Food is a huge chunk of everyone’s budget. It’s a variable expense (you have some control over it) unlike a mortgage or car payment which are the same amount every month.
So, of course, if you’re looking to save some money, food expenses are the first place to start! We’re all looking for more secrets to saving money on food.
Our grocery budget has fluctuated a bit through the years.
When I wasn’t working, I had the time and energy to make a lot of things from scratch and really shop around for the best deals.
Now that I’m working, I don’t want to spend big on convenience foods, but I want my food to be as convenient as possible!
Plus, food prices keep getting higher and higher each year which can make sticking to the budget rough. I feel like I’m already an old person saying, “In my day eggs were 99 cents a dozen.”
I shared our actual budget a few weeks ago which included our budget for groceries. On average, we spend about $55-60 a week on food for the two of us.
We use some simple tricks to keep our budget as low as we can while still eating healthy:
13 Secrets To Saving Money On Food
Don’t Serve Meat As The Main Course
I think we can all agree that meat can get really pricey and is usually the most expensive part of any meal.
We save a lot of money by hardly ever serving plain meat as a main course.
This means that the meat in our meal is always a part of something.
We might grill some chicken, but our main course isn’t “grilled chicken”. We slice the grilled chicken to use in chicken tacos or chicken sandwiches.
Or I might cook a bunch of chicken in the crockpot so that I can use it to make soups and casseroles.
Making your meat just a part of your main course allows you to stretch it further and use less which saves a lot of money. We eat meat with almost every meal, but it’s rare that we sit down to just a chunk of meat.
Eat What You Already Have
Always shop your house first!
I try to use up what we have as much as possible and I’m still shocked with how much food we end up wasting.
If we have some deli meat that’s been in the fridge for a while, I make sure to find a way to eat it up. If our veggies are getting close to being done-for, I chop them up and add them to scrambled eggs.
Most of us have cupboards and pantries busting with random ingredients.
We can save a lot by taking stock of what’s in there and planning meals around that.
Don’t Shop Without 2 Lists
Before I go grocery shopping, I make 2 lists.
One is of the food I need to purchase (my grocery list). The other is a list of all of the meals I will be able to make with all of the food I’m going to buy along with what I already have at home (my meals list for the week).
This ensures that I don’t buy a bunch of random food that doesn’t work together.
It also saves a bunch of money because we are far less likely to go out to eat when I’ve got a list on the fridge of all the meals that we have everything to make.
Update! You can get the meal planning printable I use each week by entering your info below!
Fill Up On Veggies and Fruit
We’ve been making big efforts to fill up on more fruits and veggies.
They’re super healthy and very filling.
If you purchase what’s in season, this doesn’t have to be expensive at all.
Plus, there are some really great frozen and canned fruits and vegetables these days too that can be an easy part of any meal. Canned fruits and vegetables go on sale all the time, so you can easily save money on the healthy stuff this way.
The USDA recommends that half of your meal should be fruits and veggies, so try and fill half of your plate with those before you add anything else.
Save $$$ Without Clipping Coupons
Clipping coupons is not usually a good use of my time.
Occasionally, we’ll get a newspaper that has coupons inside and I’ll browse through to see if there are coupons for anything I would normally buy.
We buy a lot of fruits and veggies and it’s pretty rare to get coupons for those.
The best way I’ve found to save extra money on food without spending tons of time clipping coupons is with the Ibotta app. It’s a super easy to use app that you can use on your phone or tablet.
All you have to do is glance through to see if there are rebates available (they get new ones each week) for what you are planning on buying at the store, or what you just picked up. Then you take a picture of your receipt and Ibotta confirms that you purchased that item.
You can cash in your rebates for gift cards to tons of different stores, like Amazon, Walmart, and Starbucks, or you can cash them in with PayPal.
I do not like messing around with tons of money saving websites that make you do 20 tasks before you get any benefit. Ibotta is super simple and easy to use. It takes me less than 5 minutes to find the rebates I want and to submit for them every week.
Plus, they have rebates available for fruits and vegetables as well as store brand items. To quickly find these rebates, I click on the store I’m shopping at and then in the search bar, type in “any” (like in the pic above). This brings up all of the items that can be purchased in any brand. So I might be able to get a rebate on any brand of milk, bananas, cereal, or tomatoes.
I’ve created a tutorial showing exactly how to use Ibotta for saving money on fruits, veggies, and non-name brand items.
Click here to download the Ibotta app and start saving on groceries!
Make Alcohol A Special Thing
Whenever we buy alcohol I’m always in shock at the price tag. It’s crazy-expensive!
I work with people who drink a few beers every night and I’m really not sure how they afford it. That’s a lot of money to spend on beverages.
We make alcohol a special thing. We might buy some beer or wine every few months.
Our grocery budget would go up a minimum of $30 a month just by buying something to drink on the weekends. If you’re trying to save money on groceries, this could make a big difference.
Limit Juices, Sodas, & Milk
I could easily drink my daily calories in juice and soda. I love it.
But in the interest of our finances and my sugar intake, we try to limit the amount of juice and soda we drink. I have a glass of soda with my lunch (must. have. caffeine.) and that’s about it. Other than that, I try to reach for water.
Milk is really expensive and can also be limited to save money.
If you’re worried about getting enough Calcium, do a little research on this. Milk is not the best source of Calcium out there, so you can limit your milk intake if you get enough of the right veggies and beans that have even more Calcium in them.
Chow Those Leftovers
Wasting food is wasting money!
We try to spruce up our leftovers so that it doesn’t feel like we’re eating the exact same meal over and over again.
Here’s an example of how we use what’s leftover with a new main course or side dish to mix it up (taken from my post on how to cook for two without wasting food):
We’ll do chicken with fruit and rolls one night, then leftover chicken with roasted veggies the second night, followed by leftover roasted veggies with fish the third night.
This way, we eat up what we have without getting bored of the same meal.
Measure Serving Sizes
I’m shocked at how much longer our food lasts when we take an extra minute to measure serving sizes on a few things.
I love to eat cereal every morning for breakfast. I get the chocolate shredded wheat that has a lot of fiber with just enough sweetness to start my day. Love it!
Well, it’s not super cheap, but I’ve been using a food scale to measure my serving size each morning, and you know what? That box of cereal lasts a long time if I eat the correct serving size!
I know a lot of people that don’t buy cereal at all because they go through it too fast.
It’s really easy to pour a bowl full and eat over twice the amount that you’re supposed to. So of course you go through it way too fast and it seems far too expensive for how many meals you get out of it.
Another area to measure serving sizes is in meat.
It’s easy to think that each person should get their own chicken breast. Well lately, the chicken breasts we’ve been getting are about a pound each!! A serving of meat is about 3-4oz. That means that each chicken breasts should be enough to feed 4 people instead of 1! That’s going to make a big difference in the budget.
Eat Simple Meals
I’m all about trying new recipes and love finding delicious new ideas on Pinterest.
However, I don’t often try new recipes that call for a bunch of ingredients that we don’t normally buy. Why? Because we’ll use a tiny bit of those new ingredients for the recipe and then the rest will go to waste sitting in the cupboard.
When we keep our meals simple and centered around the same basic ingredients we always keep on hand, less will go to waste and we won’t spend a bunch of money on a whole stock of different items.
Don’t Be Scared Of Store Brands, Discount Stores, Or Aldi
I’m so glad that most people are much more OK with saving money by buying store brands as well as shopping at discount stores or Aldi these days.
I have honestly found that there are a great deal of foods that I prefer from these sources instead of the name brands.
There is almost nothing I don’t like from Aldi and pretty much everything is far less expensive than anywhere else.
If you haven’t jumped on board with these money saving methods, here’s your invitation.
Serve Filling Side Dishes
Rice, whole grain pasta, and potatoes (or sweet potatoes) are very inexpensive and extremely filling.
Be sure to serve these with meals often to make sure no one leaves the table hungry.
Don’t Shop Hungry
This is pretty classic advice. If I shop hungry, I’m 75% more likely to come home with a chocolate cake. It’s just the facts. Grab a snack before you go.
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Saturday 26th of November 2016
[…] 13 Secret to Saving Money on Food […]
Money Saving Strategies for the Grocery Store - The (mostly) Simple Life
Wednesday 23rd of November 2016
[…] can take a look at my 13 secrets to saving money on food. I’ve also come up with these grocery shopping strategies that can keep costs […]
Monday 15th of August 2016
Love your ideas for saving on groceries! I have found that buying my meat from Zaycon has helped a bunch. They sell in bulk. You go on their website, choose what you want and where you will pick it up. Pay in advance and then portion and freeze the meat when you get it home. Fresh chicken breasts are usually about $1.69 a pound. Cheaper than Sam's even!
Tuesday 16th of August 2016
Wow, that sounds awesome! I am definitely going to check that out.
Wednesday 22nd of June 2016
I have my own vegetable garden and I almost spend my complete weekend for taking care of my small saplings. I really enjoy doing it. It not only gives me pleasure but also saves money and the best thing is that I get naturally produced food stuff.
Wednesday 22nd of June 2016
That's awesome Kevin!
Tanya @ Mom's Small Victories
Sunday 1st of May 2016
These are great tips. I gave up on couponing awhile ago as we've been trying to eat less processed food. Now I may go to coupons.com and print up coupons I need or I use the Cartwheel app for Target when I go. I need to give Ibotta another try. I found it confusing at first to get the rebate so gave up on it. Stopping by from Share the Wealth, I hope you’ll join us at Small Victories Sunday Linkup too if you haven’t already!