Good food is essential for your family’s health and well-being, but with clever management, you can often save money, and still eat as well, or even better.
With knowledge of food values you can spend the money available to the best purpose. This is especially important if your food budget is limited.
Seek advice from your family doctor or State health department as to what constitutes a balanced diet. Your health department will supply free pamphlets on nutrition including suggestions for budget meals and school lunches.
Milk is a big item for most families, but you can cut costs by using some powdered milk (whole or skim), particularly in cooking. Dried skim milk is the cheapest source of complete protein and calcium in this country. It contains all the important constituents of whole milk except the fat and fat-soluble vitamins.
High-priced meat can take a big slice of the food budget, so become familiar with the cheaper cuts and what you can do with them. They are just as nutritious. When the meat is dear, serve more fish, egg, cheese, and bean dishes.
Citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, etc.) and tomatoes are an important source of vitamin C. Grow some in your garden, if possible.
Plan Your Meals
Planning meals not only helps you to provide your family with suitable and varied food; it enables you to stretch the food budget by balancing a more expensive cut of meat, a roast, for instance, against a cheaper cut or a meat substitute such as macaroni cheese.
Make a food shopping list, using your planned menus as a guide, but be prepared to change the choice of fruit, vegetables, or meat according to the price.
Cheapest fresh fruits and vegetables are those in season. Take advantage of gluts and don’t buy the first of the crop; prices usually fall as the supply increases.
Consider how you intend to use certain foods. Don’t pay for appearance when all you need is flavor. Example: don’t buy expensive red salmon for a fish dish when cheaper pink salmon or tuna will do just as well.
When comparing prices, calculate cost per serving rather than price per pound. Foods with fat or bone are often less economical than they seem. Whole fish is cheaper than filleted but gives fewer servings to the pound because of wastage in the head and bones.
Check the food ads in the newspapers, comparing prices in various stores. Newspapers, and also radio and TV stations, often give news of food prices and good “buys.”
Compare prices of different forms of the same food – fresh, canned, frozen, or dried. Frozen peas (without pods) could work out cheaper than fresh. When oranges are scarce and dear it could pay you to use canned or frozen juice.
Fish vary in price more than meat, so watch prices to take full advantage of a sudden fall.
Shop for food in person whenever possible. Children can be sent to buy standard lines but it is better to shop yourself to judge values and prices.
Decide how much convenience foods mean to you versus their generally higher cost. If you are watching cents don’t overdo them.
Read weight or fluid contents on packets, cans, and jars. The biggest pack doesn’t necessarily contain more, but it may cost you more for its extra packaging. Watch that you are not paying extra just for a fancy pack.
Take full advantage of such staple “specials” like sugar, instant coffee, tinned milk and fruit, biscuits, and so on – but be wary of “fancy” specials.
Buy quantities of food in terms of meals. Leftovers that won’t go round a second time are often wasted. It is a good idea, however, to plan deliberately to cook enough stewed meat, fruit, or dessert to serve twice (saves fuel).
Never hesitate to ask for small quantities of perishable foods if that is all you need; don’t automatically buy several items because that is the way they are priced. Overbuying usually means waste.
You can save money by buying in quantity, but only do so if you have proper storage or can make full use of the goods; otherwise you’ll waste them and so cancel the saving.
Look in the refrigerator, the kitchen cupboards, the bread bin before you go shopping, not only to be sure you don’t forget anything but to avoid buying something you have already.
Use all the food you pay for. Meat trimmings and bones can be used for soups and gravy; fat can be melted down and used for frying. Use outside leaves of cabbage, celery, even lettuce, in the soup.
Use surplus juice from canned or stewed fruits in jellies, gelatin desserts, and sweet sauces. Make jellies from pineapple or apple skins and cores boiled in water and sugar, and gelatin.
Use stale bread in puddings, or bake in the oven for rusks or breadcrumbs.
Serve food at the table instead of on prearranged plates. You can then apportion individual servings according to appetites.
Buy small-size apples, bananas, and other fruit for children’s school lunches unless you are sure they will eat the larger size, not throw half of it away.
Store food correctly so that it doesn’t go bad before you can use it. Use leftovers quickly; bring old stocks to the front of the cupboards.
Cereals and flour may become infested with weevils in early spring and summer, so it is not advisable to keep large stocks on hand at these times.
10 Golden Shopping Rules
- PLAN your shopping, whether it’s the groceries for one week or the major items you’ll need during the year; e.g., a household appliance, a carpet, blankets. By knowing what you need you can shop around, compare prices, take advantage of sales.
- BEFORE you decide on a major purchase, find out its cost, then compare it with the amount you can afford. You might decide a cheaper substitute will do; e.g., a second-hand settee you can re-cover yourself instead of a new one.
- COMPARE prices at different stores, especially for major purchases. Read labels, inquire about guarantees. Does the manufacturer or the store provide free after-sales service, and for how long? Will it replace unsatisfactory goods? Check, too, on hidden charges; e.g., for delivery or installation.
- EXAMINE goods before buying. Is the furniture well made? Are fabrics colorfast? Will the lower price of “seconds” outweigh the flaws?
- TAKE advantage of seasonal sales and specials but only within your budget plans. It’s good to be bargain-conscious, but remember that something you don’t need, no matter how cheap, is costing money you could spend to better purpose.
- SHOP at stores that have a reputation for good value and fair prices. Never make a major purchase from a firm you know little about no matter what their ads promise.
- DON’T carry more money than you plan to spend. You’ll be tempted to spend the extra, perhaps on things, you will later regret.
- BE WARY of door-to-door salesmen. Some, of course, are genuine, but many will try to high-pressure you into buying things you can’t afford.
- ASK yourself – whatever your income or whatever the item: Do I need it? Is it worth the money? Have I considered alternatives? CAN I AFFORD IT?
- REWARD yourself occasionally for your thrifty shopping with some tiny luxury. You deserve it.