Lowering Your Food Budget

Michelle —  November 26, 2012 — 3 Comments

Food always seems to be our biggest budget buster. Between going to restaurants, going out with friends, buying too many snacks and everything else, we can never manage to stay within our food budget.

Our main reason for being so bad with our food budget is almost entirely due to laziness. And the fact that the Mexican restaurant up the street has the best food ever. Not kidding… We really want to work on our food budget so that we can save money for other things in our life, and also to pay down my student loans.

However, until we get this under control, it will make everything else in our lives just a little more difficult to achieve. Every loan and savings goal that we have will take just a little longer than necessary.

Below are some things that we are doing to cut down on our food budget:

1. We are limiting our going out to eat at restaurants.

We are really working on going out to eat less. Food at home can taste just as good, as long as we put some effort into it. Also, now that we have similar schedules, it makes it easier for us to eat at home together. When you go out to eat, you need to factor in the actual meal, taxes, tip, and the gas to get there. It all adds up very quickly.

Eating at home more often is also nice because you can spend more quality time together, which a price cannot be placed on.

2. We have a menu plan.

Having a menu plan has been a lifesaver for us. It works wonders in so many ways. Planning what we will eat is actually fun, and I can mix up what we usually eat. It is also great because if I menu plan and write out exactly what we need at the grocery store, then I am cutting down on any food waste.

Households waste a lot of money on food waste. Have you ever thought about how much leftover food you have thrown away recently? What about anything that you had past expiration and had to throw away? Menu planning allows you to buy only exactly what you need, since you know what you will be cooking!

3. Don’t go shopping hungry.

This is something that probably everyone knows, yet a lot of people still do it! I still do this a lot and this is something that I am working on. Try to at least get a snack in before you leave to go grocery shopping.

If you don’t eat before hand, then everyone knows what will happen: EVERYTHING will look delicious and you will be thinking about all kinds of recipes in your head that you “should try and make” but in reality probably never will.

4. Use a basket instead of a cart.

If you know that you don’t need or want to buy a lot of things when you are at the grocery store, then just get a basket instead. You will be forced to buy only what you truly need because there are only so many items that you can carry before your arms will hurt like crazy. I do this a lot and it has really worked for me.

Whenever I think about getting something, I wonder how much weight it would add to the basket and whether the item is worth it or not for me to carry. Most of the time, the item is not worth it.

5. Use coupons.

This is also something that we are currently working on. I haven’t couponed in a while, but in the past it did work. The main thing to remember is to use coupons on things that you actually NEED and not to just use coupons because you have one. Buying things that you will never use it wasted money, no matter how much money you actually saved.

What are you doing to lower your food budget?

Michelle

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Michelle is the founder of Making Sense of Cents, a personal finance and lifestyle blog about budgeting, traveling, life, and student loans. Read further on her story and life, and you can also connect with her on twitter.

3 responses to Lowering Your Food Budget

  1. Michelle,
    I’ve done a great job of staying within in my food budget by going to the grocery store every day. That sounds like a nightmare, but the store is on my way to/from work. So each day I buy what I need for the next 24 hours. Nothing goes to waste.

    Sometimes I’ll go with one of my roommates to buy what we need and cook dinner together. We always end up with leftovers for the next day’s lunch or dinner.

    -Christian L. @ Smart Military Money

  2. You have some great suggestions here. Cutting costs on the food budget is really challenging when you have a large family (we have six to feed).

    I try to prepare at least two low cost dinners (under $20/meal) a week. Examples could be soup and sandwiches, breakfast type meals (pancakes, bacon & eggs), spaghetti, or mac and cheese with chicken nuggets. Kid friendly and fairly healthy.

    I have found coupons frustrating. The effort and time needed to look through newspaper circulars, search online, sign up for websites, and print coupons, just doesn’t appeal to me. I know there is a cost savings in doing this, but I value time more right now than saving a few dollars each trip I make to the grocery store.

  3. That’s a great idea! I am a little too lazy to go to the store everyday, so that wouldn’t work well for me.

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