April 5, 2022

Don't Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is: Saving on Food Expenses

Valerie Mellema
Fortune 500 Editorial Contributor

When it comes to food shopping, there’s no reason to force yourself to break the bank to get your sustenance! Although you need food to survive, there’s no reason to have to dip into your savings to get what you need. As such, read on to learn about possible ways to save on food expenses—then, you’ll feel like you’re eating food instead of just eating money!

Make a Budget

One of the best ways to save on food expenses is to make a budget. Know what you are willing to spend and hold yourself firm to that limit. Don’t try to get tricky or blur the boundary! Instead, stick to it and you’ll begin to learn how much of what you buy (and spend unnecessary money on), you don’t need.

When it comes to saving money for food, there are numerous ways to keep your checkbook in the green. There are even methods outside of the ones listed here! So, if you’re looking for how to save money, figure out what works best for you and start saving!

Inventory Your Pantry

One of the best things you can do is take a good look at your pantry each week before you go grocery shopping. If you can’t do it weekly, create a running list that you update when you can! This will allow you to keep track of what food and supplies you have on hand and what you’re running low on.

Once you know what you have, you can avoid buying duplicates of it at the store, which will help you keep your finances in your pocket rather than in the cashier’s till.

Plan Your Menu

Planning your menu is also a great idea for cutting costs and saving on food expenses. When you plan your meals, itemize which ingredients you need to complete the dinner, and then when you go shopping at the store, stick to those ingredients. Use your list as an all-encompassing rulebook rather than thinking of it as a guide. If you stick to what you only need versus what your stomach might be itching for, you’ll quickly find that you’re easily saving money.

Don’t forget to add in leftovers during your meal planning! This will prevent you from dealing with spoiled food if you forget about those meals/don’t account for those meals.

Not Every Meal Requires Meat

This might seem like a wild suggestion, but it’s true! Not every meal has to have a meat component. If you’re willing to take a ride on the wild side, remove the meat from dishes and instead replace it with cheaper alternatives such as tofu, eggs, beans, and legumes. Not only will this naturally help you eat healthier, but these ingredients are much cheaper to purchase than meat.

Don’t Buy Out of Season

This one may seem obvious, but if you’re buying produce when it’s considered out of season, not only will it not taste as good, but it will also be much more expensive. Additionally, when produce is in season, most grocery stores will offer discounts on whatever produce is freshest, so you’ll automatically be saving money.

Round Your Mental Math Up

When you’re mentally tallying everything that you think you might need to purchase at the grocery store, you can save yourself some financial grief by rounding your mental math upwards. While you’re walking around, you’ll just round up the price of each item. If you’re buying a product that is $2.75, you’ll mentally mark it as a $3 product. If you find something that’s $15.49, you’ll round that up to $16. When you do that, it’s like playing a trick on yourself—you’ll naturally pay less than whatever total you’ve come to in your head, and it can also help you stick to buying only what you need (and stay within your budget).

Bring Lunch from Home

Most workplaces have a refrigerator and microwave for the staff to use, so it’s time to use it. If you’re constantly buying lunch to eat at the office, then it’s time to switch it up. Rather than buying takeout during your limited lunchtime, bring lunch from home! Depending on what you bring, you might only be a few minutes (and a microwave) away from eating as soon as you clock out for lunch. Rather than having to rush everywhere or spend money on delivery to get your food and eat it on time, treat yourself to a more leisurely—and cheaper—lunch by bringing your food from home. You can even make use of your leftovers this way!

Dried, Canned, and Frozen

When it comes to specific recipes, you may not need to have the freshest materials to make the recipe work. Depending on what you’re buying, most food is preserved (dried/canned/frozen) very shortly after it’s picked, meaning that it will still retain its nutrients. Additionally, when you use canned, dried, or frozen food, you’ll be able to control exactly how much of an ingredient you’re using, rather than being forced to use more of an ingredient to keep it from spoiling. With frozen things, pop what you need in your cooking apparatus and set the rest away for a later meal.

If you used canned food, just make sure you check to see if it’s sitting in a bath of salty syrup or juice so that you can rinse the salt off.

Seek Out Coupons

With each year, it seems like all sorts of businesses are constantly jumping on the coupon bandwagon. You’ll get three for the price of two, or buy one get one free! If your grocery store is one of the many places that is going to town with the coupons, then you should do your research. Finding the coupons that work for what you are buying will save you money without you having to skimp on what you need.

Keep Your Health In Check By Making Healthy Choices

This might seem odd on a list for saving money, but when you buy healthier foods, you’ll save money on your health down the road. Rather than buying loads of cheap junk food that’ll make you feel good at the moment (and help you cut costs), spend a bit more money on healthy and organic foods. Healthier foods also tend to be lower in calories, so if you’ve been hoping to get healthy and lose weight, your time has arrived!

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