Updated: Mar 18
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, stores are not able to stock shelves. As you enter nearly any store the shelves are bare. Not only are the shelves bare, the prices of what you can actually find are astronomical. You'll find yourself spending more money and bringing home less food. Here are some helpful tips to navigate through this challenge:
1. 2-3 ingredient meals
By shortening the amount of ingredients in each meal you can really be sure to be strategic about what you are buying, using and eating. You can find lots of 2-3 ingredient meals on google, pinterest and other search engines.
2. Shelf Stable Items
Using shelf stable items can help stretch your grocery budget and prevent food waste. A lot of times shelf stable items can be paired with fresh items to create tasty and filling meals that are nutritious. Here are some great shelf stable items that have a long shelf life:
Room Temperature Storage:
Peanut Butter (or other nut butters)
Canned Milk- Evaporated & Condensed
Canned Stocks & Broths
Jams & Jellies
Dried Herbs & Spices
Bottled Salad Dressings (Before Opening)
Dry Salad Dressing Mixes
Drink mixes like Kool-Aid, lemonade, tang etc.
Dry Pancake Mix
Bottled Salad Dressings (After Opening)
Dough ( for pizza, dumplings etc.)
Dry Pancake Mix
3. Meal Fillers
Sometimes the foods we love are so tasty, but they aren't very filling. Here are some ways to bulk up your meals so your tummy can be happy too:
4. Soups & Stews
Soups and Stews are a great way to breakdown expensive ingredients so they last longer. Did you buy a chuck roast? Turn it into beef stew. Left over Chicken? Turn it into Chicken Pot Pie or Chicken Noodle Soup. There are tons of great recipes all over the internet.
5. Meat-Free Days
Meat is usually one of the most expensive ingredients to add. It usually provides protein and can be filling. However, here are lots of meatless dishes that can be added to your weeknight menu such as:
Bean and Cheese Burritos/ Tacos
Alfredo with Brocoli
Spinach & Lasagna Roll Ups
Be sure to look up dishes where you can swap meat out.
Just because there are food shortages, does not mean that you need to lack flavor. There are lots of ways to make a dish sing. Here are some options below:
Herbs & Spices:
Chicken Bouillon Cubes
Beef Bouillon Cubes
Pro tip- If you have an abundance of fresh herbs, you can put the herbs in an ice tray, then fill the rest of the ice tray with oil (such as olive oil) you can freeze to preserve the life of the herbs. Place cubed herb & oil in plastic bag. These frozen cubes can be used in pans, crock pots, instant pots etc.
Sauces & Condiments:
Jams & Jellies
*Note: Most salad dressings & Marinades can be made with the above ingredients. Marinades and Salad Dressings are a great way to increase flavor.
7. Make things homemade
While modern conveniences have made life easier with pre-made sauces, frozen meals, baked goods etc., all of these can be made at home if need be. You may not be able to find a jar of your favorite marinara sauce, but you can find a can of tomatoes and make your own variation using herbs or spices you have at home. If you typically buy mini muffins, you easily make these with basic baking ingredients. Use Cookbooks, use the internet, use any recipe you find! Find what works!
*Rule of 3-
1st time you make something is to find out if you like the flavor and figure out what adjustments you would make
2nd time you make adjustments & figure out flavor profile (this also helps you organize better and timing set)
3rd time you enjoy
*Just keep practicing, the more you make things homemade the better your food gets.
Easy things to make homemade:
Jellies & Jams
While the internet has plenty of amazing recipes for free, using cookbooks could get you a variety of great recipes.
Better Home & Gardens: Has everything from cooking, baking to measurement conversions, substitutes etc. The Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book has been an American favorite since 1930, selling 40 million copies through fourteen editions.
Half Price Books: Find some favorite, well loved cook books at a discount store like Half Price Books. There are unique finds, great recipes and you can tell how much it was loved by the condition of the book.
Library: Using your library card check out cookbooks. You can also attend cooking classes at the Northeast Library. Or download the Libby app and check out a cookbook.
It's no secret that the produce section is one of the most expensive areas of the grocery store. Growing your own fruits, vegetables and herbs is a great way to cut down on expenses. When you have collected your harvest, you can can or freeze for extras. If you have too much of something and not enough storage space, you can donate to food pantries.
Do you live in an apartment or a condo where you don't have land to garden? Check out some of the local community gardens where you can pay a small fee to rent out an area to garden.
10. Food Pantries, Food Banks & Soup Kitchens
Go check out the food banks and food pantries and soup kitchens. These places get government funding with your tax dollars amongst donations all the time. Don't forget that if these items don't get used, they go bad. If you need help, please go get help.
Talk with the people around you
Local Social Media such as Facebook Groups
Talk about what is available, what you've seen, what you've picked up, ask what others need, splitting something
12. Farmer's Markets
By supporting local farmers markets you can enjoy in season produce grown locally, support small business, protect the environment, find variety and connect with your community. By exploring all that your farmers markets have to offer, you can enjoy locally made jams, salsas, soaps, amongst dairy and produce. It's also a great way to get your kids excited about trying new things and letting them pick out items.
13. Local Butchers
Local butchers offer a wide variety of selection. The quality is so fresh and not pumped full of steroids and antibiotics (compared to some supermarkets). As far as cost goes, buying meat from the butcher can be just as affordable as buying from the grocery store. Your butcher might be able to suggest alternative cuts of meat that can save you money without sacrificing flavor. Local shops also often run sales or specials that can help you save. And with higher quality overall, butcher meat lets you get more bang for your buck. Networking with friends or family to split bulk items from the butcher and freezing extras is a great way to ensure you have meat for a ling time.
14. Locally Owned Grocery Stores
Locally owned grocery stores are great for supporting local farmers, getting fresher meat & produce and exploring variety. Because a lot of the food comes from local sources, they don't have to wait for big trucks coming from out of state for the majority of the products sold.
15. Discount Stores
A lot of discount stores offer shelf stable items for a much cheaper rate than you can find at most grocery stores. Just make sure to check expiration dates.
Offer smaller variations of brand name products