7 Tips to Reduce your Food Bill

Starting a permaculture garden, however large or small is a significant step to reducing the cost of your food. Even just having a few containers on a balcony with herbs and tomatoes growing in them, will add up to significant savings across the ear, while those with more space to institute vegetable and fruit cultivating garden beds and perhaps even an orchard and space to raise some livestock will see even bigger savings. But however much space one has to devote to food production, chances are you will still need to go shopping to purchase some foodstuffs.

Some of your shopping may be done at a local farmers’ market where you can purchase goods from and have a direct relationship with the producers of the food. There may be local businesses that source products from the surrounding area, or make them themselves, such as butchers and bakers in the town. But even if these options are available in your area, you are still likely to need to visit a supermarket.

Supermarkets tend to have larger carbon footprints than smaller, local shops as they use economies of scale to buy products in bulk and transport them to their outlets. For this reason alone, it is preferable to limit your patronage of supermarkets as much as possible, but practically most people will need to use them. However, there are ways to reduce the amount of money you spend in the supermarket.

Have a List
One of the easiest ways to spend more money at the supermarket is to go without a set idea of what you want or need to buy. Supermarkets are in the business of maximizing profits, so are always looking at ways to tempt consumers to part with more cash. This includes techniques such as buy-one-get-one-free offers, placing items next to the check out, and prominently displaying certain items at the end of aisles. (These extra items are only good purchases if they are things you would buy anyway and you can store the extra items.) Spending a little time planning meals and making a list of what you need – and sticking to it – will help prevent impulse buys that up your bill. Doing your supermarket shopping online is another way to avoid impulse purchases. Also be aware, that supermarket stores are often designed so that essentials are at opposite ends, so you are forced to pass aisles of more expensive goods to get between them. Having a list will help keep you focused.

Don’t go Hungry
Customers are more likely to make impulse purchases when they are hungry. That’s why supermarkets often site the bakery section of their stores next to the entrance, as the smell of baking bread can cause hunger impulses. So always eat something before you go to the supermarket.

Shop Around
Wherever possible, shop around to get the best prices. While a supermarket will try to cultivate loyalty among its customers, there is actually very little advantage for the individual in patronizing a single store. Schemes such as loyalty cards that give you points against your shopping that can be redeemed for products when you have accrued enough are rarely good value if you take into account the savings that can be made by shopping around for the lowest prices in the first place. And by signing up to loyalty schemes you are sacrificing your privacy, as the supermarkets will use data about your shopping habits to market directly to you. Of course, it is not always practical to shop in several places during one trip, particularly if stores are at some distance from one another meaning you would drive further, or if you are short on time, but often supermarkets are in close proximity to other stores, including local traders such as butchers and bakers. Also, these days you can usually compare prices of goods at different stores online.

Buy in Season
Fruit and vegetables, and even meat to a certain degree, that are in season are not only cheaper – due to the fact that there are more of them on the market and they are usually produced locally – they are also more nutritious and more flavorful then out-of-season varieties. And because they are typically sourced locally, they have a smaller carbon footprint due to shorter transportation time and less need for refrigeration or storage.

Go for Reduced Items
The ‘best before’ and ‘sell by’ dates on products are far from an exact science. They may well give some kind of guide about when to eat a product, but the supermarkets themselves largely determine them. The stores will typically reduce the price on items that are close to their best before date, and as long as these are items on your list that you need, go ahead and buy them. They will be good to eat for some time after the printed date. How long will depend upon the type of food, but use you eyes and nose to tell if something is still okay to consume. Alternatively, you can freeze the items and use them when you are ready.

Buy Unprocessed
Processed foods are more expensive than wholefoods. This is because they require more energy, labor and water to put together, often reduce your food billcombining ingredients that have been transported from several different locations to be centrally processed than transported back out to stores, and have more preservatives contained within them. Where possible, purchase unprocessed ingredients and combine them into meals at home. This is also a healthier way to eat.

Buy Unpackaged
The cost of food is also higher if the food is packaged. The costs of fabricating the packaging material and the energy of applying it to the product are factored into the price the customer pays. Wherever possible, go for unpackaged options, such as loose fruit and vegetables rather than those in sealed bags, and meat cut at the deli counter rather than already packaged in cling wrap. Besides reducing your food bill, this also helps prevent more packaging ending up in landfill sites.

43 comments

Firstly, stop shopping.

Can’t make any promises about growing food, as I don’t know where we’ll be living by spring. I’ve made a resolution to cut down on food wastage as much as possible.

Mary

Also many stores which sell “surplus”, discounted food carry organic produce.

Sharon, there are quite a few things you can grow in pots and move with you. I do my tomatoes and herbs that way. Have year-round herbs (bring them inside), and have tomatoes to Christmas.

Grow as much as possible and put it up. Meat from local farmer. Grass feed. Looking for organic dairy to buy milk to Made our own milk products.

Buy at a local greengrocer and butcher.
Cook as much fresh food as possible.
Take our lunches to work every day.
We’ve just started building our own vegie garden.
I work out a weekly menu and buy only what’s on the shopping list.
Keep to a weekly grocery/household budget.

We have 4 4×8 boxes which provide myself and my husband with year round produce (although we live in a temperate part of Canada) through active growing and preservation of our “crops”. Also we have chickens for meat and eggs. We live on a 50×130 foot suburban lot, and I would say we have reduced our food bill by $500 a month in the summer months and $300 a month in winter.
Food is expensive where we live, especially organic meat and produce. Anything we can’t produce here we try to buy in bulk when in season at the farmers market!

I am in the city and turned my front yard into my garden. Who needs it! We have also created mini beds all around the yard so we try to grow lots. We buy lots from the farmers market. I can A LOT. I just finished 17 jars of broth this afternoon. We share a side if beef when we need to restock the freezer. We pick at pick your own farms and freeze A LOT.

if you grow tomatoes in pots, do you have to fretilize extra?

I just need someone to help and work right along side with me to prepare the dirt, I have always grown organic veggies, I do know someone who is very knowledgeable about permaculture, just have to wait for him to return to Canada.

This made me think. Thankyou

Get a bag of organic compost. Spread it on when you plant them. If the plants start looking a little weak, in a gallon of water add a cup of the compost and et set for 48 hours. Then pour on the plant. Works for me.

It is just as effective to buy organic food from those who grow it, as it is to grow it yourself. Everytime you buy organic produce, meat, or eggs at a supermarket, or directly from an organic grower, you are supporting organic farmers.

Come visit us at “Mau Family Produce” we are venders at Hopkins, Maple Grove, Minnetonka and Plymouth farmers markets each week from mid-June through October. We grow excellent vegetables and are proud to offer them to you and your family super fresh!

Lottie Quevedo do you like to garden?

stop eating

I keep getting data base error

LINK IS BROKEN!

while my comment is NOT about food shopping; seems a good place to wonder. You know those boxes or plastic containers of detergents? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a refilling station in a store to refill your soaps? It would save so much energy in manufacturing of additional boxes/bottles/save lots on transportation. So many items could be done this way. So How could we make this happen?

I make my own laundry detergent and refill my plastic containers. You can make 3 gallons for $1. There are many recipes on line. Choose one that works for you.

Thanks Shiri, I’ll look at site later; but still, I think MOST shoppers would choose the easier route of going to the refill station in a store vs. making their own. Especially those who might be working 2 jobs, raising a family at the same time, etc.

Support markets that buy from local sustainable growers.

John Yeo

I have a garden, forage and in the winter Doorganics brings food to my door. It’s actually less expensive than the health food store AND grocery store. And since I don’t have a car is a real boon.

I just made my first pass with the tiller for my organic garden. It will be about 26×37. I need to get tilling more, but I think we are supposed to get rain tomorrow.

I do grow a vegetable garden every year. But I’ve also reduced my food bill by not buying junk food anymore and only eating lean protein, plenty of low carb vegetables, occasionaly a sweet potato or rutabaga, fruit, nuts & seeds and healthy fats. You try to get the most bang for your buck with nutrient dense food.

Way to live, if people would calculate the price per pound of junk food, sodas, and processed foods, often organic homemade really isn’t that costly, then factor in medication and doctor visits.Longevity and great health has no price.

Monsanto boy.

Not moi.

You are so right Steve. You have to look at the WHOLE picture in terms of cost.

Been doing this way before it had a ” name”

We are very lucky to have 90% of our culinary herbs coming up on their own this year, in addition to 25 perennial and annual medicinals, and three kinds of berries. Then we will of course have our veggie garden, 100% heirloom seed, some are 5th generation for us. I was taken aback when we took stock of our garden situation, it does not feel like we had come so far-but it really was easy, starting with one veggie we liked, adding one or two every season, trying new varieties whenever we came across one…Now we produce most of our own veggies, fresh and enough to put up for winter. Easing into it really worked for us. And gardening in itself has improved our overall physical and mental health.

Tomatoes! We grew a good 100 lbs of tomatoes last year, not that many of them made it into the house, but that was a good $169 saved.

I’m already planning a permaculture garden for the back half of my new property!

They even actually mentioned shopping for groceries online! I’m impressed as I seem to get these odd mouth on the floor looks when I say that the UPS man carried my canned goods in for me. 🙂 lol. But I also stuck to my list that way, and saved the gas.

Grow my own organic veggies in a small plot where I get 2 crops in a few beds in the Ohio summer. Still eating what was frozen in 2014. So much fun!! But canning is a mess – except for pickles. 

Karen, I think that’s a GREAT idea! It would be good on the environment too, less manufacturing (like you said) and with people saving their bottles for refilling, there would be less in landfills, plus it should bring the price down! This could be done on laundry products, cleaning products, body products, etc..Somebody make this happen, please! 🙂

Wish I knew where to start to make this happen!!! It would have to start somewhere near the top. Maybe contacting Walmart headquarters, as just one approach. (because they sell more plastic bottled stuff of all). I have their corporate address if interested. :o) Also can be googled.

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