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Cooking more while at home during the pandemic? Us too. For many of us, all this time at home means more home-cooked meals and a much higher grocery bill than we're used to, as well as huge increases on our utility bills.
That's why we checked in with personal finance and frugal living expert Lauren Greutman. She's sharing three easy ways you can save money on food and actually lower your grocery bill if it's gone up significantly amid the pandemic.
1. Buy Meat 2-3 Days Before Expiration Date To Save Up To 70%
"The big place where we're seeing a huge increase right now is on meat prices," Lauren says. According to the personal finance expert, this is because a lot of people have a shortage in labor for delivering food to stores.
Lauren suggests calling your local grocery store and asking for the expiration date on the meat they are putting out. "Grocery stores are going to discount the meat prices two or three days before they expire," she says. If you go in a few days before that date, you can find meat that is discounted by 50 to 70%, according to Lauren.
Buy it at this price in bulk and then freeze it, because as she points out, "this meat is still good in the freezer for up to three months." You can also make freezer meals with the meat to save both time and money. Genius!
2. Buy More Seafood — Prices Are Actually Lower!
One thing that has not gone up in price, but is actually a little cheaper is seafood, Lauren says. If you like seafood but you don't normally cook it at home, this might be a good alternative to meat. The reason seafood is cheaper right now is because there is not a shortage and most seafood is shipped frozen, so it lasts longer and requires less deliveries, the personal finance expert explains.
"A lot of times people are really stuck in what they like to cook, so they just go [grocery shopping] and they're on autopilot. I challenge people to go and buy some different things. Maybe switch to seafood a couple nights a week," Laren says. "Change up the meats that they like, eat the meats that they can find on clearance to really keep that meat budget low."
3. Know What To Buy At Dollar Stores (+ What To Skip)
When it comes to pantry staples, make sure you know what you already have on hand. "I do like reverse meal planning. I start with what I have and plan meals with those and then I fill in the blanks," Lauren says. "I have on my fridge [a list of] the food that I have [inside and] in my freezer and that's how I start planning what I'm going to eat."
For restocking many of your staple items, a dollar store is going to give you the best bang for your buck right now, according to Lauren.
Best Dollar Store Buys:
- Anything frozen
Things To Avoid Buying At Dollar Stores:
- Fresh meat
- Baking mixes
"Be careful when buying baking mixes at discount stores, because what they do is have it in the same box and branding, but the quantity inside is much smaller," Lauren warns.
For more advice from Lauren on how to save money while we're all spending more time at home, check out 4 Simple Changes You Can Make Right Now To Save Money On Your Utility Bills.