One of the often overlooked options open to homeowners wishing to cut back on expenditures begins with the purchase of food items at the grocery store or supermarket. Coupon clipping and scanning grocery ads for specials, buying in bulk or family-sized packages, and concentrating on selecting foods with high nutritional value offer effective ways to increase the dollar benefit of each grocery item purchased.
Another important way to make the grocery dollar go farther has to do with the ways in which the homeowner can make sure that groceries will last longer after purchase. Concern for length of storage time does not apply to items purchased for same day use. However, for anything meant for consumption a week or more in the future, making sure the food stays fresh and in good condition over a long period becomes of vital importance.
Check the kill date. Nowadays, shoppers usually have the advantage of knowing how long a given food item should remain nourishing and wholesome prior to purchase. Most food suppliers for supermarket chain stores include a “use before,” or kill date on food labels or somewhere on the package. This date runs from one or two days out to several months after the item has been made available to retail customers.
By selecting foods with relatively lengthy “use before” dates, the grocery shopper can have better assurance that these products remain nutritious throughout that time period. Make sure to consider the “use before” date when purchasing fresh food such as packaged vegetables, eggs and dairy products. Note: For many products, the manufacturer’s “use before” date does not mean the product immediately becomes unfit to consume; though it may lack somewhat in flavor and texture, the product will provide healthy sustenance for several more days.
Canned or frozen food. Freezing or canning fruit, vegetable and meat products can help extend the safe shelf life of these foods after purchase. These products also should display the ubiquitous “use before” dates to help in their selection. Canned fruits, vegetables and meats can safely store at home for several months after purchase. Buying canned food in bulk or wholesale numbers, when special sales occur, makes sense so long as a system of rotation brings the older items forward on the storage shelf. Frozen foods retain their nutritional value much longer than fresh fruits, vegetables and meats. Quick frozen vegetables may in fact contain a higher level of vitamins and available minerals than the fresh variety.
Refrigeration and/or freezing. Many foods will last longer when kept below room temperature. Loaves of bread kept in the refrigerator take considerably longer to develop mold, giving the homeowner ample time to use them up while they contain optimum levels of nutrition. Bread can also be stored in the freezer; it may help to re-tie the loaves after squeezing out any air in the package. Many other items not normally meant for the refrigerator or freezer will benefit from such storage. Vacuum packing foods bound for the freezer, especially meat products, offers another method for increasing the storage life of food items.