Families can save money on food this summer

With summer finally here, millions of families across the country face something of a dilemma. With the kids home from school, feeding them might have gotten a little more expensive. School lunches are often subsidized - or even free in some cases - but that's not the case during summer vacation. As a consequence, it might be wise for cash-conscious families to make sure they're doing everything they can to keep their grocery bills down while also keeping everyone fed and happy.

One of the biggest things that consumers can do to keep their food costs down during the summer is to scale back the number of times per week they get takeout or go to a restaurant, according to a report from Shape Magazine. While the cost of such a meal might not, individually, seem like a big amount, two or three per week can add up to hundreds of dollars. And over the course of a month or two during the summer, that gets quite costly in a hurry.

Go shopping instead
In fact, going to the grocery store is what most experts tend to recommend to anyone looking to save money on their weekly food budgets, the report said. But there are right and wrong ways to do this, as well. For instance, those who go to the grocery store with a list ready to go will be far more likely to avoid buying impulse items like snacks, which tend to be more expensive than basic ingredients and can therefore drive up a shopping bill significantly.

In addition, it's usually also a good idea to make sure to buy plenty of nonperishable items, or those that will last a long time even if they're not eaten, the report said. That should help to make sure things aren't going to waste. And along similar lines, buying produce in bulk is often a bad idea, because even the most eager of families typically aren't going to be able to use six tomatoes in recipes over the course of the week or two for which they're actually in good shape. Much of the produce families buy when they purchase a lot just ends up going in the garbage.

Another way to make things last
In addition, while people might not always think of it, scouring the frozen foods aisle for ingredients that are popular with the family could go a long way, the report said. That's because, as one might imagine, frozen produce and meats often last far longer than fresher counterparts, and can therefore save a lot over time, even if it's not all being used right away.

However, it might also be a good idea to make sure to avoid buying frozen prepared meals. That's because they can get quite expensive, are usually not all that big, and, perhaps most importantly, typically have a lot of preservatives that can make them unhealthy.

Families that are able to save a decent amount of money through these efforts might be able to use those funds to pay down debts or build emergency savings accounts going forward.

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