Chef Big Shake dishes up advice on how to keep the bill down and the affordable meals tasty.
One trip to the grocery store to do the week’s shopping, and it’s clear to see inflation in action. The price of just about every item has risen, some by a little and others by quite a bit. The final bill asks for a total above what a family is used to spending on groceries. Now is when families need to get serious about shopping smart and choosing recipes that will stretch their dollars further. The good news is that this can be done with a bit of effort, and people will still be eating well at every meal.
“Everyone is feeling the pinch of the higher prices at the grocery store and everywhere else,” explains Shawn Davis, otherwise known as Chef Big Shake, owner of Big Shake’s restaurants. “We have to take steps to keep the bill down and still be able to enjoy the food we eat. It can be done, and I’m happy to offer tips on how to make it happen.”
According to the latest Consumer Price Index Summary issued by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, compared to a year ago, people pay around 7.4% more for groceries and 6.4% more for takeout food. While the cost of food has been steadily rising, this represents the most significant increase since July 1981. Prices are expected to continue to increase as gas prices continue to rise.
Here are some ways families can save money on food for the family:
- Plan the meals ahead of time each week. Make a list of what meals will be made that week and a grocery list of the ingredients needed to make them. Before making the grocery list, take a look in the pantry and freezer to see what can be used to make meals that week.
- Use the sales flyers to help determine the weekly meals purchasing things on sale. Watch for special deals on items that will be used that week or the next.
- Stick to the grocery list when doing the shopping. It’s easy to be enticed by all the things at the store, but adding just a few of them to the cart will push the bill up past the budget.
- Download an instant rebate app, such as ibotta, and watch for items that offer an instant rebate. The funds can be transferred to a Paypal account or added to a gift card. After shopping, upload the receipt to get instant savings.
- Choose budget-friendly meals. Now is a good time to incorporate more plant-based meals in the weekly rotation because they are typically cheaper to make. Rather than opting for just Meatless Monday, include a second day that the family eats meatless each week, too.
- When shopping, be sure to check generic brands. Compare the labels to ensure that the products are similar and the ingredients list passes the family standards, and if so, give them a try. Generic brands are often equal in taste but save money.
- Reducing food waste is an excellent way to save money, and it’s better for the planet. Purchase produce at the farmer’s market, if possible, or buy what is on sale at the store. If it’s not being used right away, wash and freeze it for future use.
- Save any dinner leftovers to eat in the next day or two, or freeze them to eat at another time. If there are leftovers each night, plan one night during the week that will be a meal of using up all the leftovers.
- Consider shopping at a different store to try and save money on the weekly shopping. Doing a quick comparison of what store has the best prices in the area may save money each week.
- If bringing the kids along to shop tends to push the bill up because they ask for items not on the grocery list, consider shopping alone or trying curbside pickup. A few items per week are added by the kids as impulse purchases will add up quickly.
“Even if you feel you can’t implement all of these tips, just adding in a few will help to save money on food each week,” added Davis. “We still need to eat, but there’s no reason why we can’t sit down and plan things out a bit so that we save during this period of high inflation.”
Here are some inflation-busting recipes for the family to try:
Black Bean Cilantro Soup with White Lime Cilantro Rice
Feeds family of 4
Black Beans 1lb $1.49
1 Lime .69 cents
Diced onion 1 whole yellow onion $1.29
1 Avocado Sliced $1.59
Green onion $.99
1 lb white rice $1.19
Corn Tortilla Chips for dipping. $.99
Cabbage & Turkey Sausage / with cornbread
Total Cost $6.43
2 Head of cabbage $2.46 a head
Butterball 13oz turkey sausage $2.72
Cornbread Mix complete $1.25
Mushroom Chicken & Rice with Peas/Carrots
Total cost $7.38
Chicken thighs 2.50lbs $3.96
1 can cream of mushroom soup $1.26
1 Lb white rice $1.38
1 Can of carrots and peas medley .78
Spaghetti and Meat Sauce
Total cost $7.14
1 Pound of linguine $1.48
Jar of marinara $1.78 for 24oz
Ground chuck $3.88 per pound
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Consumer Price Index Summary. March 10, 2022. https://www.bls.gov/