Here is a list of some of the strategies that can provide significant food savings to the household:
Reduce or eliminate food waste. Shop smarter, smaller and more often. The 2kg bag of cherries you bought from Costco is not a great buy if 20% go bad. It is estimated that the average Canadian household wastes 30-40% of the groceries they purchase. There are big savings in reducing or eliminating waste. You are the generator and you have control over this.
- There are many ways to help make your food last longer (not going bad). Knowing how to store food properly can really help in reducing food waste. Search the internet for information and resources on how best to store items.
- If a food becomes inedible please compost and convert that waste into a benefit to your garden.
Buy bulk. Major savings can be found in this section of the store. A few years ago I wanted to show an example of how much people can save in bulk and opened a can of garbanzo/chickpeas and counted out the number of peas. I then counted out the same number of dried peas from the bulk bins, weighed them and priced them out. The can of beans cost $2.59 and the bulk beans cost 68 cents. A savings of 74%. I did the same for a popular item called Holy Crap (see my blogpost) with similar saving available.
- At Earth’s General Store we encourage you to reduce waste by providing a 5 cent reward for reusing items to refill your bulk items. So for every bag, plastic container, Mason jar, tin can or whatever you use to refill items from the store with we reward you with 5 cents for each one. This is a win for the environment and your wallet.
- Herbs, teas, spices, sprouting seeds are of REALLY good value when you purchase in bulk. In many cases making them less expensive than non-organic (savings of usually 25-45%).
Buy Bulk in bulk. Some stores give a discount for items you purchase in bulk quantities – a full case of canned corn, a whole sack of rolled oats, etc. You might want to share some of these purchases with some people you know so you don’t have a storage problem or… generate waste by it going off before you use it up.
- Earth’s General Store offers a 5% discount when you order in and purchase bulk in bulk. Some other stores offer 10% off but we have been told that the resulting final price that a person pays is less at our store even though the other stores’ discount is twice as much. That is because their regular retail price is more.
Take your own grocery bags. Most stores charge you a small fee for their single-use shopping bag. This fee adds to your grocery cost. You can eliminate this extra cost by taking your own reusable shopping bags, boxes, or some other container. Even if they don’t charge you for these bags you can help reduce the costs to the company so they don’t have to raise their prices to cover these “free” bags and you can help reduce plastic pollution.
Check out this short video on plastic bag pollution.
Reduce the amount of animal products in your shopping cart. Pound for pound they tend to be the most expensive items in your shopping cart.
Grow your own. Grow items you like, you use in the kitchen and are expensive to purchase – tomatoes, basil/herbs, peas, etc.
Learn how to preserve/process food. If you have a garden, it is unlikely that you can eat all the produce that it can ripen in the fall.
Plan your menu. If you plan your menu you will be able to adjust to the items in season and usually for less money. It will also help cut down on impulse purchases.
Left Overs. Eat your leftovers for lunch the next day or use them in another recipe. Leftover pasta can be put into a casserole or soup.
Shop sale days and stock up on items that can be stored for a longer time – canned, bottled, processed (the stuff in boxes like cereal), toilet paper, etc. Most stores have sale days.
- Many stores have sale days and they are great days to pick up items that are shelf-stable – like beans, canned goods, etc.
U-Pick/Pick your own farms. This is a great opportunity to connect with a farming/growing operation and how much work goes into growing and picking the produce (strawberries, raspberries, apples, etc). Since you are going to have a large amount of produce you need to learn how to process it so that it can be preserved and eventually eaten.
Reduce/eliminate empty calorie foods. This includes chips, soda, highly processed foods.
Skip the bottled water. This is not only a waste of money (about 400 times what that same amount of water would cost you out of your tap) but also an incredible waste of resources and a major generator of waste. If you feel you need to drink filtered water purchase a good filter for your home or purchase the 20L bottles and refill your glass or travel bottle from that. You will save significant amounts of money.
Walk or bicycle to the store. This is good for your health and will help to cut down on impulse buying since you will have a limited amount of space to carry your purchases. You will also be saving the cost of the fuel to get you to the store and back.
Reduce impulse purchases. Quite often these are overpriced, over-processed items. Give them a pass.
Purchase organic what is important to you. If your food budget doesn’t let you purchase everything you would like to purchase as organic focus where you have your most concerns. Meat and animal products (butter, yogurt, eggs, and milk) will have the highest concentrations of pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones, GMOs, etc in them while items like oats much less so (no GMO oats yet and they wouldn’t use hormones in oats).
- Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen. Environmental Working Group produces a list of vegetables and fruits to help you decide which items are best to consume organic and which ones might be okay to purchase that are grown non-organically. A very good resource.
Save money on your eating-out budget. Make and take your own food for lunch. You know what went into it. Beverages make up a significant amount of eating out. Try to avoid the soda, coffee or tea with your meal. If your sandwich is $5-$10 and your beverage is $3-$5 that is a significant percentage. Take your own water bottle (reusable and from your tap, home filter or larger bottle at home) or drink in your own a thermos.
- some places will give you a discount for taking your own container and drinking cup (7-11 you save 50 cents off on their coffee).
Dumpster dive. Yes, there is lots of food out there that is tossed out. The other week a customer of ours picked 5 cases of bananas out of the dumpster at Planet Organic and put them out in front of our store for people to take away for free. I love this. Several people I know supplement their food budget by dumpster diving.
- There are a couple of good documentaries on this subject –Dive and Just Eat It.
- At Earth’s General Store we don’t put any food into the dumpster. Our process is – discount, free to staff/customers, and finally compost/chicken/goat food.
Organic food is a niche market. Organic food is very often more expensive than non-organic foods – though not always. Most people purchase organic foods because they perceive it as healthier for them and healthier for the planet and the workers in the field. I believe this wholeheartedly.
I believe you can eat good food, organic food and still have a reasonable food bill. Cheap food can be expensive food – expensive for our health, the planet, and for the workers.
Now that you have saved some money what are you going to invest it in? Every saved dollar will eventually become a spent dollar and I believe it is our responsibility to spend/invest our money to support the world we wish to live in now and for our future generations.
Buy what you need, Eat What you Buy, Respect!