Columns | Sauk Valley News

Beyond Trim: Deflating your food budget

Sherry DeWalt

I have a loyalty account with my favorite grocery store. Using it saves me on groceries and can result in a nice discount on gasoline at their attached gas station.

This week, when I bought gas, I had no points available, and I realized that I hadn’t purchased many groceries lately. It got me to thinking about the cost of food and various ways to save money on the grocery bill.

Many of us are feeling a pinch in our wallet, so I thought I would give you some food for thought:

Grow your own: I haven’t been in the store as often because I have a small garden and generous friends who also have gardens. I grow greens, beans, onions, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant and thankfully accept any free zucchini and cucumbers.

Did you know that you can regrow some vegetables from scraps? Green onions, carrots, romaine lettuce, garlic, etc. all will sprout if the root end is placed in a little bit of water. Once the roots have sprouted, you can plant them in a pot or in the garden.

Cook for yourself: Meals prepared at home almost always will be less expensive (and healthier!) than restaurant meals.

It is my belief that everyone should learn to cook. If you have children, make sure they spend time in the kitchen and learn cooking skills so they can feed themselves in the future.

Keep meals simple: Speaking of cooking for yourself, the simpler a meal, the less it probably will cost.

One of my favorite meals is canned beans and cooked rice. Add a side of vegetables from the garden or freezer and you have a solid meal for a couple of dollars per serving.

For breakfast I often eat plain oatmeal (no little packets) with fruit. Staples such as canned tuna, potatoes, pasta and frozen vegetables can form the basis of many simple meals.

Shop at home: You probably have food stored in your pantry or freezer that you have forgotten about. Take inventory and use up what you have on hand before you buying anything more.

Which brings me to my next point.

Waste less: Did you know that about one-third of the world’s food is thrown away?

I always think of discarded food as money going down the drain. Buy just what you need, bring home restaurant leftovers, and pay close attention to “use by,” “best by” and “use before” dates on packaged food.

Loyalty programs: That loyalty card does pay off. I have access to virtual coupons on the store’s app.

I use coupons only for items on my list, so I’m not tempted to buy things just because I have a coupon. Occasionally, I receive free coupons for my favorite frequently purchased items.

I almost always purchase their store brand. It often is less expensive than name brands for the same quality.

And most of the time I save money on gas …

• Sherry DeWalt is the healthy lifestyles coordinator for the CGH Health Foundation in Sterling.