15 Ways to Save on Food in 2015
Earlier this year I shared my 15s of 2015, 15 Ways to Invest, 15 Ways to Save Money, 15 Ways to Make Money and 15 Ways to Fight Debt, so for my food week this week I thought I would share 15 Ways to Save on Food in 2015. As I mentioned on Monday, after the cost of your living space, your monthly food expense is typically the next largest monthly line item on your budget. Over the past three years, I have made a concerted effort to turn around my family’s spendy food ways, and in the process I have saved over $10,000. I guarantee you that if I can do it, so can you. Here are 15 ways you can save on your food spending this year:
1) Eat from Home
The number one action anyone can take to save money on food is to eat from home more often. We used to order take out or go out to eat at least 3-4 times per week, and even a cheap meal at McDonald’s can cost over $20. Now I make 3-4 meals from home for $20.
It takes some time and preparation to cook from home, but it’s worth the effort. If you love eating out, look up recipes for your favorite meals and try them at home. We do this all the time, and I honestly can’t think of a meal I would crave from a restaurant that we haven’t made from home that’s not only cheaper but healthier as well.
2) Meal Plan
Your meal plan is like your roadmap for a weeklong road trip. Yes, it takes some time initially to work through it; however, it will save you time and money down the road. I first started meal planning about two years ago and it took me about an hour every Sunday morning to figure it out. Just like anything, though, after practice I am much more efficient and can pull a plan together in about 10 minutes.
3) Take Inventory
I was notorious for overbuying ingredients based on not even knowing what was in my refrigerator or pantry before I went food shopping. This led to thousands of dollars of wasted food that just got thrown away. Now I take a quick scan of what I have before I leave the house and it not only prevents overbuying, but it helps me meal plan as well. The more you can utilize what you already have on hand, the cheaper your grocery bill that week.
4) Know Your Prices
I confess, I never used to know how much a package of chicken or a bag of lettuce cost as I simply shopped for the things I needed without regard to price. Now I know exactly what all of my staples cost and I know whether or not I am getting a good deal. Just last week my grocery store advertised Perdue chicken as buy one get one free; however, the per chicken cost was much higher than normal which made the all-in cost more than buying the chicken separately when they are on sale. If you don’t know what things cost, you are prone to fall for smart marketing tactics like this.
5) Shop in Season
I love Brussels sprouts as much as the next person; however, they are not currently in season which means a package that is normally $3 is now closer to $6. As much as I love Brussels sprouts, I love my money more so I have swapped them out for broccoli or any other veggie that’s in season or on sale.
6) Go Vegan (occasionally)
We are a meat-eating household; however, eating meat at every meal can easily run up the food budget. At least once or twice a week we try to eat a meal without meat whether it’s a pasta or rice based dish.
7) Make it a Challenge
I hate feeling deprived and when you are trying to cut your food spending, and Oreos no longer make the cut, it’s easy to feel this way; however, instead of getting depressed, I make my food spending a challenge. I have created various challenges over the years whether it’s limiting myself to $50 a week for food or planning a week’s worth of food based on what’s in the house. If you feel like you are in a food spending rut, come up with fun challenges to not only get you to think outside the box but save money as well.
8) Use Apps
There are numerous apps out there to help you save money on food shopping, some are coupon based and some are sales based. I personally like GroceryPal or Favado to help you save. A good best practice is to consult with your apps before you meal plan so that you are assured to have the best meals and deals planned.
9) Follow Blogs
I am an active member of the personal finance blogging space; however, I follow many food bloggers as well. What I love about most food bloggers are that they are typically working parents like me who want to create tasty and inexpensive meals for their families. Many times when I am looking for a new recipe, I go directly to the food blogger sites that I like and scroll through their archives for something good. My two favorites are The Pioneer Woman and $5 Dinner Mom.
10) Embrace Pinterest
I love food and I love trying new recipes, especially when I get in a food rut, and there is no better cookbook to search than Pinterest. On the weekends when I am meal planning, I find new recipes just by searching with the items I know I already have on hand.
11) Substitute as Needed
Certain recipes may require specific ingredients; however, many open themselves up for substitutions, and you should be open to substitute based on price. For example, I typically make a dish with chicken; however, chicken was not on sale this week, but pork chops were, so I replaced the meal with pork chops and it was just as good and half the price.
12) Buy in Bulk
Tomorrow I am going to share a post that my hubby wrote about comparison-shopping between your regular grocery store and bulk stores like Sam’s Club. They don’t always have the best deals; however, for the deals that they provide, you should plan to buy those items in bulk. It’s tough when you have limited space, but if you can make it work, you should.
13) Stick to a Week
One of the biggest food mistakes I used to make was buying items I was convinced I would eat “some day.” This is how I ended up with five boxes of oatmeal in my pantry that I had no intention of eating. The best way I curbed this behavior was to limit my food spending to a specific timeframe. If I was not going to eat the oatmeal within the week, it had to stay on the shelf. For every item that goes in your basket, make sure you have a specific deadline for its use so that you maximize your savings and minimize your waste.
14) Replace Store Bought with Homemade
Thanks to our trusty stand mixer, my hubby has gotten good at making anything from tortillas to pizza dough from scratch. If you are spending a bunch of money on packaged goods, look for ways to make those items from scratch.
15) Coupon Clip
I confess, I am not good with coupon clipping and in the past I have overspent on food based on having a coupon. For those who are organized, though, and can put a system in place, it’s a great way to save money and help you with your meal plan as well. If you need a coupon app check out Coupon Sherpa.