The dreaded food budget. I despise the food budget. I can’t help but feel that I pay hundreds of dollars for good food that gets eaten by my 5 kids, just to pay for toiletries to clean up after it! J If you feel this way then you are always looking for ways to save money on your food budget too!!
It isn’t hundreds of dollars spent on new carpet or fixing the broken air conditioner! It just goes out the window on food that has to be spent the next week on food again and again. But no matter how I feel about the food budget; we all still need to eat!! 😊
SO with that said I am ALWAYS on the lookout for ways to save money on food.
The food budget is one of the biggest money suckers in the family’s typical budget. Especially if you have gotten the rest of your budget so low that there is no more wiggle room in it.
Personally with 7 people in our house it is one of our biggest expenses. I swear the people at the grocery store know me by name!
We have tried everything and let me tell you there are certain things that work and certain things that just don’t. Each family and situation is different. Finding what works for you is secret trick number one. Don’t be afraid to do unconventional things to make it work!
I’ve come up with a list of 10 Tips that I have found help me keep to my food budget AND save money, which is always the frosting on top of the cake for me! Here are 10 ways to save money on your Food Budget:
1. Meal Plan
First on the list of ways to save money on your food budget is meal planning!
Meal Planning used to always feel like such a big chore for me. Every time I would read those words I would skip over them, writing it off as information I already knew. Yet I didn’t apply.
WHAT A HUGE MISTAKE!
Meal planning isn’t a strict schedule, only an outline of what is on the menu for your week. This doesn’t have to be day to day. Here are some of the easiest and most efficient ways I’ve discovered how to meal plan:
A: Ask your family what they are hungry for!
B: Check out what is about to go bad in your fridge or what you have in the pantry.
C: Check your calendar for any late or rushed nights this week and plan a easy meal that day.
D: Check the weather, any freezing nights where soup would be good? How about scorchers, 90 and up where watermelon and grilled chicken would suffice? Meal planning will help everyone in the family eat what they like and make your schedule SO much easier! It will also allow some good thought out meals in your head (or on your list) when you are walking the grocery aisles, keeping you focused and frugal!
2. Meal Prep
Meal prepping is essential if you are anything like me. I am an extremely lazy cook! (Just between you and me I really hate cooking). But there isn’t much of a choice. I have found that I don’t like to sit in the kitchen for hours on end. I am much happier if I can make things when I am in the mood and have it ready to serve. Also, if you are making meat, prepping it for better flavor and texture is always best. Prepping is essential so you aren’t calling your husband to make that quick fast food stop because you have got it all handled for much less $$$!
3. Batch Cook
Third and going hand-in-hand with meal prep is batch cooking. Batch cooking is simply making large amounts of one item of food to be a quick “go-to” for later. I have certain items I ALWAYS batch cook such as beans, rice, and soup. These are great go to things to throw into a tortilla or make a bowl of when you just don’t have time and are on the go. You can batch cook roasts or whole chickens as well leaving you great options for sandwiches soups, casseroles and the like. This can provide a filling and cheap item to be used in with your meals in a pinch! For example if you are having tacos but just don’t have time to make the beans or rice (cheap fillers) you can just grab from the batch you made earlier in the week!
4. Be Creative with Leftovers
Learning how to create a masterpiece out of a leftover is a skill! But knowing this will most certainly save you a lot of money in the long run. Like batch cooking, having the items pre-cooked and ready to go will help you to create many different dishes from 1 meal.
A leftover roasted chicken for instance can turn into the following:
- Loaded Baked Potatoes
- Chicken and Rice Casserole
- Shredded Chicken Sandwiches
- Soup and Homemade Bread
And so many more! It’s a great way not to waste food or money!
5. Never Get Low on Supplies
Shocking as this sounds it is one of the best ways to save money on your food budget! Whenever I let my resources in my fridge and pantry get low, I tend to lean toward takeout. By the time my husband gets home and dinner should be made or at least almost ready, I am in no mood to run to the store (You should never shop hungry anyway)! For some reason I am terrible at timing when my food is going to run out. (Probably because I am always wanting to save money, I want just one more day before I must shop!) So a good rule of thumb is to not let your fridge get too low.
Going grocery shopping when you are on empty at home is an excuse to “over shop” and spend WAAAY over the food budget! It triggers the crises mode in our brain and suddenly budgeting goes out the window! Knowing we have some food back at home enables us to shop with a level head and stick to the food budget and grocery list!
6. Make Your Favorites
There seems to be a trend or thought process that if we are eating at home the meals need to be extra healthy. Unless extra healthy is your thing right now don’t let this thought process block you from making your favorites at home.
At home burger night or pizza night usually winds up tasting 500x better than if you went out and got it! And you save so much money by not eating out for those prices!
Give yourself permission to do nothing but good ol’fashioned pot of creamy mac n’ cheese once in a while! I bet the kids will love it! J Lighten up on yourself and enjoy life!
7. Track Your Spending
This is seventh on the list but was a huge game changer for us!
We would go to the store with our list, and our meal plan, but there was always something that caught our eyes that we needed to have or would be a nice little treat and we would grab it.
It wasn’t until we started tracking what each item cost and how many we purchased and knowing exactly how much money we were going to spend on our food that we started to realize how much we overspent every single shopping trip. You don’t have to be a math genious to calculate what you are putting in your cart! Simply round up or estimate close to where you are at with each item. It gets easier the more you do it!
Try it and you’ll be surprised. Remember if it isn’t on the list, then you didn’t initially need it.
8. Go Ahead and Eat Out
I like to eat out! As a mom, I like to have someone make and clean up dinner for me every now and again! Can I get an Amen!?
I know it’s expensive and puts a HUGE dent in the food money for the other meals I have to make. And yet…….the fact remains I LIKE TO EAT OUT!
I have lived many years feeling guilty for facts like these. For instance if I was to walk into a store I would bet that I will pick out THE MOST EXPENSIVE ITEM in the place because it is my exact taste! I’m naturally attracted to the more expensive items everywhere!
After feeling guilty for years about being this way, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t need to be ashamed of who I was, I just needed to work with it.
So I’m here to tell you, go ahead and eat out if that’s what you like. Pick the day that works for you, budget for it, plan the place and know your strategy. Split a meal and only get water if that’s what it takes, but don’t stop living life or worse drop the budget because it makes you want to cry knowing the things you enjoy are no longer yours until the distant future!
This actually can save you money on your food budget because it is easier to stick to the food budget and frugal meals knowing you get a “go out” night later that week! There’s no panic of getting sick of always cooking and meal prepping because a break is coming! It’s like getting to eat a cheat meal when you are on a diet but knowing that you have allowed it and will be right back on the diet for the next meal! It helps! 😁
9. Don’t Get Tricked by Coupons
Coupons! They make me laugh!! Have you ever gotten the ad for the week and all of the sudden find yourself needing things you didn’t even remember existed just because they have a coupon for them?
Don’t get me wrong coupons can be great especially for toiletries but when it comes to food, unless you had it on your list of things to purchase that week, don’t add it just because you found a coupon!! This makes you spend more, not less! And if it is something the kids won’t eat, your just throwing it away in the future anyway!
However if you are going to use coupons I discovered this amazing toolbar that you can download to your web browser that finds a coupon somewhere on the entire internet for the item that you are purchasing. Called WIKIBUY. It’s completely free and incredibly useful.
Don’t forget about Ebates. A fantastic service that offers you literally cash back on purchases you were already going to make online! Great way to put money back in that food budget!!
10. Keep a Fridge List
A life saver for me is my fridge list. This is an actual list you keep on your fridge! As soon as an item runs out I slap it on my list. This is a great help when you are focused on meal planning and forget that the salt is low or other essentials are getting down to the end. It also helps you to know, when you are walking through the store and see something you think you need but forgot to put on the list. It wasn’t essential enough to be put on the list so it can wait for next time!
There you have it! 10 ways to save money on your food budget and make your money/meal relationship much easier!
Let’s be honest budgeting is hard work. It takes sacrifice and planning. But I know you can do it. I know that the life beyond this point is going to be amazing. See how we cut our grocery bill in half and continue to save money on food!