How to Save Money on Groceries, According to a Pantry Organizing Expert
When you look at the things you spend money on every month, one of the big ones is probably food. In fact, it's usually right up there behind rent and car payments. And yet, it's a place where your hard-earned cash can go to languish and literally rot. If you take a hard look at your pantry, you'll likely find a few spots where you could be saving some money, whether that's by using what you have before buying more or by cutting down on pre-packaged goods by doing a little bit of meal prep. That's the philosophy behind Stocked, a female-focused pantry-building service that's designed to help save money through smarter grocery shopping and storage.
Stocked is the brainchild of Kate Lacroix, a Boulder, Colorado-based restaurant veteran. The idea is to use some of her kitchen savvy to help people, particularly women, stock away a little money here and there that they might not otherwise. Lacroix partnered with woman-centric investment firm Ellevest to help direct people on where to put their savings once they have them. Clients book a session with a pantry advisor, who will take a look at their home kitchen, then go on a market tour, and then provide them with some recipes and helpful tricks to cut down on food waste, save money on their groceries, and invest the money wisely.
Lacroix knows that the pantry can be a part of your house that's a little bit higgledy-piggledy. "First of all, there's no judgment," she said. "I know it's like looking into your medicine cabinet. People feel sheepish." But Lacroix isn't there to shame you about the piles of novelty pasta shapes that you have, only to gently encourage you to use the things you have wisely. She'll take a look at every category of food you have around there, from condiments to rice, and account for your dietary preferences and cultural background. "I tell people that I can usually save them about a hundred dollars per person per month," she said. "People tend to think they can't start saving unless they have a lot. But that mindset is from old school wealth management where the bar of entry is high. You can save a little bit. It doesn't have to be this big wad of cash."
And that adds up. Right now, Stocked only operates in Colorado, but you can still save money with a few of Lacroix's tips.
Shop the Grocery Store Perimeter
One of the things Lacroix teaches clients is to save money at the grocery store by shopping the perimeter before diving into the aisles of pre-made and pre-packaged goods. The perimeter tends to be where the fresh fruit and vegetables are, and often what's in season will be on sale or cheaper. "I really heartily encourage people to buy on-sale fruit," Lacroix said. "Even if you don't eat it immediately, you can cut it up and throw it in the freezer."
Rethink How You Use Meat
"A lot of people think about meals as a big protein, like pork chop, with a vegetable on the side," Lacroix said. "And I try to steer them away from that." Using ground pork in a stir-fry, for example, adds in that same protein without the investment of a big slab of meat for each person at the table.
Think About What You Throw Out
Many of the food scraps that you might reflexively throw in the compost or in the garbage can be repurposed, a practice that's both more environmentally friendly and saves you money. Lacroix offered the example of someone who buys a nice boule of bread at the farmer's market on the weekend. "So day one, you eat the bread however you want. Day two, sandwiches. Day three, panzanella, and day four, bread crumbs." Look into how you can repurpose things like garlic skins and carrot tops to extract the most flavor out of everything you buy.
Find a Balance Between Pre-Made and From-Scratch
"I think we've gotten very into the ethos of farm-to-table, and people get the sense that you need to comb the market for your meal," Lacroix said. But actually, there's a lot of space between having absolutely every component of your meal be hand-foraged and picking up a pre-made macaroni salad. "The freezer is your friend," Lacroix said. You can keep things that you've already prepped on hand that way to combine with whatever beauties you find at the market.
Keep a List
Lacroix keeps a chalkboard in her kitchen to keep track of what she has on hand and what things might work for future meals. It's also how she notes the things that she needs, and might be able to scour sales for. "I'm about to buy Madagascar vanilla paste which finally went on sale," Lacroix said." Of course, I don't expect everyone to be that game-on. But if you keep what you know you love stocked, you always have a canvas for meals."