Starting to cook in your first place can be overwhelming, especially before you get very familiar with your grocery store or market. It’s easy to go overboard when food shopping (especially as you figure out how much you actually eat before it goes bad!)…so follow these tips and learn what you should SAVE money on versus what items are worth the SPLURGE.
Many cooking staples stay fresh for months and don’t have much differentiation between fancy brands and cheaper store brands. Try to find good deals, bulk packages (don’t forget to re-seal these!) or store brands for staple items like:
- Pasta, beans, rice, cereal
- Flour, sugar, baking powder / soda
- Salt, pepper, spices
- Condiments, dressings
Specialty items: SPLURGE
If you just LOVE your morning tea or coffee, splurge on a brand you really enjoy. (Your special blend may also inspire you to make your morning coffee at home, rather than stopping at a local coffee bar for their $5 brew!) Same goes with olive oils or any other specialty item that you feel needs to be a good brand. Try to limit these specialty purchased to one per week.
Staple items: SAVE
Legumes, onions, and some fruits are perfect to buy in bulk on sale and keep stored until you need them. Think of these food items as your staples that are easy to use in side dishes or add flavor to your meals. Keep an eye on these as you store them, ensuring that you use them before they go bad (or toss them if you miss the deadline!) Watch for sales/bulk buying for:
- Potatoes, carrots
- Citrus (oranges, lemons, limes)
- Packaged snacks
Meat & fish: SPLURGE
Meat and fish should definitely a splurge as you want to get the best quality that you can afford. Plus, you will likely consume less of it than some of the other common food items, meaning while you splurge, you won’t likely be breaking the budget. Anything you don’t eat before the sell-by date make sure to freeze for later use!
For basic dairy items, such as milk, sour cream or cottage cheese your store brand is fine. If you love a certain yogurt brand that could be your splurge item. We also like to splurge on free-range eggs, but store brand eggs are equally nutritious.
Nothing beats fresh produce! Try to schedule meals around what produce is on season (meaning cheaper in the grocery stores!) and take the opportunity to check out local farmers’ markets for great prices and fresh food as well. Don’t skimp on the quality of your produce, and make sure to wash all of your produce well before eating. That said, produce can add up (especially if you eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, which should be most of us!) so think through your budgeting as you meal prep. Produce also can turn bad quickly, so if you’re unsure if you’ll finish a whole sack of bananas (etc.) try to find smaller portions or skip them altogether.