Ingredients to Buy in Bulk and Keep for Years

A great way to reduce your grocery spend is by planning meals ahead.

Everyone who goes grocery shopping knows that buying food weekly can become fairly expensive—especially when you add in how much money we waste on food. Luckily, there are many foods that’ll last for years and save you money in the long run if you buy them in bulk and store them properly.

Check out these 12 ingredients that can help you save money on your groceries for years to come.

1. White Rice

It’s hard to find a food that’s more versatile than rice: you can eat it on its own, with vegetables or beans, in soup, with meat, in sushi, and so much more. You can even use it to help save your electronics from water damage. Plus, rice is super cheap and often comes in bulk. Even better, white rice can last more than 30 years if stored properly—in the pantry, in the fridge, or in the freezer—so don’t throw it out unless it has spoiled through improper storage. (Brown rice has a higher oil content, so it’ll actually spoil after six months, unfortunately.)

2. Honey

Scientists have found perfectly preserved honey in the Egyptian pyramids—even at over three thousand years old, that honey is still edible and safe to eat. Honey’s high acidity and lack of water help it last indefinitely. It may crystallize over time, but don’t worry; it is still safe to eat. You can warm it up to soften and de-crystallize it for easier consumption. Honey can be used as a sweetener, in salad dressings, in desserts, as a home remedy, and even for facials.

3. Oats

If you love breakfast foods and baking, buy bulk portions of oats to store in your pantry. Rolled and instant oats can last several years when kept in airtight containers—some estimate that oats can be safely eaten for 30 years if stored properly! Keep oats on hand and make your own flour, granola bars, or cereal whenever you want.

4. Hot Sauce

From eggs to salads to pizza, anything can benefit from some added spice. Whether you’re a Tabasco or Tapatío fan, your favorite hot sauce can last for three to five years thanks to its high vinegar content and the capsaicin found in chili peppers. Just make sure you follow proper storage directions, and keep in mind that the taste will change as time passes. The sauce may even get hotter as the peppers age! Buy a large bottle on sale and keep it for years—or until you run out.

5. Dried Beans

You can find a great source of protein in beans, especially if you’re vegetarian or vegan. Flavored and canned beans will last you a while, but dried beans can last for up to 30 years. They do begin to lose their moisture after a few years, so cooking times may vary depending on how long you have been storing them. If you love black beans in homemade burritos or homemade barbecue chili, keep bags of dried beans in your pantry—they’re super affordable and go with pretty much anything.

6. Quinoa

Contrary to popular belief, quinoa is a seed not a grain, so it actually keeps two to three years past the expiration date. Though it lasts several years, you do need to keep quinoa in a cool, dry area or it could grow mold—and you should never eat quinoa that has grown mold. Quinoa is super filling and can be used in tons of dishes in place of less-healthy carbs. Make soups, salads, or protein bowls with this superfood.

7. Pure Vanilla Extract

Imitation vanilla extract will last you a while if you’re in a pinch (about two to four years), but we highly recommend finding a big bottle of pure vanilla extract. The high alcohol content of the extract makes it stay good indefinitely—just keep it away from heat and light and keep the cap tightly closed when not in use—so it’ll always be ready to use when you’re baking or cooking.

8. Soy Sauce

If you’re a fan of Asian food, don’t throw out your open bottles of soy sauce. Due to the large amounts of sodium, soy sauce can last over three years when stored properly. It keeps its flavor and freshness better when stored in the refrigerator, but it is safe to keep in the pantry as well. Save money on takeout by making your own stir-fry, Chinese chicken salad, or noodle dishes with your long-lasting soy sauce.

9. Apple Cider Vinegar

Due to its high acidity, apple cider vinegar can last for up to five years when stored in a cool, dry place (in the pantry or in the fridge) with the lid tightly closed. If you see a dark, cloudy substance in the bottom of your bottle, don’t worry—that’s just the “mother,” formed by naturally occurring pectin. The mother is actually the most nutritious part of the cider, so feel free to consume it! Add apple cider vinegar to soups and salad dressings for an acidic finish.

10. Dried Ramen

It might seem obvious, but dried ramen noodles will last for many years in your pantry, though the taste is best if consumed within a few years. The noodles are extremely dehydrated, so they don’t usually spoil. Use this cheap staple to make soup or cold noodle bowls.

11. Pure Maple Syrup

Unopened, pure maple syrup will last indefinitely if stored in the freezer (it won’t freeze solid) and up to several years if kept in the refrigerator. Syrup lacks water and is relatively acidic, which contributes to its long shelf life—though it can develop mold, in which case you should not consume it.

12. Baking Soda

One of the most versatile ingredients you can buy in bulk is baking soda. While not super exciting, this extremely cheap ingredient is perfect for making homemade toothpaste, freshening up your fridge, leavening anything you bake, washing your counters, and removing stains from your clothes. Stock up on baking soda and don’t throw it away because it will last you multiple years without going bad. You can test your baking soda to determine whether it’s still good: just add a few drops of vinegar to your baking soda and see if it bubbles.

Whether you’re a cash-strapped college student or just a conscious spender, every little bit helps. Buy these ingredients in bulk and enjoy them for years.

As with all food, check to make sure these ingredients haven’t spoiled before you eat them, and never eat food that has not been stored properly.

Image: RoBeDeRo

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Creating a Menu Plan to Save on Groceries

A great way to reduce your grocery spend is by planning meals ahead.

Although it’s not particularly fun, creating menu plan is one of the simplest way to save money. If you can create a menu plan, you can save money. It is as simple as that. There are two main reasons that a menu plan can save money:

  1. You don’t eat dinner out as often.
  2. You know what to buy at the grocery store.

Let me explain how each of these really can affect your budget.

The Dining Out Sneak Attack

See if this relates to your life: You are heading home from a long day at work and when you finally tear through the door, the first thing you hear is “What’s for dinner?” or “I’m starving! When are we going to eat?” After the hectic day you’ve had, you realize you have no clue what you are going to feed the family. So, you end up spending a ton of money dining out — for the third time this week.

Now imagine reliving that same scenario eight or ten times per month. That means you’ll dine out for more than 200 meals in a year. Say you spend $20 per meal, in one year you’ll have spent more than $4,000 dining out.

Dining out is great, but it can quickly eat up your budget. Establish a dining out budget and stick to it. We started doing this when we were working ourselves out from more than $37,000 in debt. For us, it is normal to fix dinner at home and something to which we are accustomed.

Your menu plan helps you know what you’ll make for dinner every night. It is one less thing you have to worry about night after night and it’s a wonderful way to manage your food budget.

The Lower Grocery Budget

The other way we save money with our menu plan has to do with my weekly grocery shopping trips. Before we had a menu plan, I would walk the aisles of the store with my list while trying to figure out what I might have for dinner that week.

Of course, despite my very best efforts, I always found myself forgetting items. That lead to more return trips to the store during the week. And, when I did that, I would often toss additional items that we did not necessarily need into the cart. Plus, by making multiple trips, I was spending more money on gas.

When you create a menu plan, you know every meal and snack you will have for the week. Your menu plan then becomes your guide to creating a shopping list. The list will include all the items you need for every meal and snack for the week. You end up with a comprehensive, workable shopping list.

Creating a Menu Plan

When it comes to learning how to create a menu plan, the key factor is planning. It is simple to plan a weekly or even bi-weekly menu yourself, but you’ll need to take a few things into consideration before you do.

1. Check the Freezer, Pantry & Fridge

To start, look at items that may spoil or expire soon. Come up with a meal where you can use these items before you end up tossing it into the trash.

Next, check for items you have on hand. You may have found a great deal on noodles last week and stocked up. That may mean adding spaghetti to your meal plan this week.

You should also look for ways to make multiple meals out of one item. For example, you may make a large roast chicken for dinner one night and, later in the week, whip up a batch of chicken and noodles with the left overs. You won’t be wasting food and you’ll get your money’s worth.

2. Check the Grocery Store Ad

You might have several items on hand to make four meals, but that still leaves three more to plan. Rather than making whatever sounds good, look at the store flyer to find items on sale. You may see that ground beef is on sale, so that may lend itself to grilling burgers.

When checking the local grocery store ad, focus on the front cover and any short sales dates. These items are often best deals you will see for weeks. You should not only plan on making meals with items you can find here, but also stocking up on them so you have them on hand for future meal plans.

Bonus tip? Try using cashback credit cards while shopping for grocery stores. You can earn rewards that can go towards your monthly food bill. Before applying for any new credit, it’s best to make sure your credit score is high enough to qualify. You can check two of your scores free on Credit.com.

3. Ask Your Family

Remember to ask your family for input while making a meal plan. If you find a package of chicken breasts in the freezer, ask them what chicken based meal they’d love to have that week.

This helps you come up with new ideas, but also helps you know that you are selecting meals your family will enjoy. By making things your family will enjoy, you can avoid wasting food and money.

4. Put Your Plan in Writing

When you create a menu plan, it is very important that it is in writing. You should also plan for every day of the week. Dinner is important to plan but don’t forget to include breakfasts, lunch (even if packing them for school or work) and snacks.

5. Don’t Plan Too Far in Advance

There are many who like to menu plan for a month. While that can be good for some, I don’t recommend this. When planning so far ahead it can be difficult to check the weekly ad to ensure your meals use items that are on sale. Planning meals for any period longer than two weeks can result in missing those key sales when prepping your meals.

6. Make Your Plan Visible

The final step is to make sure you plan is visible. If you and your family can’t see it, you can’t use it. Rather than tuck it into a drawer, put it on your refrigerator where you see it every morning. Then, before you leave for work, make sure that any frozen items get thawed properly so you can use them to make dinner.

I recommend that you print out the menu plan you wish to use and have it laminated. Put it on the fridge with magnets and you’ll have a reusable menu planning form.

It took my family and I a little time to get use to the menu plan, but now that we use it, we can’t imagine not having it available to help us plan our meals. I still am not a fan of sitting down to plan what to eat each week, but when I am done and realize the time and money I’m saving because of it, I always smile and then hang the plan back on the fridge.

Your menu plan is a catalyst to reducing your grocery bill and saving on dining out.

Image: RoBeDeRo

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50 Ways to Save at the Supermarket

Everyone's gotta eat. You might as well save while you do it!

Whether you’re an expert home chef making culinary masterpieces or a kitchen novice whose idea of home cooking is boxed mac and cheese, you’ve got to hit the supermarket to stock the kitchen. Grocery expenses add up, and you might be looking for ways to avoid sticker shock at the cash register.

Here are 50 ways to save at the supermarket.

1. Get a Store Loyalty Card

Many supermarkets offer some version of a store loyalty card, which can provide exclusive discounts and even custom deals based on your shopping preferences. Many loyalty cards can save you money at the pump with select gas stations.

2. Use Your Grocery Store’s Gas Rewards

If your supermarket loyalty card has a gas program, make sure to take advantage. They’re often tied to specific fuel providers, and the savings per gallon can really add up. While this doesn’t save on groceries, it will provide fuel savings as a direct result of your shopping.

3. Get a Cash Back Credit Card

Cash back credit cards earn money back on all purchases, including groceries. Some cards have special cash back rates on groceries, and can earn you as much as 6% back every time you spend at the supermarket. Most credit cards with great cash back require a decent credit score. Before applying, check your credit score for free with Credit.com to see where you stand.

4. Check Your Mail

Those flyers you tend to throw out with the rest of your junk mail may contain valuable offers at your local supermarkets. Next time you get some circulars in the mail, take a few minutes to page through them.

5. Check the Store Entrance

If you did throw away last week’s flyers, look around the supermarket entrance as you walk in. Oftentimes, you’ll find the current circular stacked up and waiting for your perusal, which is a great last-minute way to find deals.

6. Sign Up for Emails

Sign up online for emails from your supermarket of choice. They’ll send you current local deals and even personalized offers based on your shopping history if you tie a loyalty card to your account.

7. Save Your Receipts

When you get home, check your receipts before tossing them out. They may contain coupons on the back that you can use next time.

8. Look for Deals on Multiple Units

If you can save a bit by stocking up on multiple units of the same item, take advantage. You can save later by stocking up now.

9. …But Check the Unit Price

Be wary when looking at those “10 for $10” deals, however. They may simply use creative phrasing to encourage bulk buying. Check the unit price, because sometimes you can get the same price no matter how many units you buy.

10. Only Buy Nonperishable Items in Bulk

Only buy things in bulk if you can freeze them, stow them away or use them before they go bad. The best deals in the world won’t help if you have to throw away your goods before you get the chance to use them.

11. Shop at Warehouse/Bulk Stores

Bulk or warehouse membership clubs can offer great discounts. You may want to compare prices, but don’t assume that prices are lower based on the supermarket you’re in. Membership clubs tend to work best when you’re shopping for big families.

12. Look Out for Deals

Many supermarkets “flag” deals using labels that stand out as you walk down the aisle. Any time you’re hunting for a specific item, make sure to look for flags in the area.

13. Buy Generic When the Quality Is Similar

Some store brand items aren’t of the same quality as their brand name counterparts. Others are fairly equal in quality, and you can save by buying the generic brand.

14. Check the Top & Bottom Shelves

The most expensive goods are usually placed at eye level. It’s a trick that encourages shoppers to reach for the priciest items. Look up and down before choosing what to put in your cart.

15. Ask for Rain Checks

If the supermarket is out of a sale item, you can ask for a rain check, which is an IOU they will honor the next time you’re in the store. When you come back, they’ll give you the sale price, even if the sale is no longer running.

16. Make a List

Don’t head to the supermarket without a plan, as you can wind up wasting money on things you don’t need. Instead, plan your meals ahead of time and make a list, then stick to that list when you get to the store.

17. Don’t Buy Something You Already Have

As you’re making your shopping list, check your fridge, freezer and pantry. You may already have some of the items you need.

18. Plan Meals Around What You Already Have

You can also reverse engineer your shopping list based on what you already have stocked in your kitchen. Look at your existing supplies and plan meals around those, choosing recipes for which you already have some or all of the ingredients.

19. Plan Your Meals Around Sales

If you know what deals are currently available, you can plan your meals around discounts and source all your meals from sale items.

20. Don’t Shop Hungry

Shopping while hungry can lead to indulgences, and you may end up stocking your cart with things you desire in the moment. If you want to avoid splurging on ice cream and potato chips, eat before leaving home.

21. Shop Alone

Heading to the supermarket with friends and family (especially kids) can lead to unnecessary purchases. If you can, head to the supermarket alone so you can stick to your list.

22. Buy Reusable, Not Disposable

Reusable goods can reduce your reliance on disposables, which must be continuously restocked. For example, Tupperware containers will last indefinitely, while paper bowls are thrown out after one use.

23. Bring Your Own Bags

Some states, counties and cities impose taxes on plastic bags to discourage their use. Buying reusable bags once can help you avoid those taxes forever. Plus, you’ll be helping the environment.

24. Start Your Own Kitchen Herb Garden

If you have a green thumb, you may already supplement your grocery shopping with an outdoor garden. Even if you aren’t botanically gifted or you don’t have space for a garden, you can create a mini herb garden in your kitchen to complement your recipes.

25. Buy Seasonal

When it comes to produce, buying what’s in season will save cash. For instance, peaches are cheaper in the summertime. While you may be able to get peaches in the winter, you’ll have to pay a steeper price.

26. Get a Grocery App

There are many grocery apps available for your mobile phone. These apps may offer rebates, compare prices across multiple stores or help you plan recipes. Check out what’s available for your phone to identify apps that can help you save.

27. Use the Smaller Cart

If you can fit your necessities in a basket or mini shopping cart, roll with the smaller option. The large shopping carts may encourage you to fill them up with unnecessary goods.

28. Double Couponing

Some supermarkets allow double couponing, which means you can get twice the advertised savings. Not all stores offer double coupons, and those that do may only honor double coupons for certain deals or on certain days. Check with your local supermarkets to learn their policies.

29. Price Matching

Some stores have price matching policies in place if you can demonstrate that another store has a lower price. Some supermarkets will even honor competitor coupons.

30. Drink Tap Water

It’s much more cost effective to get your drinking water straight from the tap or keep a water filter in your refrigerator. In most cases, bottled water is an unnecessary expense.

31. Don’t Buy Single-Use Items

It will always be cheaper to buy an item in a large container and avoid single-use items. For instance, a two-liter of soda is cheaper than canned or bottled soft drinks.

32. Don’t Wander the Aisles

Only visit the aisles and areas that have the items on your list. If you wander the aisles aimlessly, you’re bound to see something you want (but don’t need).

33. Don’t Buy Premade Meals

Premade meals will cost you dearly for the prep work. If you’re tempted by the salad buffet or the deli’s premade pasta, remember that you can eat these meals at a fraction of the price if you buy the ingredients and make them yourself.

34. Slice and Dice Your Own Food

Whether it’s fruit, deli meats or cheese, you’ll pay extra for the privilege of buying your foods pre-sliced or pre-diced when you could cut them yourself. And while we don’t all have deli slicers at home, you can chop up your fruits and veggies in a matter of minutes.

35. Shop Around

If you shop at the same supermarket out of habit, you may want to try shopping at other area stores. Pay attention to the prices of your favorite items as you shop around. You can compare receipts from different stores to see where you’re getting the best deals.

36. Review Your Receipts

When you get home from your shopping trips, take a close look at your receipts. You may start to see patterns: unnecessary purchases, items you’re paying too much for and what tends to cost you the most. You can use this information to make frugal decisions the next time you shop.

37. Buy Frozen Veggies When They’re Out of Season

When your vegetables of choice are out of season, you can find them bagged up in the frozen aisle, usually at a cheaper price than the fresh versions.

38. Eat Your Leftovers

Depending on its size, yesterday’s dinner can provide today’s lunch or feed you for a week. Don’t pass over leftovers in favor of something fresh. It might be even tastier today.

39. Use Your Senior Discount

Senior discounts vary between supermarkets and locations, and some stores only offer senior discounts on certain days. If you’re eligible for a senior discount, make sure to ask about your store’s policy. If they don’t have one, you may want to start shopping elsewhere, because an automatic discount can really rack up savings over time.

40. Follow Supermarkets on Social Media

Already on Facebook and Twitter? Make sure to follow your supermarket. They could share deals you can’t find elsewhere.

41. Avoid Impulse Buys Near the Checkout Line

The candy, magazines and other goodies by the checkout line are meant to tempt you for one last impulse buy before you leave. When you’re that close to the exit, try to resist temptation.

42. Shop Earlier in the Day

If you shop earlier in the day, you’ll have access to a better selection of goods that haven’t been picked over. Not only will you have better options, you won’t have to choose a more expensive substitute if the store has run out of a certain item.

43. Eat Less Meat

Eating less meat can reduce your risk of preventable diseases and health conditions and reduce your carbon footprint. Meat can be also be expensive, and removing meat from a few meals a week can cut your grocery bill. If a few meals a week sounds like a lot, you can try Meatless Mondays, which are exactly what they sound like but can still save significant dough.

44. Eat Less Cheese

Cheese can be quite expensive. Removing the cheese from a few meals a week should cut down on your spending.

45. Check Expiration Dates

When buying perishable products like milk, make sure to check the expiration date. You don’t want to buy something that expires in two days and you’ll have to throw away.

46. …But Know the Limits of Expiration Dates

Expiration dates aren’t well-regulated, and are often used to indicate peak freshness, not warn you that a product is no longer safe to consume. Many people don’t understand this, with 90% of Americans throwing out food before it’s gone bad. Do a little online research to educate yourself before you toss something out.

47. Properly Store Your Food

Anything that you can freeze — such as meat and bread — should go in the freezer if you aren’t using it soon. You don’t want to forget about some fish in the fridge until it starts smelling. Properly organizing your fridge and freezer will certainly help.

48. Practice Portion Control

Eating smaller meals can be good for your figure and your wallet.

49. Take Advantage of Your Workplace’s Food

Does your workplace offer breakfast, coffee or snacks in the break room? Make sure to take advantage.

50. Hunt Down Free Meals

Free meals are a boon to the frugal. Employer-sponsored dinners, backyard barbecues and meals with a generous family member can help get you through the week. Of course, if you’re afraid of looking like a freeloader, you could ask for gift cards to your favorite restaurant for your next birthday.

Image: bowdenimages

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