10 tips for eating as much without spending as much

CHARLOTTE — We all like to eat, but we all know your food bill can add up.

In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average family spent 11.3% of their disposable income on food last year. And it was split about 50-50 between eating at home and dining out, spending about 5.62% at home and 5.64% dining out.

Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke is always looking for ways to help you save money and says a great place to start: the kitchen.

1. Make extra food so you can freeze some for later.

2. Don’t just make a grocery list so you don’t forget certain items. Make a list so you don’t double up on things you already have.

3. Consumer Reports says the average household throws out about a third of its food each year. In dollars and cents, that’s about $1,866. AARP says keep your pantry and fridge organized so you can see what you have. “We suggest people create what we call an “eat this now” space in their fridge. Even put it in a little bin,” AARP’s Neil Wertheimer said. “All of the foodstuffs you probably would throw out in a couple of days, but should eat first.”

4. AARP also says to cook at least one meal each week based solely on foods “lingering” in your kitchen. “It’s a great way to use up what you have prior to going shopping and replacing and getting new food for the coming week,” Wertheimer said.

5. Plan meals in advance. Stoogenke reviewed a lot of strategies for this -- Clemson University’s nutrition program has one he really likes. (See the program at this link.)

“But you have to plan because, if you don’t have something in place, a lot of times, the drive-through is the easy option or the Uber eats delivery or having that delivery to your house,” Clemson’s Brooke Brittain said.

6. You can even use artificial intelligence like ChatGPT to help plan your meals.

Here are the last few tips for those of you who will have the time and interest (not everyone will):

7. Make your own coffee.

8. Cut up fruit and veggies yourself. “The more they’ve done to it, the more it cost you,” Brittain said.

9. Buy big bags of chips and crackers and divide them into your own smaller baggies for lunches.

10. Use self-checkout. A number of retail groups cite a study that apparently found people who check out on their own also do less impulse buying.

Here are two bonus tips, specifically for all the carnivores out there:

  • Use a slow cooker. You can have a lot of success buying much less expensive cuts of meat.
  • AARP says use ground chicken in place of ground beef. It’s much less expensive these days.

(WATCH: 9 Investigates: How restaurants use ‘ghost kitchens’ to offer online-only orders)

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