Looking for ways to save money on your food costs? Try these 10 ideas for minimizing your stomach’s impact on your budget:
1. Stop dining out! Cook at home instead.
Paying someone else to fix your meals gets very expensive very quickly. Forget the argument that you save time by dining out. That only works for fast food – and you know better than that, right? Even if your kitchen skills are a little dull, you’ll be able to prepare a tasty meal in no time after a little practice. Make dining out a rare treat and your budget will thank you.
2. Create a meal menu for the week. Then make a grocery list and stick to it.
Don’t let your refrigerator dictate your diet. Plan your meals for the week by looking at what’s on sale (without violating any of the remaining tips). Make your meals work together by planning for dishes that use the same ingredients. Then create your grocery list around that menu. Stick to your list when you’re shopping for groceries. You’ll save money two ways here. First, you’ll waste less food because your meals are planned out and work together. And second, you’ll spend less on impulse purchases because you’re sticking to your list. Oh, and make sure you eat before go shopping!
3. Buy unprocessed foods.
Lay off the Cheez Whiz, soda, junk food, and prepared meals. These foods cost more than they’re worth, and they’re not healthy at all. Poor quality ingredients, additives, and way too much sodium mean you’re getting ripped off while destroying your health. Instead, stick to unprocessed foods. The less it’s been processed the better. Buy basic ingredients (like raw vegetables) and turn them into meals in your kitchen. You’ll be healthier and save a ton of money.
4. Buy produce in season.
When you buy produce out of its regular harvest season you’ll pay more for a lower quality product. Buying in season means you’ll get a lower price and fresher fruits and vegetables. You’re also more likely to get locally grown produce than something that’s been shipped across the nation or world.
5. Buy in bulk.
When buying staples consider buying in bulk. You’ll often get the exact same product for a lower cost per unit (ounce, pound, etc.). However, be careful to compare costs on the various sizes available. The biggest package may not always be the best buy.
6. Stock up when you find a good bargain.
If a store has a great sale on an item you regularly use and can store, you can save a good bit of money by stocking up. Just make sure it won’t go bad before you can actually use it. And don’t buy stuff just because it’s on sale – be certain it’s something you’ll eat!
7. Reduce your meat intake.
Meats are the most expensive parts of nearly any meal. By cutting back on the amount of meat you eat, you’ll save money and improve your health. Don’t worry about not getting enough protein. Americans eat much more protein than we actually need for a healthy diet. Less protein means better calcium absorption, which leads to stronger bones.
8. Don’t eat too much.
Not only is it bad for your waist size, but it’s also bad for your budget. When you eat too much your body doesn’t efficiently turn the food into energy. All you get is a stuffed belly and money down the toilet (literally). Eat moderate portions and you’ll feel better and save money.
9. Don’t waste leftovers.
If you planned your meals well in tip #2, you shouldn’t have to deal with this problem. But in case you didn’t do that, don’t forget to use all your leftovers. Anything you throw away is like throwing cash in the trash.
10. Price your recipes to find the cheapest recipes.
By figuring out the cost per serving for the recipes you prepare the most, you’ll find the most affordable meals. If you want to see a true cost, add in the time you spent on preparation (less the time you would have spent driving and waiting to eat out). If you can’t remember what you paid for the ingredients, you can estimate prices from an online comparison. I use Safeway’s “Grocery Delivery” section on their website when pricing my own recipes. You can see the price and size for almost any item. You just need to enter a zip code where a store is located. If you don’t have a Safeway near you, try “22044” for a zip code. It’ll take you a little time to price your recipes, but it’s something you won’t need to do very often. If you find yourself needing to save a little more money, it’ll help to know which recipes are the cheapest. Finally, don’t focus on cost to the detriment of your health.