Is Your Grocery Bill Skyrocketing?! Here Are 6 Ways to Fight Inflation and Cut Food Costs
The memes have already taken over social media – prices on many staple ingredients have soared with inflation, causing your usual grocery list to increase by up to 40% and making a breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon feel like something you should save for a special occasion. The cost of food stings right now, so we thought we’d offer a few tricks from our pros to help soften the blow:
- Try one of many effective substitutes for eggs in your cooking and baking. Eggs seem to be the biggest pain point for home cooks recently, with prices often over $5 per dozen. Save those priceless eggs for omelets and try an alternative in your baking and cooking! You may have heard of swapping a quarter cup of applesauce for an egg in a pinch, but there are lots of other options too. A “chia egg,” for example, is made by mixing one tablespoon of chia seeds with three tablespoons of water. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes and watch as it thickens into a surprisingly egg-like consistency, then use in place of one egg. Other good substitutes? Plain yogurt, mashed banana, club soda, or aquafaba (the liquid from a can of chickpeas!)
- Buy in bulk when possible to cut your grocery bill down – but be careful, warehouse prices are not always a better deal! To ensure that bulk purchases actually save you money, you’ll need to know a couple things. What is the shelf life of the item, and will you use all of it before then? What is the price per unit or price per ounce, and how does it compare to normal grocery store sizes? If it really is a better deal, buying versatile staples like tomato sauce and rice is a great way to pare down your grocery budget.
- Learn to break down a whole chicken. Rather than spending $7 on a package of two chicken breasts, you can spend $7 on a whole chicken and break it down yourself to get two breasts, two thighs, two drums, two wings, and a carcass to use for making your own stock. This is a staple skill taught in culinary school, and with a bit of practice, the process only takes a few minutes and gives you a variety of cuts to freeze and cook as needed.
- Meal plan for the week and use grocery pickup to avoid impulse buys. We’re all guilty of impulse buying at the grocery store, especially if we shop while we’re hungry. But coming home with extra snacks or an assortment of ingredients you don’t have a plan for can add up quickly. To avoid this, make a meal plan ahead of time and use a grocery app to order only what you need to cook with for the week.
- Reduce food waste. Cutting down your food waste can be done every step of the way if you know your way around your ingredients, and is a skill we really stress the importance of in culinary school. It begins with prepping and properly storing your ingredients, particularly raw produce. It’s such a shame when beautiful veggies go to waste! If you learn to wash, trim, and store your produce in ways that maximize their longevity, your future self will thank you at the end of the week. The flip side to this, of course, is actually using the produce you buy. In culinary school, we often toss around the term “FIFO,” an acronym that stands for “first in, first out.” FIFO is a system in which the ingredients that were purchased first are used first, prioritizing the use of ingredients that are on their last few days of usability over those that were more recently purchased. Keeping a similar mindset in your home kitchen can save you from tossing a drawer full of wilted spinach every week. Bonus tip: when meal planning, try setting aside a “FIFO Day” at the end of the week. Pull ingredients that need to be used from your fridge and pair them with your pantry or freezer staples for dinner that night. This can be done by making a grain bowl, a pasta dish, or even just chicken with a side of roasted whatever-veggie-needs-to-be-used.
- Skip the meat. If you review your grocery spending, you will quickly notice that a huge slice of the pie is made up of meat. Bacon, chicken, and even ground beef are all high-cost ingredients. To save in this area, we suggest two tweaks to your cooking habits: instituting one or more vegetarian dinner nights (we quite like the ring of “Meatless Monday”), and subsidizing a portion of the meat in your recipes with a vegetable or grain. It’s easier than you think – if you normally use a pound of ground sausage in your pasta sauce, try using half a pound and adding diced zucchini to substitute the rest. Sloppy joes? Try half ground beef, half grated carrot. Grilled chicken salad? Try half chicken, half roasted chickpeas. Taco night? Half ground beef, half black or pinto beans. The options are endless – just be sure to freeze the leftover meat to use in another recipe!
While much of culinary school involves learning the art of cookery, it also includes training on skills just like the ones above – keeping food costs low, respecting ingredients by utilizing them fully, and using food knowledge to create meals from ingredients on hand, not just recipes. If mastering this skill set sounds amazing to you, it’s time to consider an accelerated culinary program!