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3 Outside-the-Box Ways to Slash Your Grocery Bill

A mom, dad, son, and daughter unpacking bags of groceries in their kitchen and playing with the food.

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As COVID-19 continues to cause economic uncertainty, it's more important than ever to watch every dollar. For many families, groceries are a major expense. Finding ways to reduce the cost of food purchases can make a big difference.

Good news: There are lots of ways to reduce your monthly grocery bill.

Some are obvious, like using coupons and having a grocery rewards credit card. But there are other, less-obvious strategies that provide substantial savings. Here are three of them.

1. Join a CSA

CSA stands for "community sponsored agriculture." If you join a CSA, you can support a local farm by buying a share of their crops while also slashing the amount you spend on healthy fruits and vegetables.

With a CSA, you're buying directly from the farmer and cutting out the middleman. As a result, the prices are often much lower. The downside is that you don't get to pick which produce you get every week -- but that helps you avoid food ruts and can make you a more adventurous cook.

When my husband and I joined our CSA, we were able to increase our consumption of healthy organic fruits and vegetables. Cost-wise, it was like getting a 10% discount on grocery store produce. Best of all, the farmers from our CSA send out an email with suggested recipes every week based on what we're getting in our batch. We've discovered some cool dishes we wouldn't have otherwise have tried.

2. Buy a cow

You may notice a theme here -- going directly to the farmer can provide big savings. In this case, however, you're buying a cow (or a pig) rather than your fruits and veggies.

Many local farmers will allow you to buy a quarter, half, or even whole cow or pig depending on your preferences. They'll butcher it and process the meat for you and you'll get a bunch of different cuts of meat, along with some ground beef or pork.

This can be substantially cheaper than buying meat at the grocery store, but again you'll need to be a little more creative in your recipe selection since you'll likely get some cuts you might not have normally bought. In this case, you'll also need a big freezer to store all your meat.

3. Batch cook

Finally, you can save both time and money by batch cooking. Essentially, this involves buying a lot of an item when it's on sale (think pasta sauce or ground beef) and then making up a huge batch of one or more recipes that use that item. You can then divide up your big meal into portion sizes appropriate for you or your family and freeze them.

This saves you money in a couple ways. For one thing, you're basing your meals around ingredients that are on sale. And for another, you'll have a whole bunch of meals ready in your freezer so you can avoid eating out when you don't feel like cooking -- or avoid even having to purchase many groceries in weeks when money gets tight or there aren't any good bargains.

Saving money at the grocery store is definitely doable

Reducing your grocery bill doesn't have to mean compromising on food quality. If you follow these three suggestions, you may even be able to eat healthier local food than you currently consume -- with a little more money in your pocket.

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