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If it seems like every time you visit your local grocery store the price of your favorite items creeps up, that’s no illusion. The USDA reports that the overall price of food went up by over six percent between the end of 2020 and the end of 2021. They aren’t going down anytime soon, either. In fact, prices are projected to once again increase between 1.5 and 2.5 percent in 2022. This can be frustrating and frightening news for families on a budget. For those counting pennies, making all meals at home is a top way for saving money. So when even those basic ingredients from the store like poultry and olive oil rise, you can feel stuck.
Parents have hungry mouths to feed and want to continue to provide tasty and nutritious meals to their kids. So while food prices get higher, you just have to get wiser. Here are budget-friendly family meal night tips to keep you on track for your savings goals.
Stick To DIY Options
There are many DIY dishes that are affordable and, due to their customizable nature, fun for kids. Taco bowl night is a great example. All you need is a big pot of rice, veggie toppings like corn kernels, onions, and bell peppers, some homemade guacamole, salsa, beans, shredded cheese and protein of your choice. Each of these ingredients is highly affordable. Separate each ingredient out into their own serving bowls and let family members build their own plates. You can easily stash away unused ingredients for the next day since they’re already separate.
Make Leftover-Friendly Food
When selecting recipes to make, think about foods that turn into great leftovers. For example, a yummy top round roast in the slow cooker can be served wish mashed potatoes and veggies one night. Then, you can shred the leftovers to make shredded beef patty melts, beef tacos, beef enchiladas, cheesy meaty loaded French fries, loaded baked potatoes and the list goes on. Meatloaf can be turned into meatloaf sandwiches, or even crumbled over spaghetti and marinara sauce for a play on spaghetti Bolognese.
Buy Versatile Ingredients
There are some ingredients that are certainly delicious but can only be used for a limited amount of recipes. When picking out your main ingredients, particularly your protein and starches, think of items that can be used in a variety of ways. Ground turkey is a great choice because you can use it to make turkey tacos, spaghetti Bolognese, turkey chili and turkey meatballs. You’ll typically get a better price per pound when you buy in bulk, so buy a large package of a versatile ingredient like ground turkey. You can stretch this ingredient through multiple days of meals.
Build A Menu Around Deals
Download your local store’s grocery app and keep up with the deals. Before going to the store or even creating a menu for the week, see what’s on sale. If you see that whole chickens are on a deep discount this week, look up recipes that use whole chickens. Build out your menu around that. Remember that you can easily cut up whole roasted chicken to make chicken sandwiches, chicken enchiladas, chicken casserole and other recipes. Write down a list of the items on deep discount and get creative. See how many ways you can put those together to create different dishes.
Don’t Skip Clearance Protein
Don’t be afraid of the clearance meat. Animal proteins like poultry and steak are some of the foods that have gone up the most in price. If you still want to enjoy some chicken breasts, bacon and steak without breaking the bank, check out the clearance section. These are usually items that need to be eaten within the next couple of days. The good news is that you can always freeze the items right away, and defrost them on the day you’re ready to eat them. You can sometimes find premium items like brisket or organic chicken breasts at half off when you shop the clearance section. Just do keep an eye on those best-by dates. Grocery stores shouldn’t stock anything past its best-by date, but some things slip through the cracks.
Load Up On Veggies
One way you can save money while helping your family eat healthier is by loading up on vegetables. The truth is that, a healthy diet shouldn’t consist of more than a few ounces of meat per day, according to the National Health Service. That’s no larger than a deck of cards. Meanwhile, meat is the most expensive part of many meals. Vegetables are usually affordable, and if you load up on them, their fiber and water content can help you feel full. So get more veggies in your family’s meals. You can sneak it in by adding cooked cauliflower to mashed potatoes, adding chopped carrots and mushrooms to Bolognese sauce and making broccoli tastier by topping it off with parmesan cheese.
Look At Clearance Produce
Don’t ignore the clearance produce. Often, it’s only on sale because it’s imperfect looking. It’s where you’ll find slightly undersized potatoes, apples with scratches or discolored melons. But none of these features impact the way the food tastes. Always checking the discount produce bins before looking at full-priced fruits and veggies. If you plan on chopping, dicing, cooking and sautéing your veggies, then who cares how they look?
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