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How to Save Money on Food
In this article I am going to share more than 80 of my ideas for how to save money on food.
Food is one of the areas where most families spend the most money. In fact, for some families, it is the budget category where they spend the most money! An average family of 4 in America spends between $700 and $1,100 a month on food! That is close to or even more than $10,000 a year! That is a ton of money to spend every year!
There is no denying that food is expensive. But we also make it expensive by the choices that we make. There are tons of ways that you can save money on food by simply being intentional with your food budget.
By following the money-saving tips below, we’re able to feed our family of five (two adults and three young children) for under $400 a month (including our occasional restaurant eating). Learn how you can slash your food budget with these must-know tips below!
Tip: Pin the image above to save this article to Pinterest so that you can easily refer to these tips on how to save money on food later!
85 Best Ideas for How to Save Money on Food
If you Google or search on Pinterest, you can literally find tons and tons of ideas for how to save money on food. In this article I am going to share 85 of the best tips for saving money on food.
1. Remember that food is fleeting.
This first tip can potentially help you save a ton of money on your monthly food budget. As you plan and shop for food, keep this in mind: when you eat something, even the best-tasting food in the world, it is nothing more than a fleeting experience. You are done eating that yummy food, even if you take your time to enjoy it, in likely well under an hour.
So though I love a great-tasting ________ (fill in with your favorite food splurge) as much as the next person, I love financial security and meaningful experiences and financial independence and freedom so much more.
And since I don’t have enough money to buy everything that I want, I have to choose (with my husband of course) what is most important for me and my family to spend this precious resource on. And for us, that is things other than food.
If you will take a little time to consider what’s really important to you and your family—what your core values are—that may help you find the motivation you need to not only save money on groceries but also to then use that money for reaching other awesome financial goals.
2. Know how much you can spend before you go food shopping.
I know—knowing how much you can spend on groceries means you need to have a budget or spending plan. 🙂 But don’t worry—I’m here to help! Here’s how you can learn the simple steps to starting a budget and start reaching your financial goals!
You need to know what you can spend so that you don’t blow your food budget halfway through the month and have to live on PB&J sandwiches or mac and cheese for the rest of the month (or much worse, use a credit card to buy your food, so that you can finance it and be paying interest on food you ate 9 months ago—yikes!).
Find a list of 45+ cheap and healthy foods that you can buy to help you save money on groceries and avoid busting your food budget.
3. Use apps on your smartphone to save money on food.
There are several great apps that can help you save money even after you buy your groceries. Some of the most popular ones include Ibotta, Checkout 51, and Ebates. These services can be a great way to save money on things you buy every day. Signing up for any of these accounts is free.
4. Buy items when they are at their best price. Sign up for the handy cheat sheet below so you will know how!
Keep a record of the best prices for the grocery items you regularly buy (sign up for the handy cheat sheet below!), and then check the ads and shop the sales to buy items when they are at their best price.
Remember to look at the ads as you’re making your meal plan, and base your meals when possible on the items that are on sale at the store (or stores—we generally go to two to get the best deals from each one) that week. And then don’t forget the ads when you leave the house! (Although fortunately the store should have some.)
Also, make sure that the sale price is actually a good deal. The best way to do that is to keep a record of the price you normally pay for the items that you buy and consume regularly so that you will be able to recognize when something really is a great price.
You can receive a free grocery cost comparison cheat sheet by filling out the information below—if you have not shopped this way before, it will be life changing. You’ll never have to wonder again if something is a good price or not—from now on, you will know!
Get your free grocery cost comparison shopping cheat sheet now!
5. Reduce your number of shopping trips.
One of the best things you can do to save money on food is to shop less often. The less often you’re in the store, the less often you’re tempted to buy more than you intended. And the best way to do that is to start planning your meals and to shop for what you can online (more on that below).
6. Create a simple meal plan to use to create your shopping list to save a bunch of money on food.
Once a week or every two weeks (if you can go that long between grocery shopping trips, like my family does—and which I recommend if you really want to save time and money), sit down and write out your plan for what you will eat for your meals. You can do this a day or two before your shopping trip so that you don’t feel rushed and so you don’t have so much to do on shopping day.
Want a quick and easy way to plan your meals? Sign up below to get your free meal planner now!
Or if you feel overwhelmed at the thought of having to create a meal plan and add one more thing to your to-do list, then an inexpensive solution is a service like Emeals or $5 Meal Plans. Emeals costs as little as $5 per month and $5 Meal Plans costs just $5 per month.
With these services, they do all of the planning for you. They plan the meals you will eat and include the ingredients you will need to buy and the recipes you will need to follow to prepare them. Pretty cool. With $5 Meal Plans, the dinners themselves also cost less than $5 per meal to make! And both come with a 14-day free trial, so if this sounds like a good option for your family, you can check out Emeals here and $5 Meal Plans here.
And with a plan like those from Freezeasy, you can save even more time by preparing 10 simple and nutritious meals in an hour that you can then freeze. When you’re ready to eat them, simply throw them in the slow cooker or the oven, and voila! With plans for as little as $8 per month (and no more than $10 per month), your money is well spent if it keeps you from going out to eat or buying expensive grocery store convenience foods. Learn more about Freezeasy here.
If you’re regularly spending several hundred dollars on groceries or hundreds of dollars eating out, one of these services could really help you get on the right track and save your food budget.
7. Simplify your meals.
Keep things simple, especially at the beginning of your move to more mindful meal planning. Choose a few different things you can eat for breakfast, and then multiply that by two or three (for a week) or four or five (for two weeks). Do the same thing with lunch—keep things hassle free by choosing three or four things you really like that you can eat a couple of times a week each, and then buy the quantity you need for the one or two weeks.
For lunch, consider keeping things simple with a two or three different kinds of sandwiches or two or three different kinds of salads, and then just eating each of those a couple of times a week.
And for dinner, choose a simple, relatively healthy (if you know I really should have typed “healthful” there, you’re a fellow editor at heart <3), and inexpensive meal for each day of the week, and then write down the needed ingredients for your shopping list.
Then just multiply the things you need to buy for each meal by two if you’ll be going two weeks between shopping trips like we do.
Remember that dinner does not have to be an elaborate three-course affair—a simple main dish with a salad is always sufficient, or do a one-pot dinner to make things even easier. Some of my favorite quick go-to inexpensive dinners are macaroni and cheese with carrots and broccoli; egg omelets with spinach and mushrooms and topped with salsa (or add different-colored peppers and onions); and spaghetti with salad and French bread. Other favorites include beef, bean, and rice burritos with salsa; noodles with chicken and broccoli and carrots; chicken broccoli alfredo; and chicken, broccoli, and rice casserole.
We have young children, and they can be somewhat picky like many young children are, so our meals sometimes lean toward chicken nuggets and corn dogs or hot dogs with fries—even though I know those aren’t the healthiest options. (Just keeping it real. :))
Our older daughter won’t really eat vegetables right now; how do you get your picky children to eat more vegetables? I would really love to know! (Leave a comment below and enlighten me, please!)
8. Plan your meals around what foods are on sale or in season to really save money on food.
This is another huge money saver. I know you may want strawberry spinach salad, watermelon, cherries, or blueberries in January, but you’ll save a ton of money if you can be patient and buy food when it is in season.
9. Make a shopping list, and stick to it.
Once you’ve checked out the ads and created your meal plan, create your shopping list, and then stick to it to save money on food. When you’re at the store, buy only what is on your list. The only exception should be if something that is shelf-stable or will last a while in the fridge or freezer (and you actually have room for it! note to self!) is on sale for a really great price.
Be aware of what you have and what you’re getting low on so that you don’t run out of items and have to make an “emergency” run to the store. And if you do run out of an item, substitute! Google an ingredient or find a recipe that uses an alternative to what you are missing. Or make something else. Or just leave the ingredient out; in many cases, you will be fine without it.
10. Shop the less expensive grocery stores.
You probably already know the grocery stores around your town that are generally less expensive—and those that are more. So why do you shop at the more expensive stores? Is it to impress people—on the off chance you might see someone you know? Is it to feel good that you can “afford” the food at the more expensive place? Wouldn’t you rather feel great that you upped your Roth IRA contribution this year to enjoy an awesome retirement, contributed substantially to or even maxed out your child’s college fund ESA, or paid for your next amazing vacation with cash?
I admit that I’m not a foodie, and I don’t think I ever will be. There are just so many other awesome things I would rather spend my money on!
11. Look for items in your recipes that you can substitute for less-expensive items.
Where possible, substitute more expensive foods for less expensive but similar items. For example, try substituting chicken for beef, roast for steak, strawberries for blueberries, and so on.
12. Use what you already have before you buy more.
Closely related to the tip just above, use what you already have (and substitute for what you don’t) before you buy more of an item.
13. Decide to eat less.
I am teasing (mostly :)), but the truth is, most of us eat more than we need to—sometimes a lot more. So buy less so you’ll eat less (especially less of the nutrient-void pure fillers like junk food and soda and alcohol). Both your wallet and your waistline will thank you! If you don’t have cookies or potato chips or soda in your house, you can’t give in to cravings to eat them.
14. Ignore the fad diets in order to save money on food.
The truth is that most of the diets out there are pretty expensive and most of them aren’t sustainable long term—and many of them just don’t work even in the first place.
If you want to lose weight and save more money, then you probably already know the simple formula: eat fewer calories than you burn every day. So count calories, find a means of exercise that you love to do (and if it requires a piece of equipment, buy one for your home), and keep a food journal. Those are the three habits that have been shown to give people the most powerful, long-term success on maintaining a healthy weight.
15. Use a grocery pickup service like Walmart Pickup and Target Drive Up.
Grocery pickup services are really nice because, at least with those that are like Walmart Pickup, you spend the same amount as you do at the store (there’s no convenience fee and you don’t even have to tip or anything—in fact, they can’t accept tips), you save time, and you don’t succumb to impulse buys! That’s a win-win-win!
I love Walmart Pickup and even drove to the Walmart a couple of towns away (it was still only about a 10- or 15-minute drive) before they offered the service in my own town. If you prefer to shop at Target, see if Target’s Drive Up is available in your area!
Check out these related articles:
- 31 Budget-Friendly Easy and Cheap Dinner Recipes
- 7 Simple Steps to Use a Meal Planner to Save Money on Groceries
- How to Use a Grocery Item Price Comparison Cheat Sheet to Save Money
- How to Do a No-Spend Challenge
- 13 Ways to Save Big Money When Eating Out
- 12 Top Tips to Save Money on Entertainment
16. Buy generic or store brand whenever possible to save a bunch of money on food.
Another easy tip for how to save money on food is to buy generic brands whenever they are available.
For the majority of items, you can’t even tell the difference in taste—in fact, many of the items are made in the same factory in the exact same way and just have different labels! You’ll save tons of money once you make this switch. Because buying name brand food doesn’t mean you are well off—but having money in your savings account and in your investment accounts does. 🙂
17. Shop at multiple stores to help you save money on food.
You don’t want to go overboard with this, of course, because the time and gas spent wouldn’t be worth it, but if you do your grocery shopping at two or maybe three stores, the savings can be significant and you really don’t need to spend much more time.
For my family we shop one store that generally has better prices on meat and produce and pantry goods (pasta, rice, and so on) and the other that often has better prices on dairy and eggs and bread.
18. Shop the sales cycles to help you save money on food.
Many stores follow cycles where they routinely have sales on specific items every 6 to 9 weeks. If you shop regularly at a particular store, you may have even begun to notice this pattern. The trick to use this to full advantage is to buy enough of the items when they go on sale to last you till the next time you need to buy them.
This means that you will need to have room in your pantry or cupboards or in a storage room to be able to buy the quantity of food needed until the item goes on sale again. You might need to get creative to accomplish this, but the savings can definitely be worth it.
19. Don’t buy toiletries at the grocery store.
Unless there’s a good sale, you’ll generally pay more for toiletries at the grocery store than at Target or Walmart or similar stores. You might be able to find these items for even less on Amazon.
20. Leave the bottled water on the shelf.
Just get used to drinking tap water (buy a filter if you live in an area where you really need it), and keep the water in the fridge. It’s the environmentally friendly and money-saver-friendly thing to do. 🙂
21. Learn to spot a bargain, and stock up to potentially save a ton of money on food.
When you find great bargains on nonperishable items in particular, stock up. Again, do this only for items that you will use before they go bad. Again, use the grocery price comparison cheat sheet available above to help with this! You’ll quickly be a pro at spotting deals and buying in bulk by using the price comparison cheat sheet.
22. Get a rain check.
If an item that is on sale sells out, see if your store will offer a rain check.
23. Buy staples (shelf-stable foods) online to save money on food.
If it makes sense to do so, consider buying foods that you can online. As with grocery pickup services like Walmart Pickup, one of the main benefits with buying groceries online is that you buy your groceries and they get delivered right to your door, and you don’t have the temptation of buying anything that you hadn’t planned on buying. You can buy groceries online from Walmart.com, Amazon, and Target.
You might even consider using a grocery delivery service like Amazon Fresh, Smith’s delivery, or Peapod. Amazon Fresh is just $14.99 a month (but you do need to be a member of Amazon Prime in order to join). Amazon Fresh isn’t available in our area, but I have to admit that at that price (and if we weren’t able to do much of our grocery shopping at a nearby discount store; see below), it might be tempting. I spend at least four hours a month grocery shopping (you probably do too?), and so for about $4 per hour (or less, since I probably spend a little more time than that), I could buy back my time. And that sounds like a pretty good deal to me!
24. Leave your kids at home.
Your dear little children can’t ask you to buy things that tempt you to blow your grocery budget if you don’t take them with you. So whenever you can, leave them at home.
One parent can go grocery shopping while the other parent takes the kids to the park or the library or one of many other free activities. Or for when that won’t work for whatever reason, even if you or your spouse shops early in the morning (one of my favorite times to shop, at least during the summer) or after the kids are in bed at night, it’s worth it to be able to leave the little cherubs at home and shop in peace.
25. Remember that convenience costs—a lot.
When you buy convenience items such as cut fruit, deli platters, prepared cakes, and so on, you’re paying a premium for the work that someone else did. With a little bit of planning, you can make these things fit in your schedule so that you can do them yourself.
If you’re unsure how to do something, just start with simple and work your way into more difficult endeavors. For most things, super simple is good enough. And remember that Google and Pinterest and Instagram are your friends—that is, they’re great for helping to find ideas. And you can learn how to do anything on YouTube. 🙂
26. Know the best bang for your food buck.
Some of the best deals you can get on foods are items such as beans, rice, pasta, potatoes, and whole grains. These items make an excellent, filling side dish, or you can even make them the main show at dinnertime.
Top tip: Find a list of more than 45 of the cheapest healthy foods you can eat here.
A couple of my favorite bean and rice dishes are a simple beans, rice, and cheese burrito and a simple red beans with rice dish.
And we love to have a simple baked potato bar where we sprinkle on cheese, spoon on chili, add butter and salt and pepper, garnish with sour cream and olives, pour on ranch, or dress them up with stroganoff or hamburger gravy. The many possibilities are one of the reasons I love this additional inexpensive, tasty staple.
27. Don’t shop when you’re hungry.
If you’re famished after a hard day at work or chasing after the kids you’re going to be more susceptible to buying convenience foods and overbuying in general. If you don’t have time to eat a full meal before you grocery shop, then at least eat a quick snack before you head out the door. Even if it’s a stashed apple, granola bar, almonds, or pretzels, that’s definitely better than trying to fight temptation on an empty stomach.
28. Avoid the snack and junk food aisles to save money on groceries.
The junk food and snack items can be some of the most expensive in the store—and they have very little if any nutritional value. So don’t put yourself in temptation’s path—just skip them altogether. Unless I have something I know I need to get from the candy aisle or cookie aisle (such as licorice for rope necklaces for a fun kids craft or graham crackers to make s’mores for a camping trip), I try to just skip these aisles. (Whether I actually do or not depends on how well I’m doing at trying to eat healthier. :))
29. Look high and low to find good deals.
The most expensive grocery items are generally in the middle shelves of food—at eye level—so look in the upper and lower shelves to find good deals. Though they can be a place for grocers to highlight great deals, more expensive items are also often displayed on the ends of the aisles, so don’t assume that everything on the ends of the aisles is a good price just because it’s featured there.
30. Buy in bulk (for frequently used, nonperishable food items) in order to save money on food.
Buying in bulk can be a great way to save money on food. The general rule is that food is less expensive if you buy a bigger package or can or box rather than a smaller one. However, stores also know that they have trained people to understand this rule of economy, and so sometimes they break it, assuming (correctly! I’ve been guilty of this) that people will buy the bigger item without checking to make sure it’s actually the better price.
However, there are a couple of important guidelines to follow when buying in bulk: Don’t buy more than you can use in a reasonable amount of time. This isn’t such a big deal because many things you can use after the “best by” or expiration date, but for true perishables like produce and fresh meat, make sure to either use it or freeze it before it goes bad.
Also make sure that the things you buy in bulk are things you will actually eat. Even if something is a steal of a deal, your efforts will backfire if you buy a bunch of something you’ve never tried that you end up not liking that just takes up space in your cupboard or pantry until you toss it.
31. Use your calculator to help you save money on food.
If you’re not using your calculator when you shop for groceries (and everything else) there’s a good chance that you’re overspending. Even though many stores do show the unit price for grocery items, sometimes they (either intentionally or not, but I think there’s a good chance it’s intentional) don’t keep the unit consistent. So, for meat, for example, they might use per pound for some items and per ounce for others, and they often will do the price per unit (such as ounces) for some brands and then do the overall price for other brands of the same item. So be sure to combat this (sneaky?) practice by using the calculator on your smartphone or keeping a small calculator in your purse or pocket.
32. Follow the 10 cents per ounce rule as a great guideline for how to save money on food.
For many foods like cereal and snack foods like chips, pretzels, and crackers, I’ve found that if you pay about 10 cents per ounce, you know you’re generally getting a good deal.
So when you see items that are priced less than that (especially if they’re half that!), you know it’s a great time to stock up. Of course this rule of thumb will vary in more expensive areas, but find your own rule of thumb (the 10-cent rule is just really convenient because it makes the math really easy) for where you live, and keep it in mind so that you can more easily spot great deals.
33. Choose cheaper cuts of meat.
Meat may be, overall, the biggest food budget buster. If you want to know how to potentially save a ton of money on food, one of the best things you can do is to choose cheaper cuts of meat 95 percent of the time and then leave the more expensive cuts of meat (those that are more than $2 or $3 a pound) for special occasions.
34. Buy less red meat.
Going along with the point just above, if you want to spend a lot less money on food, then buy less red meat in general. Chicken and turkey and even pork are far cheaper—where I shop, I can often get boneless skinless chicken breasts for $1 a pound on sale.
Even if you don’t have a nearby grocery store where the deals are that good, you’ll still spend far less if you eat less red meat (and your heart will thank you, too!). There are so many great dishes where chicken is the star that the possibilities are nearly endless. And ground turkey is a great (less expensive and more healthy) substitute for ground beef.
35. Buy less meat in general.
The simplest way to save money on meat when doing your grocery shopping is to simply buy less of it. Has your family initiated a meatless Monday in your meal plan yet? (Or it can be whatever day of the week is most convenient, of course—Meatless Monday is just nice because of the alliteration. :))
Even if you love meat, like we do, planning one or more dinners a week that don’t include meat will help you save a ton of money on food. And go meatless during breakfast and lunch when you can, too!
Are you using a meal planner? Doing so can really help you save a ton of money on food by helping you stay organized and giving you the opportunity to spend less money on the meals you choose to make. Sign up below for your free weekly meal planner to save money on meat and all of your groceries!
36. Use less meat than is called for in your meals.
Related to the item just above, when you do have a meal that calls for meat, use less than is called for. I regularly (to the slight chagrin of my husband :)) use about three-fourths of a pound of meat rather than a full pound when recipes call for it.
But I have heard of people who use even less than that—half a pound or even a quarter of a pound. In its place, add more vegetables, beans, pasta, and grains as appropriate.
37. Buy your meat in bulk.
The most expensive way to buy meat is generally one pound at a time. Instead, buy family packs of 5 or even 10 pounds to save money on meat. Then when you get home, set aside the meat that you will use in the next day or two in zip-top bags or airtight containers and put that in the fridge, and put the rest of the meat in single-meal portions (for example, one pound of hamburger for spaghetti or 4 quarter-pound patties for hamburgers) in zip-top bags, label them with the type of meat and date, and put them in the freezer to be used for future meals. Most meat will store well in the freezer for at least 3 months.
38. Buy meat that is marked down in a variety pack.
Variety packs can be a great way to get meat at a good deal. At our local grocery store they regularly sell variety packs of meat for $20 that, when averaged out, are between $2 and $3 a pound. So, for example, they will have two pounds of steak, three pounds of hamburger, three pounds of chicken, and 2 pounds of bacon in the variety pack. So, with this example, what would normally cost $25 or more costs only $20, for a savings of 20% or more. Pretty sweet.
Do you know what the standard prices are of the cuts of meat that you regularly buy? In order to know when the really great deals are, you need to be familiar with the regular prices. You can receive a free grocery price comparison cheat sheet by filling out the information below. If you have not shopped this way before, then this will be a wonderful way for you to save money. You’ll never have to wonder again if something is a good price or not—from now on, you will know!
Get your free grocery cost comparison cheat sheet now!
39. Stretch your meat with oats, rice, breadcrumbs, or similar fillers.
Another easy way to save money on meat is to use fillers to stretch your meat portions. For many meals and various cuts of meat, you can use common fillers and no one will even know the difference. Meatballs, meatloaf, hamburger patties, hamburger to be used in chilis and stews, and ground beef to be used for lasagna and enchiladas are just a few examples.
40. Buy fruits and vegetables in season to save money on groceries.
Even though I’d love to eat cherries and the perfect watermelon and blueberries and strawberries and zucchini and squash and many other fruits and vegetables year round, I’m just not willing to pay the price when they’re not a good deal. Not to mention, when I have occasionally decided to pay the price for fruit out of season (who wouldn’t love cherries in March?), they just didn’t taste as good. That might be because they were shipped from another part of the world and so maybe the quality just wasn’t the same or maybe they just weren’t ripe enough, but whatever the reason, it wasn’t worth the cost.
And by having fruit in season for a shorter period, it does make it a rare treat, which does have its benefits—every year, I can’t wait till mid-June till cherry season. 🙂
Of course what is considered a good price will, as I mentioned above, vary depending on the region where you live, but in my area $1 a pound is a good rule of thumb for a great price on most fruits and some vegetables.
41. Buy frozen fruits and veggies when the fresh alternative isn’t in season.
In some cases it is cheaper to buy frozen produce when the fresh varieties aren’t in season. If the frozen alternative is a good price, then this is a great option. And another benefit of this option is that there is very little if any nutrition lost when you eat frozen produce.
42. Stock up when you find a great deal on produce, and freeze, dehydrate, or bottle or can what you won’t use before it goes bad.
When you find a particularly great deal on a fruit or vegetable your family really likes, stock up on it! Figure out how much you can eat in the week or two that it will last in your fridge, and then plan to freeze, dehydrate, or even bottle the rest.
Many fruits and vegetables freeze very well. For best texture and flavor, you can freeze fruit for about 12 months and vegetables for about 18 months. You can find a guide for freezing fresh produce here.
Another way that we love to preserve fruits and some vegetables is with our dehydrator. We have a couple of fruit trees and we also occasionally get great deals on produce from the local discount store (like $5 for a large box of apples or bananas), and the kids like to eat the dried fruit like candy. (And so do we. :))
43. Buy smaller items when buying fruit and vegetables by the pound.
When buying fruits or vegetables by the pound, consider buying smaller pieces. If buying apples or oranges, for example, buy the smaller ones. You’re likely going to eat one piece no matter the size, so you save money by purchasing the smaller fruits.
Especially if you have young kiddos, as we do, buying smaller pieces of fruit and vegetables is a good idea so that the food is less likely to get wasted.
44. Buy the largest pieces of fruit and largest vegetables when buying by the piece.
On the other hand, when buying at a certain price per item, as long as the food won’t go to waste, buy the largest pieces you can find. So, for example, when they are sold by the piece, by the largest avocados, mangoes, oranges, onions, peppers, broccoli bunches, and so on that you can find.
And then if you do have young kiddos, cut the fruit in half, for example, for your kiddos to share so food won’t get wasted.
45. Shop at farmer’s markets.
If you have a local farmer’s market in your area, you may be able to find great deals. But be careful! Farmer’s market prices are not always less expensive than what you would pay at the grocery store. Again, that’s why it is so important to know the cost of the items that you buy.
If you didn’t do so already, sign up above to get the free grocery price comparison cheat sheet so that you can track and know what the best prices are for the produce and other foods that you regularly buy!
46. Weigh your produce.
When you buy prepackaged produce such as a five-pound bag of apples or oranges or a bag of carrots or potatoes, take a minute to weigh them. The bags are supposed to weigh at least the amount indicated, but because each piece of fruit or vegetable is different, some bags will weigh more than others. You could get 10% more produce (or more!) by weighing the bags and getting the one that weighs the most.
47. Buy dry produce.
To save a little bit of money, buy produce that is dry. Wet produce weighs more.
48. Participate in a community garden.
If you have the opportunity to participate in a community garden, this could be a great way to get produce for a great price. If you don’t know if you have a community garden in your area, Google it to find out.
49. Look into grocery co-ops in your area.
Food co-ops such as Bountiful Baskets can be a good way to get produce and other food at a good price. We have not personally participated in one (maybe we will give it a try sometime when life slows down a little!), but I have family members who love them.
50. Perk up wilted vegetables instead of throwing them out.
Don’t throw out your spinach, lettuce, or other vegetables if they get wilted! You can perk them up by putting them in ice water for about 30 minutes.
51. Store fruits and vegetables in their ideal conditions so that they will last longer.
Look up online how to best store the produce that you regularly eat so that it will last longer. For example, though the peels will turn black, bananas will last longer (possibly even up to a couple of weeks longer), if you store them in the fridge. If you don’t want to or don’t have space to store bananas in the fridge, then keep them out of direct sunlight and hang them up if possible.
52. Use older vegetables in stews and soups.
Instead of throwing them away, use vegetables that are past their prime in stews, soups, broths, chilis, and so on.
53. Grow a garden (if you have time and a green thumb).
If you have the space and the inclination, growing a garden is an excellent way to not only save money but become more self-sufficient. Or it can be once you get good at it, at least. 🙂
54. Ditch the fruit juice.
I was a little crushed several years ago when I learned that fruit juice, unless it’s freshly squeezed and doesn’t have added sugar, isn’t actually very good for you. It’s especially not something you want your children to be consuming in high quantities. Treat it like soda—a rare treat—and eat whole, fresh fruit instead. It’s better for your wallet as well as better for your body.
55. Cut out (or cut down on) soda to help you save money on food.
Soda has virtually no nutritional value, and it’s expensive (tap water is totally the way to go!), so try cutting it out of your diet, or at least saving it for special occasions.
56. Cut down on or ditch the alcohol.
If you can give up alcoholic beverages, you’ll save a good chunk of change. The average American household spends nearly $600 a year on alcohol, or about 1 percent of their annual income. And that number doesn’t appear to account for the households that don’t spend anything at all on alcohol, so for those that do, the number would be even a little higher. There’s a lot of things you could do with that $600 a year (like going a long way toward funding your children’s education savings accounts [ESAs] to help pay for their debt-free college eduation, if you start young).
57. Cut down on processed and packaged foods, and cook from scratch.
With some food options, the healthier option is also the cheapest, and that is often the case with processed and packaged foods. You can save a ton of money if you cook from scratch. And if the idea of cooking from scratch is intimidating, start with very simple recipes with only a few ingredients, and expand your repertoire from there.
58. Buy day-old bread and other baked goods to save money when buying food.
In many cases, you can save up to 50 percent or even more if you’ll buy bread and other baked goods that are a day or a couple of days old.
59. Scrap the cigarettes.
I don’t mean to take this lightly—I know quitting smoking is extremely difficult. I know many who want to quit or who have tried for years and haven’t been able to kick the habit long term. I know most smokers are well aware of the costs—both monetarily and to your health. But if you can give up smoking, you will save so much money!
60. Make your own seasonings to save money.
Make your own taco seasoning, spaghetti seasoning, chili seasoning, and so on. You likely have most if not all of the ingredients on hand, or you can buy what you don’t have next time you’re at the store and make the seasonings for far less than you can buy them. Just Google the recipes.
61. Use price matching when it’s available to help you save money on groceries.
If you have a grocery store near you that participates in price matching, take advantage of it! Just don’t forget to bring your ads with you, if you need them (I’m speaking from experience here).
62. Buy holiday items and seasonal items after the holiday or season.
Holiday item prices get slashed after the holiday is over, so when you can, wait till then to buy. Love Christmas cookies, Valentine sweethearts, or Cadbury eggs, for example? You can often get them for 50 to 75 percent off (or even more!) if you wait to buy them till a few days after the holiday. What about turkey or corned beef? Again, these items will often go on sale after the holiday.
63. Shop the scratch and dent aisles at the grocery store.
If your store has a scratch and dent aisle, you can sometimes find amazing deals.
64. Shop at discount and salvage stores to save a ton of money on food.
Another way that you can potentially save a lot of money on food is by shopping at discount and salvage stores. Discount stores like ALDI (I sure wish we had one in our state!) are another awesome way to save money on groceries, even without coupons!
And moms and dads, if you have a salvage-type store (where they sell overstock, soon-to-expire, lost, or damaged items) in your area and you’re not shopping there, you are doing your wallet a huge disservice!
Not too long after we moved to the town where we now live, I heard from a couple of people about a discount store in the area that offered great prices on food.
At the time we didn’t have any children and Walmart was still offering price matching, so our food budget really wasn’t that much. And when I eventually did go to check out the discount store, it was after 7 in the evening, and the place was already closed. It seemed odd to me that a grocery-type store would close that early, and it was a long time before I went back.
But eventually after a couple of my family members started shopping there sometimes and told me about some of the great deals, I decided to check it out. By then we had a few kids (our two youngest children are twins, so it didn’t take as long as normal for that to happen :)), and food prices had risen some over the years, so we were definitely spending more on groceries than before. And I have to tell you, after going there and seeing the great deals, my life has not been the same.
Pretty soon after going to that discount store for the first time I started doing the bulk of my grocery shopping there. The prices on some things are just incredible. Most of their produce is cheaper than anywhere else by far, and even though some of it is a little too ripe or bruised or is otherwise not worth buying, for the most part, it’s just great prices.
And they have great prices on a lot of other things too, like yogurt and meat and other perishables. Many of these items are close to or even past the recommended “best by” or “use by” date, but with everything we’ve bought there over the past two years, we’ve never found anything that looked or smelled sketchy or otherwise seemed questionable (besides some of the produce, as I mentioned).
For more information, see this article from Consumer Reports, which mentions how the “best by” and “use by” dates are more a matter or food quality than safety. (But, really, I wonder if it’s not also another way for the big food producers to make more money. The sooner food “expires,” the more likely you are to feel like you need to toss it and buy more of it. I’m not trying to be a food conspiracy theorist; just sayin’. :))
Here are some examples of awesome deals from this discount store: 10 cents a pound for cherries (the cherries were in great shape), 10 cents for a large bag of tortilla chips, 10 cents for everything in the baking aisle, like a huge canister of baking powder (they were working to clear the aisle out to restock that day), a bushel of bananas (about 40 pounds) and of apples for $5 each, red delicious apples for 20 cents a pound (pretty regularly), 48 ounces of yogurt for a $1 (often), boneless skinless chicken breasts for a dollar a pound (regularly), boxes of cereal for a $1, and much more. If you are someone who loves to find great deals, it’s a lot of fun!
At these discount or salvage stores you never know exactly what you’re going to find, so it’s also kind of like going on a treasure hunt. What I generally do is shop there first to buy produce and other things I find great deals on like chicken and meat and eggs and snacks like chips or popcorn or things like that, and then I go to my neighborhood grocery store (which also has pretty great prices) and buy bread and cheese and other staples I couldn’t find (or that weren’t a great deal) at the discount store.
65. Shop the clearance racks.
Similar to the point just above, clearance-rack items at regular stores—which may include items that are nearing “use by” or “best by” dates—are often 50 percent off or more.
66. Consider shopping at membership clubs to save money on food.
You may be able to save a ton of money by shopping at membership clubs. We personally have never had a membership to a store like Costco, BJ’s Wholesale, or Sam’s Club. However, I know many people love to shop at these stores for the great deals you can get on some items.
We may consider getting a membership when our children are teenagers and eating us out of house and home. 🙂
Just remember to only buy what you will eat or what you can eat in a reasonable amount of time.
67. Put back items you decide you don’t really need or find out aren’t the deal you thought they were.
When you get to the checkout aisle you may regret putting some of the items in your cart. If you do, politely ask the cashier to put them back for you. Don’t buy something you really don’t want out of laziness or guilt for a slight inconvenience caused to the checker and stocker.
68. Pay with cash to potentially save a lot of money on food.
Another of my best tips for how to save money on food is by purchasing your groceries with cash. Not only will this help you really feel how much you are spending on food (so that you will be inclined to spend less), but it will also stop you from overspending.
Most grocery stores have monitors at the cash register where you can see the total amount as each item is rung up, so put the most important things first (and the nonessential and especially junk food last), and if you reach your budgeted amount for the week or two-week period, then stop and, again, politely ask the cashier to return the rest of the items for you. By doing this you’ll never overspend on groceries again.
69. Watch the cash register monitor (if available) or check your receipt when you’re done to make sure you didn’t get overcharged for an item.
Another important reason to watch the cash register is to make sure that you don’t get overcharged for an item. One time I was buying cherries for $1.50 a pound but they got rung up for close to $4 a pound, so the total was close to $30. Needless to say, I was really glad I was paying attention!
70. Don’t buy individual-sized portions of food.
You will pay a lot more money on groceries if you buy individually packaged items of food such as cheese sticks, small yogurts, boxes of small bags of chips, snack-sized bags of carrots or other vegetables, individual-sized cups of fruit, individual-sized cups of pudding, and so on.
Instead, slice the cheese yourself into little sticks (and then put them into zip-top bags for an easy and convenient snack), put baby carrots in a zip-top bag yourself (or peel and slice regular carrots yourself), portion out small quantities of applesauce and canned fruit and pudding and so on for the kiddos yourself, and so forth.
71. Don’t let food go to waste.
One of the main advantages of meal planning is that you can avoid letting food go to waste by planning how much to buy and by planning leftover nights to use up the food you have before you buy more.
And one of the best ways to avoid letting leftover food go to waste, or food that you may have forgotten you bought (I know that I sometimes forget the food that I’ve bought earlier in the week or the week before!), is to plan one night a week for leftovers. Plus, it also means one night of easy reheated meals where you can have dinner on the table in minutes.
As you inventory your leftovers, also evaluate what you bought and what you used (or didn’t) to see what you can do differently in the future. For example, if you regularly have meat leftover that you haven’t used, than cut back on how much meat you buy. Or vegetables. Maybe you have the intention of eating two servings of vegetables with each meal, but you really only ever eat one. If you know you’re really not going to eat that second serving, despite your best intentions, then reduce the amount of vegetables that you buy.
72. Use fresh produce and meats first.
Going along with the suggestion just above, be sure to use fresh food first before it spoils. So plan your meals with fresh produce and meats and so forth earlier in the week (or in the first week if you shop for two weeks at a time, as we do), and then use frozen, canned, and dehydrated produce and frozen meats later in the week (or in the second week).
I mentioned it above, but it’s worth repeating—the fewer times you go to the (grocery) store, the less money you’ll spend, so give shopping only every other week a try! Your wallet (and quite possibly your waistline) will thank you!
73. Turn going out to eat at restaurants back into a rare treat to save money on food.
Another idea for how to save money on food is to spend less money eating out. The average American family spends about $300 a month eating out, so if you spend anywhere near that, you have a ton of money you can potentially save each month!
The most important way to save money on eating out is simply to go out to restaurants less as a family. I have to believe that 75 years ago, eating out was the rarest of treats for a family. And I also have to believe that they were better off for it. Their waistlines weren’t so wide as ours are now :), and as an overall percentage of what they earned, they undoubtedly saved more money.
So instead of spending the $300 a month that the average American family reportedly spends on eating out, try cutting back to just one fun and inexpensive meal a month with your family for $50 or less. You will all then appreciate the experience more, and you’ll be able to spend the extra money on goals that will lead your family to financial success—goals like getting out of debt, saving up for emergencies, investing for retirement, and saving for your kids’ college. If you’re really gung-ho or are on a really tight budget, save eating out for really rare occasions like birthdays and anniversaries.
You could even make it a game to see how long your family can go before going to a sit-down or even fast-food restaurant again. One of my favorite FIRE bloggers has on his blog a ticker that counts the number of days it’s been since their family has gone out to eat. You might think that’s kind of a funny thing to do, but hey, it undoubtedly helped him retire by his late 30s. That’s a trade-off I’m willing to make (to retire early, though we won’t make it by our 30s—but I hope we make it by our 50s!), as well.
Spending less going out to eat also means brown-bagging your lunch, but that’s better for you, too. If you love going to lunch with a group of coworkers every day or once a week, see if they’re willing to brown-bag and eat together instead. Or be gutsy and take your made-at-home lunch to the restaurant or food court while they eat, or see if your coworkers can pick up their food and then you all eat somewhere outside or back at the office. Or just tell them you’re making some changes to your financial habits or working to get out of debt (which you are, until you pay off your mortgage [early]!), and ask them over to watch a football game or play a round of Frisbee or something instead.
74. Choose less expensive restaurants when you do go out to eat.
Of course there is a huge difference in what you will pay at a fancy French restaurant compared to the local chain burger joint down the road. But there’s even a huge discrepancy between generally nice sit-down restaurants. One of my favorite restaurants, Applebee’s, costs only about $20 for dinner for two, but another restaurant that we went to a while back was over $70 for just the two of us. (That’s a lot for us to pay, as you might guess. :)) And I wouldn’t say that the food at the more expensive place was necessarily any better.
75. Find great deals for restaurants on Groupon and Living Social and on local deal websites to save money on food.
On the rare occasions you do eat out, try to save money by buying vouchers and similar items from deal websites such as Groupon and Living Social. But only buy them if you will actually use them and if you would have gone out to eat anyway for a special occasion! (Read again the tip just above. :)) Otherwise, you’re not actually saving any money—you’re just spending more money you wouldn’t have otherwise spent! We’re all guilty of this sometimes, right?!
76. Use the restaurant gift cards and gift certificates you are given to save money on food.
If someone gives you a gift card to a restaurant, hang on to that and use it to go out to eat for your birthday or anniversary. There’s a good chance you get at least one gift card a year to restaurants, so put it toward a special occasion, and bank the savings!
I’ve heard from one finance guru that the bulk of gift cards never get used, so make sure you don’t fall into this trap. If you’re given a gift card or certificate for your favorite restaurant or if you buy one, put it in your purse or wallet so you will make sure that you use it and don’t lose it or let it expire! (So make sure you put it in a safe, and memorable, place!)
77. Look at menus online before you go out to eat.
If you’re considering going to a restaurant where you haven’t been before, look at the menus online beforehand. That way you’ll know about how much to expect to pay for your meal. You wouldn’t want to end up at a restaurant that was outside of your price range and either feel bad for overspending your budget or feel bad for having to leave and go find another place to eat.
78. Eat an appetizer for your meal to save money on food when eating out.
At one of my favorite restaurants, I routinely order one of the appetizers for my meal. Portion sizes at most restaurants are so large that you can often eat enough to be satisfied by eating an appetizer and skipping an entrée altogether.
79. Order the free kids’ meal if one is offered to save money on food.
One of my favorite restaurants is Café Rio, and I love the fact that you can order their kiddie quesadillas for free for your kiddos. Sweet!
80. Save half of your meal for lunch the next day to save money on food.
By asking for a carryout box next time you go out to eat you can avoid overeating today and enjoy a scrumptious lunch tomorrow! Two meals for the price of one!
81. Order one entrée and share it to save money on food when eating out.
Similar to the tip above, another good way to save money on food when eating out is to order an entrée with your spouse or good friend, and then share it. Entrée sizes at most restaurants are huge! You’ll save money and won’t end up eating so many extra (even if delicious!) calories!
82. Order just the entrées when you eat out—skip the appetizer, drinks, and dessert.
Another great idea for how to save money on food is to eat just the entrée when you go out to eat.
If you’re already hungry before you go, consider eating a light snack at home before you leave. Then you can skip the appetizer without getting too ravenous. To save additional money, also order water instead of a beverage, and skip the dessert, as well. You can buy a whole gallon of ice cream from the grocery store on the way home for the price of one piece of pie or cake at the restaurant. And then your whole family can enjoy it for the week or more instead of for just one evening.
83. Ask if they have any current specials or discounts in order to save money on food when eating at restaurants.
Before you go to a particular restaurant or before you place your order, ask if they have any current specials or discounts, such as military or senior discounts. If it’s a special occasion like a birthday, ask if they do anything special for that. Many restaurants will offer a free dessert for birthdays and some (like my favorite restaurant, Tucano’s) even offer a free meal on your birthday with purchase of another meal. Pretty awesome!
Find a list here of restaurants that offer free meals and treats for birthdays!
84. Eat a late restaurant lunch for dinner to save money on food.
When we go to Tucano’s for my birthday, we usually go a little before 3 o’clock so that we can go for the lunch price. I do this mostly to save money, but also because it’s less crowded at that time between the traditional lunch and dinner hours. (And then I just eat a very light dinner, or sometimes I don’t even need dinner at all!)
85. Find other free and cheap pastimes and activities to spend time on with your family.
If eating out is currently your go-to activity for entertainment for your family, branch out and find new things to do! There are so many fun and cheap things that you can do with your family, and they might even bring you closer together than eating out (yet again!) will. (I bet they will!)
For example, you can go biking, hiking, walking, or swimming at a lake or beach. You could go to a park, splash pad, or inexpensive attraction such as a museum. Check out this list of 90+ free activities for family fun.
I hope you found this article a helpful resource for how to save money on food. If you want to spend less money and cut your monthly budget, saving money on groceries and spending less on eating out are a great way to help you do it because there are so many things you can do to trim your spending in these areas.
If you are looking to save money or if you have to find ways to save money, treat food like the fleeting consumable that it is, and don’t break the bank when you buy it.
What do you do to save money on food? What grocery money-saving tips or tips for saving money on food at restaurants did I forget to include? Leave a comment and let me know! I would love to hear your ideas!
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