Shopping for everyday groceries can be one of the most liberating yet daunting tasks of adulthood. When you lived with family, there’s a good chance that the refrigerator magically seemed to have food when you needed it. Now, however, you’re grimly aware that it’s pretty hard to just get a normal set of meals together, let alone manage the finances of your weekly shopping.
Supermarkets (and online grocery shopping apps for that matter) are carefully designed to make you spend more money on things that you may not really need. Many a times, you may have wandered to the kitchen hoping to cook, only to realize that you’re out of vital ingredients (like cooking oil) but have a fridge stuffed with sauces and dressings–thus leading to another night of expensive takeout.
But the situations is not all hopeless. There are ways to ensure you can make tasty and nutritious meals without breaking the bank or calling for last-minute deliveries from your kirana.
Always have a list
Unlike the hosts of several cooking shows who seem to conjure up recipes depending on what they find at the farmer’s market, dinners aren’t made that way in the real world. If you know what you’re going to be eating through the week, you’ll know how much to buy.
The golden rule is this: know what you’re cooking before you buy the ingredients. That way you’ll only buy what you need, as well as not have to bother about deciding what to cook each day.
More importantly, stick to the list. There are a million distractions out there at the supermarket; keep your eyes down.
Bigger isn’t always better
We all know that larger quantities are more economical in the long run; however, just because they could work out cheaper doesn’t mean that they always do.
A lot of packaged goods like salad dressings, sauces and instant mixes tend to lose their flavour over time once opened; which means you have to consume it frequently before it starts tasting off. As such you end up losing all the money you thought you saved while buying it, sometimes even more. It’s best to stick to smaller packs for the things you’re going to be consuming less frequently.
But sometimes size can matter
Things like pulses, rice and other grains can stay for a long time when stored properly, so know what items you can afford to buy larger packs of, and make sure they’re air-tight and dry when stored so that they don’t go bad. This will definitely work out much more cheaper for your budget, especially if you plan to cook and eat at home regularly.
Substitute when stumped
If you’re adventurous and love experimenting with food, chances are that you’ll need to buy newer and newer ingredients, that you may or may not use again in later experiments. Bakers and chefs commonly substitute ingredients for one another (eg. one common baking trick is to substitute bread crumbs with crushed cracker biscuits). There are many more like this.
No seriously, just ask an experienced adult to help you plan. They’ll always come up with handy tricks to make the food you cook last longer, taste better and most definitely be much healthier. They might even have a bargaining tip or two up their sleeves.
So there you have it. The next time you pick up something at the supermarket which has a huge sticker saying 50% off, think a bit before dumping it in the trolley (or the virtual shopping cart.) Remember, while it may be great value for money, it might not be the best bang for YOUR buck.