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7 Ways to Save on Food (Without Sacrificing Quality)

By Barbara Lewis and Jess Novak
June 18, 2024

Food has always been a big part of our budgets — and higher prices over the last few years has made that even more true. But with some strategy, you can save on food expenses and still eat the way you want to. Between shopping smarter and preventing food waste, you may be surprised at just how affordable healthy eating can be.

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1. Keep fresh herbs longer

Buying fresh herbs and having them turn before you can use them up is frustrating, and costly. Extend the life of your herbs — and save on food — by treating them like flowers. (There are plastic herb savers on the market, but you really don’t need them.) Here’s what to do with a bunch of cilantro, parsley, dill, or mint:

  • Wash it and slice a bit off the bottom of the stems
  • Place it in a glass with fresh, cool water, just like cut flowers
  • Put it in the fridge toward the front of a shelf; cover with a plastic food storage bag. Secure with a rubber band to trap the humidity.

This will help your herbs last for up to three weeks. 

Related: 10 Nifty Tricks to Slash Your Grocery Bills in Half, Say Experts

2. Get every drop out of the bottom of the jar (the fun way)

When you’re getting to the end of a container of a sauce or spread, it’s easy to just toss it in the recycling. But consider the easy and delicious ways you can use up that last bit. There’s always mustard stuck to the sides of the jar, even after you’ve scraped it. Make a simple vinaigrette by tossing some chopped shallot, olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper in the jar and shaking it up. The same is true for the last bits of peanut butter: Add some sesame oil and rice wine vinegar to the jar, shake, and you have the base for a great Thai-inspired peanut sauce.  

3. Use up every bit of vegetables and fruit

One of our favorite ways to save on food also prevents waste, so it’s a win-win. Look for ways to use up all the parts of the produce you buy.

Here are a few examples:

  • Lemons: Use both the zest and juice. If you only need the juice, zest the lemons first and freeze it for later
  • Greens from beets, radishes, and turnips: Sauté with garlic and use like spinach
  • Greens from carrots: Make pesto
  • Potato peels: Toss with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, and air fry into “chips” (works with sweet potato, too)
  • Broccoli stems: Spiralize into “noodles,” shred and add to slaw, or slice and roast 

Related: 6 Delicious Ways to Use Inexpensive, Heart-Healthy Canned Fish

4. Freeze even small amounts of produce

Everyone knows about saving food scraps for making stock. But there are many more items you can freeze — and not only can that help you save money, it also can streamline cooking time, too. 

Freeze any of these items:

  • Fresh ginger: Mince and freeze in one-tablespoon portions, then transfer to a freezer bag. Toss it straight from the freezer into your skillet or wok
  • Onion: If you have an onion languishing on your counter, chop it and freeze. On your next busy weeknight, that’s a step saved
  • Brussels sprouts, broccoli, carrots: Chop and freeze any sturdy vegetables, and then just toss into sauces, soups, stir-fries, or other dishes as needed

5. Embrace coupons

You don’t have to hand a cashier a stack of paper coupons anymore. Sign up for loyalty cards at your local grocery store and Google manufacturer coupons to save on food. Utilize sites like Krazy Coupon Lady and Grocery Coupon Network to find discounts on high-end, healthy products. Also, some credit cards offer rewards and cash back for groceries, so if you tend to pay by card, that can be another way to save (as long as you pay off the balance every month).

6. Choose lower-cost proteins

Though many of us are trying to eat more protein these days, it’s easy to spend a lot on the various sources. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are several lower-cost, high-quality protein sources:

  • Eggs: They’re packed with nutrients as well as protein, and they’re an excellent way to stretch your dollar. Even the most expensive ones (we’ve seen them for $9 per dozen in New York City) come out to just over a dollar each, for 6 grams of protein. If you ate 3 at a meal, that’s 18 grams of protein for well under $5. We tend to think of them for breakfast, but they make a great lunch or dinner, too (hello, frittatas
  • Beans and legumes: Lentils, black beans, tofu — they’re inexpensive, versatile, and good sources of both protein and fiber. Combine beans with grains to make sure you get complete protein (i.e., all of the essential amino acids)
  • Canned fish: Tuna is the one we all know best, but canned wild salmon and sardines are also convenient, healthy options
  • Ground meats: Ground beef, turkey, chicken, lamb, and pork tend to be lower-cost options than other cuts. Make burgers or meatballs, or add to sauces or other dishes
  • Less-popular cuts: Buy a whole chicken instead of boneless, skinless breast; braise a beef or pork roast instead of buying steak or chops; ask the person at the fish counter for lesser-known types of fish. You’ll not only save money, you may also discover several new favorite foods

7. Stick to budget-friendly stores

These days, you don’t have to shop at high-end stores to find good produce, organic foods, and other healthy items. Trader Joe’s, Aldi, Target, and other price-conscious outlets have really stepped up their game on the healthy foods front. Costco and online membership-based outlets like Thrive Market are also useful for saving on the foods you want (as well as cleaning supplies and beauty products).

Read next: 6 Healthy Grocery Shopping Hacks Nutritionists Swear By

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