We bring to you 5 easy-to-follow ideas to save money on your grocery budget and still eat healthy and flavorful food. Put them to the test, we guarantee that the results will show at the end of the month.
In times of crisis and financial woes (which may come at any or all times), we look for ways to spend less money on food. We bring to you some great money-saving ideas for feeding yourself or your family on a budget and still eating healthy and flavorful food.
As a historically disadvantaged country, Dominican cuisine is full of home-cooked meals that satisfy, and don't break the bank, so we are experts of sorts on stretching food budgets.
If you ever asked yourself "what should I eat to save money?", or "How do I save money on groceries" I have these simple straightforward ideas that will help you save money cooking at home and food shopping on a budget.
1. Make a shopping list
Planning your meals for the week is where it all starts. Meal prep by writing down the week's menu and making a list of the ingredients that you will need.
Do check that you don't have in your kitchen what you've listed before heading for the grocery shop, sometimes we forget what's in the cupboard. Don't go shopping when you're hungry and you will be more likely to stick to your shopping list.
Consider buying store-brand products. There's a lot of savings in doing that, and in my experience, there's often no difference between those and more expensive brands.
If this is accessible to you, it may be advantageous to shop online (check prices!). I find that I stick to my budget and list much more easily when I don't shop in person, and get seduced by things I didn't know I "needed".
Sometimes the savings from buying in person are offset by the cost of transport and our own time too.
2. Buy bulk
Some items don't spoil with time. Those are worth buying in bulk. Toiletries and some foods can be bought from distributors at a discount price, and easily stored. With prices changing you will be consuming today's meals at yesterday's price.
However, there is an exception: I prefer to make frequent trips to the grocery store to buy perishables (milk, cheeses, vegetables), as they don't last very long in the fridge, and are a huge source of food waste.
We're a small family, so if I am able to, I prefer to buy things in small quantities to prevent waste. I prefer frozen to canned veggies, as they may be more nutritious, and I only use what I need and leave the rest frozen.
Food items and groceries that you can buy in bulk
- Rice and grains
- Dry beans and pulses
- Pasta and noodles
- Canned goods and foods in jars
- Some spices
3. Do it yourself
Sure it's easier to use chicken stock or seasonings cubes, but try this: Buy a whole chicken, use the meat in your meals, and with the bones and our recipe (see list below) make your own broth! We also have a vegetable broth recipe. Pour the liquid into an ice cube tray and refrigerate. It is healthier and much cheaper.
If you have some vegetables (onions, garlic, peppers), herbs, and some spices, make your own sazón (seasoning, recipe below), and refrigerate or freeze.
Don't ever buy bread crumbs or panko again, use our recipe to save old bread from the trash bin.
Also, save money on food by learning how to prepare your favorite dishes and prepare them at home. Cooking good food at home is essential when on a budget: Leave eating out for special occasions!
Homemade foods to save money
- Chicken broth
- Vegetable broth
- Homemade tomato sauce
- Seasoning and sofrito
- Rub / seasoning powder
- Savory peanut butter
- Spicy sauce / spicy vinegar
- Homemade breadcrumbs and panko
- Bija / annato oil
- ... more seasonings and condiments made at home
4. Reuse leftovers
You don't need to start every meal from scratch. Use leftovers to prepare or complete other meals for the week.
Leftover ground beef and veggies will make an excellent filling for a pastelón (casserole) or can be made into empanadas. Leftover meats and veggies can be added to a soup for a quick, uncomplicated meal, or to a plate of spaghetti if suitable.
It's better to cook arroz blanco (white rice) in big batches and freeze every day's serving, which will save time and gas or electricity. The same goes for boiling dry beans and pulses. They freeze really well after being cooked and are, in fact, something we've done at home forever, there's certainly no need to cook them from scratch every time.
Use vegetable "fillers" when cooking meat (carrots, mushrooms, broccoli, eggplant, chayote, etc.) for extra volume, and to boost its flavor. Remember that a portion of meat is equivalent to the size of a deck of cards, much less than we usually eat.
Don't waste your money on freezer bags! Get a set of glass freezer-safe containers, they have the extra advantages that you can use them for serving, and they are environmentally friendly!
Recipes to save money
You can reuse leftover foods to make these flavorful money-saving meals:
- Reuse leftover rice to make this Yellow rice
- Make Minced beef with Vegetables and reuse the leftovers
- Use leftover rice to make Chofán (Fried Rice)
- Use leftover day-old bread in this Bread Pudding
- Make Bread "Flan" with leftover day-old bread
- Use leftover chicken to make this chicken dip
- This colorful salad is made with leftover rice
5. Eat well
Funny enough, the most expensive foods usually are the ones the doctors warn us about. Vegetables, good fats, and protein fill you up, are more nutritious, and may even be cheaper than processed foods. Instead of a snack in a bag, why not eat an orange, or a boiled egg, or a slice of cheese, or a small portion of whatever leftovers you have?
Minding what we eat is even more important when feeding your children. Serve smaller portions, your waist will thank you. An extra advantage of eating real food: getting sick is really expensive! Save your money and sanity by eating the best food you can, and this does in no way mean "the most expensive".
Add years to your calendar and $ to your pockets.