8 Creative Ways to Save Money on Food

As I am now a single dad, I am always looking for ways to cut my grocery bill. Obviously I avoid eating out a lot, skip fast food, and clip coupons. But I started to wonder, are there other ways to save money on food, perhaps weird or bizarre ways, that I haven't tried? So, I started digging, and indeed found some ways to cut my grocery budget that I have never really considered before. Here are my top eight tips.

1. Buy Unconventional Cuts of Meat

You can make some very delicious and nutritious recipes on the cheap if you opt for meat options that make most people think twice. For instance, oxtail is a very tasty cut that is just as it is described — it's the tail of the cattle. Many high-end restaurants will serve oxtail, often braised in red wine, but most supermarkets won't even bother putting it out on display. Ask the butcher if he or she has any; they'll give you an insanely good deal on it. Other cuts worth investigating including tripe, liver, kidneys, hearts, tongue, chicken feet, and even brains. And if you're a fish lover, try fish heads. They provide great flavors for soups and stews.

2. Become a Suburban Farmer

You do not need to have a farm the size of Old MacDonald's to take advantage of homegrown fruits and vegetables; you can even start with a window box. But when I considered how much water and fertilizer the lawn was using (here in Colorado in the summer, it gets very dry), I thought there would be a better use for those resources. It does not take a lot of time, money, or effort to convert some of your garden into an area for growing herbs, vegetables, and fruits. If you check your local regulations, you may even be able to keep chickens, goats, or other farm animals. Goats are natural lawn mowers, and provide milk that you can use to make delicious cheese.

3. Use ALL of the Chicken

When I used to buy a chicken or turkey, I would strip away the meat from the bones and throw away the carcass. I never thought about using the bones. But, I found out that not only are the bones good for stock (I had always bought it in cans or boxes), but the actual bones can be used in your own vegetable garden (see above). Once the bones have been used for your stock, put them in the microwave for about three minutes to dry them out. Then, crush them in a pestle and mortar (or improvise your own) and add in some eggshells and calcium. Then, sprinkle on your garden. Not one piece of that chicken carcass goes to waste.

4. Seek Out Expired, Dented, and Labelless Cans and Packaged Goods

Supermarkets are way too efficient at dumping recently expired foods, but they're not perfect. If they haven't already been thrown in the dumpsters, you can find these expired products lurking on the shelves. Talk to the manager and they will almost always give you a great deal, as they know they will only be throwing it away later. You can usually get great discounts on dinged and dented cans, and if you find a can without a label, you'll get it for a heavy discount (or even free). Of course, you have no idea what's in it, so you'll have to be a whiz with making up recipes. Also look for meats that are about to expire the next day, and produce that is past its prime.

5. Learn Butchering Skills

There is a reason bone-in meat is a lot cheaper than the boned variety; it takes the butcher time, and effort, to remove the bones from chicken and turkeys, rib eye steaks, and countless other meat cuts. So, why not learn how to butcher them yourself? Bone-in chicken thighs can cost as little as 99 cents per pound, whereas the same chicken boned can be upwards of $4 per pound. There are instructional videos online, and with a sharp knife and plenty of practice you can save a lot of money by simply doing the job of the butcher in your own kitchen.

6. Shop Late on Wednesdays

One day of the week is better for the rest when it comes to grocery store bargains; that day is Wednesday. Why? Well, according to the experts at MyGroceryDeals.com, most grocery stores will mail out their sales flyers so that they're in your mailbox on Tuesday evening. That means you'll be going shopping on Wednesday with new sales to take advantage of, BUT the store will also honor last week's sales as well. That's twice the bargains. And if you go later at night, you can grab those reductions that are about to be applied to the meats, cheeses, and other perishable items.

7. Hit the Dumpsters

Okay, just hear this out. You would be amazed at the amount of good-quality food that supermarkets and other food establishments throw away. It has become so prevalent that the "freeganism" movement (reclaiming food that has been discarded) is growing at a rapid rate. Once stores throw food into the dumpsters, it is fair game, and you can take advantage of that by grabbing completely edible food for the bargain price of $0.

You do have to follow a few guidelines though. Don't look at the sell-by or best-before dates; those are arbitrary and most likely the food will have been thrown away because it has expired. Instead, use your sense. Smell the items, feel them, and see if everything looks good. Often, fruits and vegetables are thrown away because they do not look perfect. It's probably best to avoid meats, unless you really are confident that it is safe to eat.

8. Shop at Ethnic Grocery Stores

There is a local Asian market in my neck of the woods called H-Mart, and I love it. I used to go there for the bulk rice, soy sauce, and sesame oil, but now I buy a lot of produce and other goods there. For starters, the produce they have is way cheaper than in the stores you would usually shop in, and it is often bigger and fresher. They also have a much more exciting and varied meat and seafood section, stocking many of those unconventional cuts I mentioned earlier. The only thing you should really avoid here are the products you would buy in places like Walmart and Target, like cereals, jams, condiments, and so on. They seem to be more expensive. Other than that, you really can't lose.

What's your most unconventional way to save money on groceries?

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Guest's picture

three items on your list pertain to meat. Vegetarians have a much less expensive budget and if you don't choose that lifestyle incorporate more meatless meals into your life.