8 Easy Ways to Save Money on Your Food Budget
1. Make it Yourself
I can say with out a shadow of a doubt, going out to eat is what breaks the food budget bank. In May we $818.60 on food, $327.06 of which was just from eating or drinking out! When you think about how a meal for two could easily pay for half the grocery bill for a week, it really puts things into perspective. In June, we dropped that price to 484.42, we managed to save $334.18 just by staying in more. Of that bill, only $55.51 was spent going out, and nearly $100 was spent on liquor from the liquor store so we still had fun!
You’ll see in the beautiful chart below, overall food expense goes down nominally as dining expenses go down. If you want to be saving money on your food bill, consider going out less and cooking more at home.
(Okay, that was number heavy, you’ll see less numbers from now on)
You can even take this step even further by making things like bread, desserts, and anything else really for yourself. But always think about the time to cost analysis. Sure you can make your own potato chips, but is it really worth the effort to Madeline a whole bunch of potatoes, fry the pieces in small batches, to end up with what could have been a .30 cent bag of chips? I love making my own stuff, but there are some things that just aren’t worth it, and we have the power of mass production to thank for that.
2. Make a Plan
Planning meals for the week can be a bit discouraging, at least, it is for me. That’s why I don’t exactly plan each individual meal for the week either. Instead, I have 3-4 meals in mind which I’ll cook in big batches. Then, I’ll have staples that I almost always have in stock, like pasta, rice and tortillas. What I’ll end up doing is revamping leftovers to make a new dish in less time. For example, I’ll make a batch of ground beef that we’ll eat with rice, use leftovers to make lasagna, or as a filling to tacos.
So yeah, my method isn’t a strict plan more of a guideline, and that’s because personally I like to be flexible with my meals.
3. Write a Grocery List
You know how you’re not supposed to go to the grocery store hungry? If you didn’t, well, now you know. That same kind of logic applies to a grocery list. Making a list stops you from buying things you don’t need or have a plan for. It saves you money literally by keeping you on task and it makes the trip a lot faster. I made this nifty Grocery List Template to make planning your groceries for the week easier.
Of course, there are times when we’re tempted to stray from the list, at which point I always ask myself: Do I really need this? Can I live without it for another week? What will I do with this?
4. Take Advantage of Sales
I STRONGLY encourage planning meals with weekly specials in mind. I feel like I really learned that lesson living in Grand Cayman. I’ve never seen a sweet pepper be so expensive. Last I checked it was $4.99/lb for red peppers. When I saw them on the weekly ad for $1.99/lb I asked my husband to get me as much as he could carry on his walk back home! One of those moments when I fell in love with him all over again, because my big ole potato brought me back nearly 6 pounds of sweet peppers! [insert googley love struck eyes] I’m saving $18 by taking advantage of a sale! Not a single pepper will go to waste either because I’m totally dicing and freezing the lot before they go bad!
5. Know What’s in Your Pantry
I know there are some people that have an inventory list of their products at home…Sorry, that’s not happening, and I tried! Believe me, I tried. But who has time for that? I’m not running a grocery store here.
It’s helpful to know what you already have available at home. You will avoid buying duplicate items, and you can even use what you have at home as substitutions in a recipe. Here’s a super extensive list of possible substitutions.
Keeping the kitchen organized naturally makes you aware of what you do and don’t have. Every three months or so, I do a kind of purge in the house. In the kitchen, that means looking at what we have and how we can use it up to start fresh for the new season. It doesn’t in valve a bit of creativity, but the goal is to avoid doing groceries for a while until the old stuff has been used.
In general, if you’re using up what you buy, are somewhat organized in your kitchen, and check what you need before you go to the store, you won’t have a problem spending on extra unnecessary stuff at the store.
6. Avoid Wasting Food
A lot of these tips kind of go hand in hand. If you’re making a list you’re less likely to buy things you don’t need or don’t have a plan for and therefore waste less food. This is especially true when it comes to produce. My mom, has this infamous habit of buying two pineapples every time she goes to the store…. Two pineapples that almost always rot on the windowsill.
We each have our own situations and if you don’t have the time to cut fruit, buy pre-cut fruit, it’s better than letting it go to waste and throwing your money away.
There are so many things we can do to waste less food:
Make your own Vegetable Stock with Kitchen Scraps.
Use over ripe bananas in Banana Bread.
Use the freezer to store sliced bread (yes it thaws out perfectly), ripe fruit for smoothies, leftovers, and so much more.
Learn how to store produce for optimal shelf life. Here’s a video for tips on storing veggies and fruits.
* I’ll definitely be making my own post/video to share tips on storage. A few things to note about the video linked: store onions away from potatoes because the ethylene released by potatoes will make onions rot, apples help potatoes last longer so store those together, if you have a problem with wilting leafy greens, store them in a container with a towel, replacing the towel when it gets damp)
7. Re-Grow Produce
This tip is on the same line of wasting less food, but it deserves it’s own header because it’s more than just not wasting food, it’s giving produce a second life. This can be done in the smallest apartments, so long as you have a window.
Instead of buying fresh basil every time you need it for a recipe, consider growing your own little plant. They cost the same as a pack of cut basil, are hearty plants great for beginners, and when you shake it it’s like perfume for your kitchen. Green onions can be cut and regrown in a glass of water. Mint literally grows like a weed. It’s really simpler than you think to have your own indoor garden.
I mostly grow and re-grow herbs in my tiny garden, but for a whole list of ways to regrow in your kitchen, watch this Nifty video!
8. Buy in Bulk
It just makes sense, it’s like part of the laws of economics. The greater in bulk you buy something, the cheaper it is per unit. It could be because of lower production costs, less individualized packaging, supply and demand. The point is, in most cases it pays off to buy things, you know you’re gonna need and use, in bulk. Things we buy in bulk: rice, beans, quinoa, nuts and dried fruit (diy trail mix), napkins, frozen strawberries, eggs (I eat a lot of eggs), granola bars, cheese, meats.
We take advantage of the low cost of bulk prices and make use of the freezer for everything we won’t be finishing right away (meats and cheese). The list may vary for you, but you should only really buy things you know you like and you buy often anyways.