6 smart ways to stretch your money

Posted at 08/04/14 11:25 AM

MANILA, Philippines - If there’s one thing that home makers are most sensitive about, it’s rising food prices.

Food usually accounts for the bulk of expenses of the typical Filipino household, which is why sudden upticks in food prices can affect one’s household budget. It doesn’t help that when food prices go up, the increments can be quite substantial. For example, vegetable prices last month were reported to have hit astonishing highs, with garlic going for P300 per kilo (a tenfold increase from usual prices).

Many factors affect food prices. Seasonality is one factor. Some fruits like mangoes may come really cheap during the summer months after a bountiful harvest, but prices could more than double during off-season months.

Food prices also jump during holidays, most especially during the Christmas season. Supply disruptions also cause price increases. Note how prices of fish can suddenly rise right after a typhoon, when fishermen are unable to go out to sea to catch fish. Changes in the foreign currency exchange rate can also affect food prices, especially imported food stuff. Knowing these things would help you to anticipate how food prices would be following certain events. In so doing, you can plan ahead.

While there is not much you can do about high food prices, there are some things you can do to ensure that you can make the most out of your food budget.

Plan your menu.

Planning in advance will allow you to adjust your meals according to food prices. When you plan your menu, you can think of dishes that use less expensive ingredients. Walking into the grocery and picking out ingredients on the spot makes you prone to overspending. It also does not allow you the advantages of being able to plan a well-thought out menu that balances your family’s food preferences with your food budget.

Prepare meals that feature the most affordable ingredients that your family loves. You might not want to prepare chop suey when vegetable prices are hovering near all-time highs, but use a lot of them when prices drop at other times of the year.

1. Compare prices.

Make it a point to compare prices between different brands. The price difference between two brands could be substantial. Also, compare prices of food according to how they are cut or the manner of preparation. For instance, prices for different meat cuts usually vary.

2. Prepare your own food.

Precooked or pre-prepared food could cost so much higher than unprepared or unprocessed food. For instance, ready-to-cook chicken dipped in sauce or seasoning command higher prices than plain chicken cuts. You may wish to buy the unprepared cuts and prepare this yourself. Although this may take a bit longer to prepare, you can save a lot this way.

3. Know when to buy in bulk.

Buying in bulk can help you save, but know what and when to buy food in bulk. For instance, when food prices are high, there is no point stocking up on food. You may be better off buying small quantities instead. There is also no point buying perishable food in bulk, since that would mean wastage. Tomatoes, for instance, can rot easily so buy just enough for your needs.

4. Be creative.

Just because food prices are high does not mean you can’t serve the expensive ingredients. Prepare soup-based dishes since these allow you to “extend” the pricier ingredients by using less of the more expensive meat parts, while still allowing your family to enjoy them. Sauces also go a long way in making dishes not just more flavorful, but more affordable as well. For instance, one kilo of chicken cooked with tomato sauce and potatoes can feed more than fried chicken.

5. Use substitutes.

Don’t be afraid to use substitutes for expensive ingredients. If a dish calls for expensive lapu-lapu or salmon, you can always choose to substitute it with a less expensive fish like milkfish (bangus). Adobong kangkong, for instance, can be as flavorful as pork adobo.

6. Buy food from the right places.

Some stores charge more for food items. For instance, convenience stores would usually charge the most among retail stores because of the longer operating hours. You certainly would not want to buy food in bulk from these stores. Wet markets often offer the most competitive food prices, but larger groceries offer equally good deals. Watch out for food items that go on sale, which is typically offered by larger groceries.

Grow Your Money is an editorial partnership between ABS-CBNnews.com and Citi Philippines to promote financial education and provide helpful information to Filipinos on how to better manage their personal finances.

Visit www.citibank.com.ph for more information.