in a shallow glass of water. Cover the entire setup with a sealed plastic bag and change the water daily to keep them for up to 1 week. Best yet- grow your own herbs on your windowsill or patio. Herbs are incredibly easy to grow and require minimal care. A daily watering and monthly fertilizing with all-purpose fertilizer should do the trick. Grow herbs you know you will actually use frequently. I recommend trying basil, parsley, and dill.
Learning to store your produce properly will extend its shelf life, and reduce the amount you have to throw out and replace. The Thriving Vegetarians blog has a nice summary of how to store many common fruits and veggies. I also love my Rubbermaid Produce Savers. They are great for berries and half-onions! Here’s a coupon!
Compare the prices of fresh veggies to frozen. Frozen is often cheaper and has comparable nutritional value (possibly better, if your “fresh” produce has been picked more than a couple days ago.
For a better deal on poultry, compare price per pound between plastic wrapped-on-styrofoam to bagged. The large bags of chicken are often cheaper per pound, and they are easy to separate and repackage into smaller bags once you get home. Also consider buying a whole chicken and butchering it yourself at home.
Grocery stores often have a reduced price meat section. If the meat has been refrigerated properly and frozen by the sell-by date, it’s generally safe to eat. Remember, that bright red color of your packaged ground beef or steak is likely caused by the carbon monoxide that was artificially pumped into the package before it was wrapped. It tells you nothing about the freshness of the meat so don’t be fooled, and check the dates! The USDA has a good FAQ page regarding meat color and freshness.
When buying steak, look at the price per pound, not just the actual price tag. Opt for a cheaper cut of meat. Compare price per pound on ground meats too. It might be cheaper to buy a large piece of meat and grind it yourself at home if you own a meat grinder.
Do you ever have leftover cooked veggies from dinner? If you’re not likely to re-heat and eat the next day, toss them into a plastic bag in your freezer. They are still good for making soup or stew. Re-inventing leftovers means you don’t have to buy as much food later. That’s money saved!
Use coupons! Produce and meat coupons are rare, but they are out there. Try looking up some of your favorite brands online to see if they have a mailing list. I recommend Driscoll’s for berries, they frequently email me with printable coupons when I fill out their berry surveys. Johnsonville is a good one for sausage. They frequently have printable coupons available.
Got any tips to share? I’d love to hear them!