Cut Your Grocery Bill Right Now

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A little effort and planning can yield a bigger-than-expected payoff when you’re trying to trim your food budget.

Kiplinger offers” target=”_blank”>15 Ways to Save Money on Food, including the extremely obvious (cook your own meals), some solid advice that always seems difficult to pull off efficiently (planning and shopping for an entire week’s meals in advance), the down-n-dirty cheap (utilize salvage grocery stores), and the evergreen (buy foods in season, when they’re less expensive).

Considering how much money some consumers spend on food, someone should teach on old-fashioned cooking good, inexpensive meals at home. In fact, someone does: Chef Karen Eddy, who teaches an adult education course called “Save Money with Home Cooking.” She was profiled recently in the Boston Herald, where she described some of the basics she teaches in her one-day course, such as roasting a chicken:

“This is stuff their grandmother did, not something their mother even did. When they taste it, it’s almost like they’ve never had it before,” said Eddy. “People don’t know how to roast a chicken anymore. Learning how to roast a chicken and cut up the vegetables, take all the meat off of it, make that into a salad or a wrap or put it in a sandwich as lunch the next day.”

One of her favorite tips for saving money is menu planning that includes using leftovers. Multiserving casseroles are other dishes she recommends, especially for the amateur chef who may be put off by lots of cleanup. And the slow-cooker is making a huge resurgence.

“It’s one of those things that everyone just seems to have,” said Eddy. “It’s a great way to use the inexpensive cuts of meat. . . . Chili, pot roast, that stuff’s all coming back into fashion.”

Finally, one very easy way to save on groceries is by foregoing “convenience foods,” as The Simple Dollar calls them. You know, goods that are pre-sliced and/or pre-washed for you. Sure, they save you a little time, but when you look at the numbers, they cost a lot more than you’d guess. How much? Two examples:

Apple slices? I found apples I like at the store for $1.29 a pound, whereas pre-sliced apples added up to $4.76 a pound (I found four four-ounce bags of them for $1.19 each). I have a nice little apple slicer, so I’m able to slice up a few apples at dinnertime and completely clean up from it in about thirty seconds. My estimate on this is that buying un-cut apples saves me about $80 for every hour of apple-slicing I’m willing to do.

Celery sticks? I can buy a bag of celery for $1.49 or I can buy about three containers of pre-sliced sticks for $1.99 each. I spend about four minutes cutting the sticks and it saves me $3.47 – or about $52 over the course of a full hour.