These days, saving money however we can is more important than ever. Since so much of our budget is allocated to food, it makes sense to look at ways to spend less on meals. Obviously, eating in more often than out is a great start. When eating in, cooking from scratch is usually cheaper than going with pre-packaged meals. Real home cooking can also be much healthier and tastier, too. Below are a few tips to help shave precious dollars off of your food bill.
Shop for sale items and use coupons
Looking through the weekly ads of multiple grocery stores can be time consuming, but can help you save money. It might not be efficient to visit several stores for groceries each week, but figuring out who’s got the best deals on the items you need most can be a cost saver. It might mean visiting a different store each week, but that gives you the opportunity to compare regular prices and learn what in-store savings programs are available. Taking a half hour or less each week to look for coupons in the Sunday paper is also still a great way to save a few bucks, especially if you use those coupons on items that are on sale. There are more and more apps these days that can help you find the best deals in town, and many of these apps are free.
Buy in bulk
It might not always be practical to buy all of your food in bulk, but items that freeze easily and that you’ll use in a reasonable amount of time might be worth buying in larger quantities. If chicken is a staple in your house, buying the whole chicken is definitely cheaper provided you actually use the whole chicken. Many supermarkets offer ready-to-eat rotisserie chickens for well under $10. A whole chicken can provide several meals, especially if you pick the bones clean–consider chicken salad for lunch. If you ever buy chicken stock, you’ll probably be surprised at how easily and cheaply you can turn that rotisserie chicken carcass into super tasty homemade stock.
If you do a lot of home cooking, you probably go through a bunch of onions, bell peppers, celery, etc. Instead of buying just one or two of each for a recipe, think about buying larger, more cost effective bags. You can then chop and freeze them in bulk. You’ve saved money on the front end and a little time on the back end.
Items like rice, pasta, and even spices are also much less expensive if you buy them in larger quantities.
Make a list–and stick to it
Making a list can be a big money and time saver in the supermarket. Plan your meals for the week based on what you have on hand and what’s on sale. Use this meal plan to make your list. Shopping less often also helps save you money. If you try to limit shopping trips to once a week, you’ll have a longer list, which will fill up your cart faster. Since a fuller cart costs more money, you’ll be less likely to further drive up your bill by making impulse purchases. And, of course, never go shopping on an empty stomach.
Use the internet
The internet is full of so many recipes for making your own salad dressings, sauces, marinades, and condiments that you’re sure to find some money saving do-it-yourself versions of your favorites. You can also find any number of meal plans designed to let you make more meals for less money and with less effort.
Consider adding more eggs and beans
If money is so tight that even buying meat can seem like a luxury, consider adding more eggs and beans (dry, not canned) to your menu. Eggs and beans are still relatively inexpensive, super versatile, and great sources of lean protein.
With these tips as a starting point, you’re well on your way to making your food budget go farther without feeling like you’re sacrificing anything.