No matter how you slice it, food is the one of the biggest expenses for most families, usually right behind house or rent payments. And, unlike other things, it’s not something that you can just simply do without to save a bit of extra money. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to stretch your budget and make those dollars work a little harder! Here are some tips for saving money on food:
1. Buy more food, then divide and freeze
While the larger packages of meat will be a little more expensive, you can divide them up when you get home and freeze the smaller portions, resulting in savings overall. The same goes for vegetables—buy when they’re on sale, and then divide into manageable portions and freeze. It costs a bit more upfront, but you’ll reap the savings when you can cook a few meals without purchasing anything.
2. Always buy in season
Generally speaking, foods that are in season will be cheaper. Also, purchasing food and eating in season will ensure you have a variety of items in your diet. Don’t forget to buy a little extra and freeze it so you can enjoy some fresh strawberries in December if you wish!
3. Plan a menu
You’d be amazed at how much money you’ll save with something as simple as a menu. List out however many meals you need for the week (or two weeks, if that’s how your pay period falls) and then make your grocery list at the same time. Then, post your menu on the fridge and you’ll be able to simply decide what to make that day when you get home—no temptation to go out to eat, and no stressing over what to make!
4. Use leftovers
Plan for not only having leftovers, but using them. You can either save them and take it for lunch the next day (which also results in more savings!) or else set aside a day on your menu where you’re going to eat the food you’ve already prepared. Keep in mind you don’t have to just reheat it and eat the same thing—be creative! Use your crockpot, make a casserole, or add some additional ingredients and make an entirely new dish with leftover meat and veggies.
5. Make healthy choices
Eating healthy is actually cheaper than most people think. Junk food is not only unhealthy, but it’s expensive and not very filling. Instead of a bag of chips, buy some apples for the kids to snack on after school. Lessen portion sizes (which may even help you lose weight!) and eat more veggies, as meat tends to be the most expensive part of a meal.
6. Price items at multiple stores
Supermarkets might be convenient, but stores that sell everything never have everything cheaper. Check multiple locations and shopping around to get the best deals can really help. After all, a few dollars here and there really adds up quick. Shopping at bulk and discount stores like Aldi or Costco can also result in significant savings.
7. Use generic brands
Name brands are usually more expensive than the generic brands, and with most things, the taste really isn’t any different. In fact, there are some off-brands that I prefer. It’s a bit of trial and error, but you’ll quickly figure out which items you can save some extra money on.
8. Cook in bulk
One easy way to save money is to cook a little extra and eat it more than once. Some items, like chili, you can freeze, while others work fantastic as leftovers in a lunch the next day. Click here for some tips on how to double a recipe so that you’re sure to have some extra!
9. Make food from scratch
It might be a bit more time-consuming, but making things from scratch is actually cheaper and healthier! Keep in mind that when you start making things from scratch, it might be a bit more of on up-front cost, but you’ll get more bang for your buck, so it’s definitely worth it. For example, a box of Kraft Mac ‘n Cheese is usually around $1.50 and will last one to two meals, but for $3-$4 you can buy pasta and cheese (and use milk you probably already have) to make mac’n cheese least three or four times. Bonus, you can make it as cheesy as you like! Same goes for things like taco seasoning and biscuits.
10. Take advantage of coupons and sales
When you’re trying to save, every penny counts, so clip your coupons and read through the sales in the newspaper or online, and plan your menu based on what’s going on sale. You’re guaranteed to have a broad range of things in your diet this way, and you can always freeze items for a later date!
11. Shop less
I simply can’t stress this one enough. Every time you go into the store, there’s the risk of being pulled in by the clever advertising. If you’re really trying to stick with a frugal budget, only shop once a week, and only buy things you’ve got on your grocery list. On that same note, ONLY shop with a grocery list, and don’t cheat and add items to it in the store.
12. Start your own garden
There are plenty of items that can be grown from clippings, and many veggies and herbs are really simple to grow. As a bonus, can any excess from your garden and save even more money!
What other tips do you have for saving money in the kitchen? Share with me in the comments below!