How we’ve kept our grocery spending the same during COVID-19

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When the pandemic-related stay-at-home orders went into effect in March, we lost a part of our income. But our spending dropped, too, so we didn’t feel the need to worry about our finances at first. 

We thought the loss of some of our income was temporary and that things would get back to normal much sooner than they have. But of course, that hasn’t proven to be true. Luckily, we’ve been able to keep our grocery spending in check. In fact, we have found that we spend the same amount on groceries as we did pre-COVID, although we are now eating three meals a day, seven days a week at home. 

Before the pandemic, we shopped weekly, and our bill was anywhere from $65 to $85 per week. Now we are shopping once every two weeks, and our bill is averaging $130 to $160. How is it possible to be eating so many more meals at home but not see an increase in our bill? Simple: We waste far less food, plan meals, and use what we have. 

We’re meal planning using food we already have

We have started to plan the meals we will prepare during the time between shopping trips. Our former style was willy-nilly, and there was no planning. We shopped with a list, but it was just a list of things we wanted for the week without any real plan. Now we look at what we have in the refrigerator and pantry. For instance, if we have refried beans in the pantry, we might plan to have burritos or nachos. If we have dried beans, we might decide to make a pot of beans with rice or make a batch of veggie burger patties that freeze well and provide at least six meals. 

We’re wasting far less food

We also pay attention to the expiration dates on the food that we have purchased. We had extra cream cheese that was about to expire, so we searched on Google for recipes with cream cheese and found one of our new go-to recipes for cookies. We use this helpful trick with many items that we don’t know how to finish or use up before they go bad, and we have reduced our food waste by a significant amount while also increasing the variety of recipes we prepare. It is a win on all fronts.

We’re making better use of our food and freezing leftovers

We have learned other ways to stretch food and waste less as well. I like most of my vegetables peeled because of a stomach problem, and we used to throw all the peels away. But now we boil all the vegetable scraps and make our own broth for soups and use it for making more flavorful rice. 

We also freeze much more than we did in the past.  Most meals we get tired of eating before they are gone because there are only two of us, so now, we take half of most recipes and freeze them for a later date. Not only does it cut down on waste, but it cuts down on the number of meals that we need to cook. 

It shocks us that our grocery bill hasn’t skyrocketed now that we eat every meal at home. We do comparison-shop, but that doesn’t amount to considerable savings. Also, it is interesting to note that along with all our vegetables and proteins, we still buy chocolates, chips, and goodies to get us through the long days of the pandemic. If we want something at the store, we get it, but because we are so much smarter about planning and not wasting, the bill isn’t reflecting our splurges.

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