Stock up for real savings on ‘real’ food

Just because you’re cutting coupons doesn’t mean you have to feed your family junk.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s easier to feed them packaged and processed foods, and really, there’s a time and place for that. I’m not judging. But there are ways to save money while buying fresh produce and meat.

Here are a few that work for me:

Invest in a stand-alone freezer. Then, when meat or produce go on sale you can buy in bulk and stockpile. I also stock up on manager’s special meat that’s nearing its “sell-by” date. Once frozen, meat will last a long time. I always check the manager’s special area of my store, even if I know we don’t need anything. That way I keep my freezer well-stocked.

Consider purchasing an entire cow or other whole animal. This is a great way to support local farmers and often you can get beef for less than what you would pay in the store. If this is something that interests you, go to picktnproducts.org to find a farm.

Don’t pay for pre-cut, sliced, cooked, processed, or otherwise packaged versions of meat or produce. You can shape your own burgers and slice your own fruit. The only exception to this is if you find something on manager’s special that costs less than the original version. For example, Chiquita Bites pre-sliced apples often go on manager’s special at Kroger the day before their sell-by date for less than unsliced apples. I’ll buy them if I know we can eat them that day.

When produce is sold per item (instead of per pound) make sure you weigh it to get the most for your money. Also, when it is sold per bag, weigh it to make sure you’re actually getting what is being advertised.

Consider growing your own fruits and vegetables or buying from a farmer’s market. Often farmer’s market prices are lower than stores since you’re buying directly from the grower. When growing your own consider teaming up with a friend for a fruit or vegetable swap. You can grow tomatoes and then swap half with a friend who is growing squash. I have friends and family who are taking this a step further and are roasting their own coffee beans or raising their own bees for honey.

Consider visiting “pick-your-own” farms that offer great prices on things like strawberries and blueberries. It doubles as a field trip for kids. Pick a lot while they’re in season and freeze your surplus for later. For a list of locations visit pickyourown.org.

If you are trying to buy more organic produce, start with foods that have external edible parts, like apples or blueberries, and buy non-organic versions of things you peel, like bananas and oranges.

Eat what is on sale and what is in season. Plan family meals around the meats and produce that are on sale for the week.

It is possible to feed your family well on a budget. It just takes a little planning ahead. And if all else fails, pop a pizza in the oven and try again tomorrow.

Christy Bramblett is a mother of two girls, ages 3 and 1, and married to Ash Bramblett, Minister of Youth and Outreach at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church. Her blog is updated daily and is featured at www.BlountMomsToday.com.

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