University of Illinois Extension

Strategies for Spending Less

Food

  • Plan meals around foods you have on hand until more money is available.
  • Plan meals and snacks for a week ahead. Make a list of what you need to buy; estimate the cost to know if you have enough money to last the week. The local University of Illinois Extension office can provide information on spending guides for thrifty food plans.
  • Shop from a list based on planned menus. Check the food advertisements for good buys. Clipping and using coupons may save money, if the coupons are nutritious items you need. Two web sites that allow you to print coupons are www.Coupons.com and SmartSource.com Some stores do not accept coupons from the internet. Sunday newspapers often have an insert with coupons.

  • Go shopping as few times as possible. Frequent trips can add to family food costs, because it is easy to buy extra items, unplanned each time. Shop alone, if possible. It is hard to say “no” to your children’s favorite foods when they are along. Don’t go shopping when you are hungry. Everything looks good when you are hungry, so it’s hard to stick to your list. And shopping in a hurry may cause you to overlook the best buys.
  • Use low-cost protein foods such as dry beans, eggs, peanut butter, turkey and chicken. Hamburger and liver are good buys in red meats. Large roasts can be cut up and used in different ways for more than one meal. Stretch meats by using them in sauces or casseroles. Use slow cooking and/or marinating to tenderize less expensive cuts of meat.
  • Use reconstituted nonfat dry milk for cooking instead of whole milk. Dry milk is equally nutritious, and can be less expensive.
  • Turn leftovers into “planned overs.” You can sometimes get two meals for the price of one. Store cooked foods properly to make them last longer. Freeze them if you have the space.
  • Take advantage of free - or reduced - price school lunch programs.
  • Where available, use fish and wild game.
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