How To Save Money on Food

The following article is by MPFJ staff writer, Miss T from Prairie Eco-Thrifter. If you want to learn how to live your dream life in a sustainable, healthy, and money savvy way, check out her site here.

I’m guessing most families and households find that food represents a huge chunk out of the weekly budget.

Let’s face it, food is one thing we simply cannot live without, and so the expenditure is one that has to be justified. Luckily there are numerous ways to save money on food, so let’s look at a few of them here.

Before we start, let’s get one thing clear; I’m not about advocating saving money on food by scrimping on quality or adopting a less than healthy diet. Having training in nutrition has made me even more determined that my family will eat well through a healthy, nutritionally-balanced diet that will enable us all to remain fit, happy and healthy. My focus is on buying quality foods, fresh and local where possible, and organic is preferable in in order to avoid as many food additives as I can.

It’s almost impossible to spend less if you don’t have a household budget. Food will form an important part of the budget, so it is vital that you set a realistic food budget amount and stick to it every time you shop. If you easily succumb to temptation, only take the set amount of money with you into the store and pay for your food by cash only. This one step was pivotal in turning my food spending around.

Maybe you have also found that the more often you go into a grocery store, the more money you spend on food in total. An important trick to saving money on food is to shop just once a week, or every two weeks if you can, to cut down on the temptation to buy more. While some economists and bloggers advocate grocery shopping only monthly, I find that I need my fresh produce more often than that. I have partly found a way around this by buying my fresh veggies and fruit at local farmers’ market on the weekends as often as possible. Make sure you stick strictly to the budget you have set for this section of your food purchases.

Unless you are an absolute whiz with mental arithmetic (which I am not!), take a calculator with you when you do the grocery shopping. This way you know exactly when you have reached your limit and won’t feel the need to pull out the credit card if the cash register total is higher than you thought. This works both ways, of course; after you have shopped everything on your list, you might still have money left over and so you can buy that bulk container of washing powder or that yummy fancy ice cream as a treat.

Now, about that list; if you want to save money on food, you simply must shop with a list and refuse to buy anything not on it, even if you realize that you might need it. I have a basic list of the items I know we use every week, in the quantities that I buy. This includes things like butter, flour, sugar, eggs, milk, coffee and bread for me but your staples list could be different. I’ve made up a document on my computer that is a shopping list with my basics already listed; I simply print it out and add the other items to it. As you walk the aisles, focus on the list and think before you add anything to your cart.

Of course, you can’t have an accurate list if you don’t know what meals you are going to be having, so a planned menu is important. Get the whole family involved in this and let everyone have a say in the dishes that will be prepared. Some people like to set out a day–by-day menu while others (like me) are happy to list what meals will be prepared at some time during the week. Once you have decided on your menu, you add the necessary ingredients to your list, after checking your pantry to make sure of what you have in stock. One great idea I learned years ago was to have a “pantry meal” every so often; the meal is prepared using items that are already in the pantry. This helps to prevent a build-up of seldom-used, older products.

Meals prepared in the home kitchen cost a fraction of pre-prepared food, whether they are take-out or frozen. Make cooking part of your food plan and again, get the whole family involved. Older kids can easily make a simple meal and, if everyone takes a turn, it doesn’t all fall on the one person. Take back control over what your family eats and cook at home, using fresh produce where possible.

Take advantage of store specials when you can but only if you normally use what is on special. The same applies to buying in bulk – only buy bulk if you regularly use that product, otherwise it will be wasted and wasted food is wasted money. Shop around different stores to find the best deals but remember, keep within your food budget. Produce in season will be cheaper, fresher and more nutritious so try and eat seasonally, like our grandmothers did.

Saving money on food doesn’t mean that you miss out on treats or that meals have to be plain and boring. With a little creativity and ingenuity, you can save money on food while enjoying exciting, varied, healthy and nutritious meals.

How about you all? What techniques do you find most effective at saving money on food? Have you used any of the ones above? 

Do you ever find it hard to eat healthy and also save money at the same time?

Share your experiences by commenting below! 

Comments

  1. I don’t think its that hard eating healthy while still following a budget, to the contrary, I think its the way to go. Budgets makes you focus and more often than not, one tends to focus on the best, in this case, the healthy.
    You provide excellent tips, I second meal-planning! Its one thing that has really saved me a bunch and reduced food waste around the household. It also focuses our grocery buying efforts and allows us to score better deals say, buying in bulk for stuff we might really need during a particular week.
    Simon @ Modest Money recently posted…MBNA Smart Cash MasterCard Review – MBNA Cash Back Credit CardMy Profile

    • Its true. It eating healthy does give you something to focus on. We are huge fans of meal planning. It streamlines time a lot and we always eat healthy because of it. Glad to hear you have the same good habit.

  2. My girlfriend and I shop together after she plans the menu for the week. Going as a team helps make sure we stay under budget and get the best deals while avoiding the dreaded impulse purchase.
    Michael | The Student Loan Sherpa recently posted…Six Insider Tips on Student Loan ConsolidationMy Profile

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