Grocery prices are on the rise

Plan before the store to save money on groceries.

Does it seem like the cost of groceries has increased? According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Official Food Plans, the monthly cost of food for a family of four on a low-cost eating plan has increased by about two percent from one year ago. If you haven’t had a similar raise in your income, this means less money for other expenses. So what can you do to help keep the cost of food for your family within your budget?

If you have a budget, you will know how much money you have available to spend on food for your family. Michigan State University Extension recommends planning your families’ meals ahead of time and then making a grocery list. A menu plan will help avoid frequent trips to the grocery store, picking up takeout meals and eating in restaurants because you will know ahead of time what you will be eating each day and be prepared with the ingredients on hand to make those meals. Plan for how you will use leftovers, too. Leftovers can make a great lunch for the next day or can be used to make another different meal. For example, if you have roast beef for dinner, plan to use the leftovers for vegetable beef soup or hot beef sandwiches the next day.

Buy fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season. Right now apples, potatoes, carrots and squash are a few of the fruits and vegetables that are in season. Check out the USDA’s seasonal produce guide to see what other fruits and vegetables are in season right now. Be sure to buy only enough produce that your family can eat before it spoils, otherwise it’s a waste of money.

Check your cupboard and refrigerator/freezer when you are planning your menu. Use the foods you already have on hand in your menu. For example, if you have ground beef in the freezer, you can plan to have spaghetti or sloppy joes. If you have a lot of rice, you could plan for a stir fry with rice or have rice pudding for dessert.

Use online tools like the USDA Recipe Finder to get ideas for low-cost, healthy foods you can prepare for your family. Other online resources can be helpful too, but look for easy to make recipes with ingredients you have on hand or can obtain inexpensively from your local grocery store.

Look for bargains on foods that you normally purchase while you are shopping. For example, if you find a good deal on canned tomatoes, purchase a few extra cans if you can afford to, and then you will have them on hand for future meals.

Take your groceries home immediately after shopping and store them properly. It has been reported in a study by the University of Arizona that households throw away about $600 worth of food every year. The USDA has more ideas for saving money on meals and eating healthy on the website “Healthy Eating on a Budget.”

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