Mexican cuisine tends to be quite budget-friendly to start with, as many staple ingredients are naturally low in cost. If you utilize these tips, you too can enjoy delicious homemade Mexican food even on a tight budget. (And honestly, these tips will work for any type of cuisine!)
Buy in Bulk
Even though you may have to pay out a little more up front, you will save often lots of money if you buy in larger quantities. For instance, if you buy a 1-pound bag of rice for $2, you may be able to get a 3-pound bag for $4—getting three times the amount of rice, for only twice the cost. Shopping from the bulk bins in the store can also provide savings.
If buying in bulk doesn’t really work for you because there aren´t enough people in your household to make it worthwhile or because you simply do not have the space to store very much, think about going in with another family or two with an occasional bulk purchase. Buy a bunch of something, divide up the cost and the product, and you’re all winners.
Stock up During Sales
Many items, such as beans, rice, and canned goods have far-away expiration dates. These items can last 6 months to over a year, so when they go on sale, purchase enough to last you a long time. By the time they go on sale again, you will have used up enough to go for another batch.
Place the items with the closest expiration dates at the front of your cabinet or pantry and those that can last longer in the back. Check the dates and move the cans or packages around accordingly when you restock; that way you won´t have to throw any expired items away.
Watch the Ads
Check out your grocery store ads each week to find the best prices. When you see a great price, get several of that item. This may mean you have to go to more than one store, but because you're stocking up, it will cost you less, in the long run, to buy items with the lowest out-of-pocket cost.
If you plan meals in advance (and if you want to save money, you really should), bring your weekly grocery ads into the equation. Let the ads tell you what ingredients are on sale, then plan the week´s menu around those.
You can potentially cut your grocery budget in half if you use coupons. Some stores double or triple coupons on a regular basis; a quick call to your local grocer will let you know if they do or not. If you combine your coupons with local sales, you can get items for just a few cents or even free.
A few examples: Guerrero recently offered a printable coupon for $1 off any Guerrero product. Our local grocery store had them on sale for $1 each, so we were able to get 2 packages for free. La Victoria had a coupon in the local paper for $2 off of any enchilada sauce. A couple of weeks later it went on sale for $2 and we were able to get them for free.
We also buy multiple Sunday papers, so when something is cheap or free with coupons, we can really stock up. Oh, and don´t forget online money-saving sites; these can be a serious source of coupons.
Once you are serious about couponing, you´ll need a system for organizing them. There are many ways to do this; search online for the one that’s best for you. Once you have a system, plan on spending 1 or 2 hours each week getting your coupons, clipping them, and organizing them. It takes some time to get a good stock of coupons to work from, but it will happen if you keep at it.
Join a Produce Co-op
Some communities have a produce co-op program. In some areas, these are known as a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Typically, you pay a flat fee, then you pick up the pre-selected produce at a designated location weekly or bi-weekly. The co-ops get the produce from local farmers at a great price, so the amount and types of products will vary each time (depending on what is in season) and should last 1-2 weeks.
Search online to see if your area has one. This is a great way to “eat local” and potentially to try food items that you have not experienced before.
Go to a Farmer's Market
Farmer's Markets are a great place to get fresh, local ingredients. Fruits, vegetables, specialty breads, and more can sometimes be found for much cheaper than grocery store prices. Even when the prices are no lower than the area supermarkets, it`s worth buying directly from the producer, cutting out the unnecessary middlemen.
Use a Deep Freeze
This is another up-front cost, but well worth it in the long run. If you have a deep freezer, you can buy meat (one of the most expensive ingredients that we use on a regular basis) when it's on a great sale, and store it for later. When ground beef is on sale for .99 cents a pound, we buy 15 pounds and freeze it.
If you don’t have a freezer and can't afford a new one, check your local classifieds, PennySaver, Craigslist or Freecycle to get one for cheap or even free.
Shop From Your Pantry
If your kitchen cabinets are already so full of food items that it’s a struggle to find space to put everything away when you come home from the supermarket, you would definitely benefit from some “cupboard shopping.” Take stock of what you already have, then make a definite plan to use some of that in your meals for the next few weeks. You may still have to purchase perishables such as vegetables, but you’ll save by not buying new staples and by reducing waste (since your pantry items with no longer expire and need to be thrown out).