Eight Ways To Eat For Less

by James on October 14, 2013 · 12 comments

save-money-foodFolks,

Everyone needs to eat, but eating doesn’t have to break the bank.  One of the easiest expenses to reduce is the amount you spend on food.  Reducing your grocery bill may mean eating more homemade food, but it generally means that you have more money in your pocket and better control of your diet and your finances.  Here are eight sure-fire ways to cut down on the amount you spend on food.

1. Buy the house brands.  The last time we went shopping we picked up a 1 lb of Safeway brand peanut butter – it was like a buck cheaper than the Smuckers brand on the shelf above it.  Always check the unit price to compare sales as well.

2. Make bulk meals.  If you double the recipe and store the extra half, you’ll be less tempted to buy prepared food or get take out.  After all, you’ll just need to pop your leftovers in the microwave to get fed.   This can be great especially for lunches – for example check out this posting over at Cleverdude.com.  This guy managed to make a months worth of sandwiches for something like $6.99. Brilliant.  There are also lots of brilliant recipes to turn one meal into another from the left overs.

3. Buy in bulk.  You can shave a few bucks off your budget if you buy in bulk.  This is especially true for staples like toilet paper, toothbrushes & toothpaste, liquor (if you want to go full alcoholic), rice, batteries, light bulbs, bread, meat (you gotta freeze it) and batteries.  It doesn’t make sense to purchase perishables like fresh vegetables, berries or flour that can go bad, but it does make sense to freeze these items at the peak of their season or to buy frozen fruit/veg.  Buy apples, oranges, or other bagged fruit while in season and on sale.  We are coming up on grapefruit season!  If you eat it regularly, salsa is a great one to buy in bulk, the price is about a third in a large container versus a medium one.  Also buy in bulk when items you frequently buy are on sale.  This can help a lot with cereals, breads, soups, and the like.

4. Pack a lunch instead of eating out.  Eating out can really put a strain on your pocketbook.  For example if you spend 7 bucks a day eating out, after a month you’ll have spent $140 bucks.  After three months, you’ll have spent $420 dollars, or $1680 a year.  Even if you make lunches twice a week you’ll save an estimated $700 a year!  Need some lunch ideas?  Soups, either homemade or healthy canned versions are very cost-effective.  Do it yourself salads save a lot.  My wife brings a bag of spinach to the office and then adds in berries, nuts, and protein.  Hummus with veggies to dip can make a great healthy and filling meal as well.  The options are endless and you’ll probably be happier not forking over cash everyday for lunch.

5. Minimize prepared foods.  Fried chicken, frozen meals and deli macaroni and cheese all taste great, but they also carry a price premium.  According to a recent study in Family Medicine Magazine, the cost per calorie for a convenience diet was 24% higher than for a healthy diet (1).  Salad dressings are another great one to skip on. Making your own is easy and much, much cheaper.  My wife’s secret ingredient is to add red chili pepper flakes (the kind you use on pizza) with oil and vinegar.  Adding a bit of onion dip mix to oil and vinegar is also very tasty and easy.  Once you make your own dressing you’ll never want to go back.

6. Clip coupons.  Although coupon clipping is falling a bit of out of favor as the economy gets better (here), some people really good at saving money by using coupons.  My wife typically uses a few key coupons on each shopping trip, only on items we’d buy in any case, and likely shaves about $20 a month off our grocery bill.  The savings add up over time.

7. Save money on alcohol. If you enjoy an occasional libation, consider drinking less or buying less expensive beer, wine, or liquor.  For example, some good craft beers go for pretty cheap (clicky) and you can always find good values on wine for under $10 dollars.  You are better off sipping on your happy hour beverage than having several and then splurging to eat whatever.  It is best to us a budget mentality when consuming, considering whether it is worth the value.  Often times you are better off without the next drink.

8. Buy only what you need. We all know it is easy to waste money on unused foods.  Be honest with yourself about what you will and won’t eat.  Consider what your plans are for the week, whether you will be going out of town soon, etc.  Use what you have, eat your way through your freeze and dry goods.  If you are looking at a full pantry and simply can’t find anything to eat, challenge yourself to come up with something.  Shop with a list and don’t fall for unnecessary items.  Coordinate menu items to reduce the need for excess specialty items.  Shop the perimeter of the store and avoid isles you don’t need things on.

Saving money on groceries is actually easier than it seems.  It takes mindful and a bit of discipline, but your bank account (and likely waist line) will thank you for it.

Happy shopping,

James



{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Michelle October 15, 2013 at 2:20 am

We’re doing a lot of these things. Great list! One thing that I want to start doing again in using coupons for groceries.

2 Jen @ Frugal Rules October 15, 2013 at 3:19 am

I remember the time my mother would tell me that if only we would learn how to spend less on so much food, we would have a lot of savings. She was right. Not until I mastered enough discipline to restrict on too much food spending did I appreciated the value of the lesson she was trying to impart. I enjoyed reading this post because of the great tips you shared and because it lovingly reminded me of the woman I love so much.

3 Brock @Cleverdude October 15, 2013 at 7:57 am

Great tips, James…now if you can only give me some tips to just eat less too that’d be great! :)

4 dojo October 15, 2013 at 10:23 am

We love cooking at home and, even if we don’t always save too much when buying the groceries (let’s say we’re not always frugal with this), we do save a lot when it comes to the entire meal. Not to mention they’re better tasting and healthier than what we can find in a restaurant

5 Kathy October 15, 2013 at 7:52 pm

We’ve reached a fabulous point in our life that we don’t get bent out of shape if we go over budget on food. It is just the two of us so buying in bulk doesn’t work super well for us. We do shop sales and use some coupons although in our town the newspaper coupon inserts don’t offer much in the way of food coupons. Mainly just hair care and cleaning coupons. At any rate, we just don’t go through a lot of gyrations to keep it under a certain amount. Please don’t hate me.

6 James October 15, 2013 at 8:26 pm

Michelle – thanks for stopping by and commenting. We started small, by the coupons handed out at check out or found in other key locations and it has started to add up.

7 James October 15, 2013 at 8:29 pm

Hi Jen @ Frugal Rules – Thanks for the comment. Mothers do tend to know best. One of them that I keep in mind at times is an old addage from my mother-in-law’s father, which was essentially to keep in mind that whenever you leave the house you end up spending money. While I still enjoy leaving the house, it helps me to keep in mind what is necessary in terms of spending while out and and about.

8 James October 15, 2013 at 8:32 pm

Brock @ Cleverdude – Yes, on the one side eating less is a whole other subject, but being more mindful of you budget in relationship to food can help on the waste line as well. If you are thinking about what the impact of that ice cream or second drink may have to your pocket book it can help to eat better as well. That being said, you are likely better off with the salad than the Big Mac!

9 James October 15, 2013 at 8:34 pm

Dojo,

Right now I am eating a delicious bowl of chili that my wife cooked. We sprang for the beans (two kinds), ground turkey (cheaper than beef), peppers that we grew in our garden, and spices. All in all we dropped something like 25 bucks for what will turn into easily 6 meals. Making those larger portions is totally worth it.

James

10 James October 15, 2013 at 8:39 pm

Kathy,

Well, I guess its a question of how you want to live your life. Each meal you make at home saves maybe a buck or two, but if you build that into your lifestyle over time you’ll save hundreds of dollars. If you take that money and invest it then the overall long term impact of the more frugal lifestyle can be substantial over time.

Now, my wife and I eat out way too much – I’m really bad about this, but I know the frugal food approach works.

Thanks!

James

11 Hunain @ HowToSaveMoney.ca October 31, 2013 at 4:17 am

I love eating out a lot and because of it I run out of cash at the end of the month. I have noticed that if I stop eating out for a month, I end up saving a large amount. Now I cook all the dishes in my home even zingers because they are much cheaper to cook at home instead of buying them from a high end restaurant.

12 James November 2, 2013 at 7:01 pm

Hunain,

Great point. I used to eat out a lot for work – I was spending something like 9 or 10 dollars a day, every day. It adds up over time.

So – go for you for making the switch. I think you’ll enjoy having the benefits of the extra cash.

James

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