©iStockphoto.com/Joshua Hodge Credits: ©iStockphoto.com/Joshua Hodge
1. Eat less meat, fish and poultry
That's the obvious first step in cutting the grocery bill down to size. Our barnyard buddies are not the only place to find protein. Open your mind to tofu, nuts and legumes, the latter of which cost pennies a pound and deliver fantastic, fat-free flavour, fibre and nutrition. Eating less fish and animals is good for your body, the planet and your bottom line.
2. Buy on sale and in bulk
Track sales at your grocery store, butcher or fish shop and when there's a great sale, buy a whole lot and freeze. Most proteins, if packed airtight, can last in good condition for about three months in the freezer.
3. Save money by buying it in whole
Go whole hog or chicken. Buying the whole animal and breaking it down at home will save you money. Instead of just picking up chicken pieces, for instance, buy the whole bird, break it down yourself, discard the skin if you don't want to eat it, and save the bones for soup.
4. Buy direct
Skipping the middleman is always a great way to save. Many farmers offer direct sales to the public; some even offer delivery right to your door, while others will co-ordinate a drop stop with you and other buyers. Try a web search or visit your local farmers' market and ask around. Don't be deterred by the minimum order sizes -- just get together with family, friends and neighbours to form a buying club.
5. Sign up for a CSA
Community-supported agriculture is akin to a magazine subscription, in that you pay up front for, say, a year's worth of produce or meats from a grower or farmer. Every week or two, a box of goodies is assembled for you. You may have to pick it up or it may be delivered right to your door. Either way, you are buying direct, so saving, and if you aren't tempted to shop outside your box, so to speak, it's a great way to stick to a budget.
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6. Go for the odd meat cuts
If we asked you to name as many cuts of beef as you could, what would you list? Tenderloin, rib eye, strip, prime rib and ground? For decades those were the only cuts available in the grocery store. But now we're seeing more and more of the odd bits. If you have yet to try skirt, flank, shank, shoulder, cheek or tail, it's time that you did. These cuts are flavourful, tend to be better marbled and are often dirt cheap.
7. Don't avoid the discount meat and poultry
We know, marked-down meat and poultry seems kind of creepy, but don't let that stop you. Just be smart about it. Read the best-before date or date that the meat was packaged and if it isn't that far from the day you're shopping, don't worry. Remember, you're going to cook this stuff up, but do it as soon as you get home. If you can't cook it the same day, open it up, rinse it off in cold water, repackage it in an airtight container and freeze.
8. Don't waste food
You've paid for every part of that chicken or rib roast, so why not use it all? Turn leftovers into lunches and bones into soups. Scraps can go to Fido. If you visit your butcher or fish shop, you can ask them to save you bones and heads to make fantastic stocks. They will cost you mere pennies -- and some butchers give the stuff away to their best customers.
9. Go fishing
Not only is fishing loads of fun, it's a way to ensure freshness and experience the connection between us and our food. There are also trout farms that offer catch-your-own.
10. Try other markets
It really doesn't matter what you're shopping for, if you want a deal, visit the multicultural markets in your area. Not only will you find some lower prices, you may even be inspired to try something new. Different cuisines prize different parts of the animal and different creatures from the sea.
The world's population is growing and just about everyone wants some animal protein, but it's costly to convert grass, grain or feed pellets into meat and fish. Any way you slice it, buying meat and seafood is expensive and only going to become more so. Start cutting back and make the mental shift from "meat equals meal," then look for creative ways to save.
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