There’s no doubt that tensions have been high during the ongoing coronavirus crisis. Although Americans argue around 19 times per month on average, major life changes and the stress of health scares can easily boil over more frequently and take a toll on just about any relationship.
Of course, money is a major underlying theme in many a disagreement — and with millions of Americans still filing for unemployment benefits, it’s no wonder that financial concerns are adding to the turmoil. During the last decade, the U.S. government invested $35 billion in meaningful use incentive payments; just this year, billions of dollars were allocated for business loans, while individuals who qualify have only been granted a single stimulus payment of up to $1,200. And while some recently laid-off workers have been entitled to marginally boosted unemployment benefits, that still may not be enough for many residents to live on.
So, of course, many familial conversations have turned to the subject of saving money and reducing overall spending. While you might not be spending quite as much on certain things (like concerts or other events), many Americans have noted that their food bills have gone up during the pandemic. At the end of April, one study found that money spent on food and supplies throughout the U.S. increased by 88% from just two weeks prior. And while panic-buying has certainly died down, families are still trying to stretch every dollar — which is no easy feat when one of the only safe and enjoyable things to do is to eat some snacks in the comfort of your own home.
That said, there are some great ways to save on groceries. We’re sharing a few of our favorite tips below.
Grow Your Own or Shop Local Produce
You may love the convenience of picking up produce at your supermarket (especially when it’s pre-cut!), but you may not be getting the best price when you do. A farmer’s market or farm stand may provide better quality for a lower price — and as a bonus, you’ll get to directly support local farmers in your area. While this might limit your produce consumption to what’s in season, that’s better for the environment and for your pocketbook.
Of course, you could go the really sustainable route and decide to start growing in your own garden. Even growing your own herbs in your kitchen or in window boxes can be a great way to save and enjoy flavorful dishes at home. Growing herbs at home will yield a much higher amount of product for a lower price — plus, they smell great and can inspire you to be more adventurous in the kitchen.
No matter how or where you get your produce, make sure to store it correctly so it doesn’t go to waste. Some produce should be stored in the fridge, while others should be kept on the counter. Be sure to follow best practices to keep your produce fresh for a longer period and to get the most out of how it tastes.
Make and Follow a Shopping List
Creating and sticking to a shopping list is one of the best ways to ensure you won’t overspend. It’ll keep you focused when you’re in the store on what you actually need, allowing you to avoid impulse buys that’ll add to your bill. Keeping a list will also make sure you actually get everything you need in as few trips as possible, which is a plus during a pandemic. Be sure to tally your bill (either ahead of time or as you shop) to ensure you’re coming in at or under your budget. If you meal plan, this’ll make your shopping experience even easier (and cheaper, too).
Take Advantage of Your Freezer
If you want to save money on groceries, you may want to clear out your freezer now. If there’s anything that’s been in your freezer for longer than three months, you might be risking freezer burn. That said, foods can be kept in freezers for longer than the three-month mark — but you might need the extra space. Foods that are about to go bad and can be safely frozen can be thrown in the freezer to avoid unnecessary food waste (and money loss). Veggies and fruits can even be cut up and frozen when they’re about to spoil to be used later on in smoothies and other kitchen creations.
Use a Slow Cooker
You might be accustomed to using your crockpot during the winter, but it can come in handy during this summer, as well. Dutch ovens and other slow cookers can be used to cook in bulk, which inherently saves money. It’ll also allow you to buy less expensive cuts of meat at the store. Plus, using a crockpot can cut down on the need for an oven or stove — and that’ll keep your home more comfortable (and your cooling bills lower!) throughout the season. Batch cooking can ease stress during the week and make it possible for your family to eat healthy meals without much effort, as well.
Shop By Yourself
In general, shopping by yourself is a good practice during the pandemic. With fewer people in the store, there’s a lower rate of possible transmission for both your household and your community. It can also be a good way to save money. With fewer distractions, you’ll be less likely to forget about what you need to purchase things you don’t. You’ll also be more likely to remember your reusable bags, which can save you money when cashing out. And while ordering groceries via app can sometimes keep you from adding unnecessary items to the shopping list, that isn’t always the case. If left to your own devices while shopping online, you might be inclined to spend more than you need to; as 87 billion parcels were shipped worldwide in 2018, it’s clear that we aren’t necessarily skilled at curbing our shopping habits. What’s more, some grocery ordering apps will tack on fees for delivery, tips, and other fees. If you’re in a position to go to the store on your own, this can be one of the best ways to stay focused without overspending.
Saving money isn’t always the easiest of tasks — especially on essential items like food. But if your budget needs to take top priority during the pandemic, sticking to these tips can allow your family to eat well while keeping expenditures in check.