- Eat more cheaply, and youll probably have a healthier diet automatically. The healthiest foods cost under .80 a pound (potatoes, grains, fresh local fruits and vegetables). The expensive meats and snack foods take from your pocketbook and add to your waistline and cholesterol count.
- Studies show that tap water is as good as or better than bottled in 97% to 99% of American households, meaning almost all bottled water and filtration systems sold are a waste of money. Bottle your own (with lemon slices to improve its flavor if necessary) and chill it. To remove chlorine taste, leave an open pitcher of water out on the counter for several hours.
- All frugality experts shop for food no more than once a week to save time and money and avoid waste. Check store ads and coupons for the weeks best deals, plan your meals, make a list and stick to it. This takes an hour or so a week to organize, and a couple more to shop around. Its worth it, though: the more organized you are, the less you shop; and the less you shop, the more time and money you save.
- Buying food in bulk is the best way to save money and packaging waste. But be aware that studies show large packages cause many people to consume more of the product, be it juice, crackers or cooking oil. Try tricking yourself by transferring products to smaller containers.
- Stock up on great deals, and store them for maximum preservation time. Flour keeps well in the freezer. Milk freezes for up to three months. After thawing, shake well. (Taste and look may be slightly affected.) Chop and freeze bags of celery, onions and carrots when on sale, and youll save money and meal preparation time.
- Eat a local diet as much as possible. This creates jobs in the region, reduces transportation costs and energy consumption, ensures higher nutritional value and encourages local small-scale agriculture that protects land from development. Ask your grocers to mark foods local. Hint - If its out of season (e.g., strawberries in December in Seattle), you know its not local.
- Protein is the most expensive part of the food bill, and the average American consumes twice as much protein as she needs. Serve small portions of meat and fill up on potatoes, rice and salads. A great way to systematically reduce your meat consumption is to serve stir-fries, casseroles and soup entrees twice as often as you do now.
- Grow your own food. See if theres a community gardening program in your area that gives you a garden plot to use. These usually come with free water, mulch and Master Gardeners on duty to advise you. Get on a waiting list if theyre full.
- One of the most frugal ways to grow your own food is to build a cold frame. At its simplest, this is an enclosure of wood or brick with a pane of glass or other clear, strong material over the top. With this, you can extend the harvest season (carrots, potatoes, etc.) for months, as well as grow salad greens all winter long. Get a book at the library to learn how, such as Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman.
- To dramatically reduce your ecological footprint, save about 50% in food costs and maximize your prospects for a longer, healthier life, become a vegetarian. Dont try to go cold turkey to cold tofu...gradual change will be more lasting. Your library will have ample cookbooks and food magazines to get you started.