When you’re trying to save money, every penny counts. However, one of the biggest expenses we all face is food. The cost of goods including food is constantly rising. If we aren’t careful, our food and grocery bills can end up occupying a larger part of our budgets than we intended.
It’s therefore vital to manage our food expenses economically and develop money-saving tactics. Here are some tips and tricks that you can use to cut down on food costs without sacrificing your health.
Prepare Your Own Meals
You can probably guess what the most common culprit of ballooning food expenses is: eating out. If you’re serious about cutting down on your food spend, start preparing more meals at home. When you stop eating out, you’ll significantly cut down on your food bill and eat healthier meals.
If you’re short on time, try a once-a-week meal prep plan and start with simple meals you can whip up in minutes. You can slowly expand your repertoire of dishes when you start feeling more comfortable and confident with cooking.
Make a Meal Plan
Whether it’s an occasional weekend meal plan or a menu for every day of the week, creating a plan beforehand can help you stick to your planned meals and budget. Thinking ahead and making lists can also help you reduce unnecessary expenses when you go to the supermarket.
Rotate Foods, Don’t Waste Them
When you eat the same food day after day, it can end up being monotonous and boring. When there’s no variety in your meal prep and grocery list, there’s a high chance you’ll waste food.
Hence, your best bet is to rotate different types of food and dishes. Make sure to include a variety of veggies, fruits, dairy, grains, and lean protein in your meal routine to make it more interesting and palatable.
Choose Cheaper Proteins
Protein-rich foods like eggs, ground meat, and dried beans are not just cheap and healthy, but also have a longer shelf life. If you add in other non-perishable items like rice, pasta, and oats, you can have a steady supply of quick and nutritious meals. Moreover, buying these food staples in bulk is cost-effective and will save you frequent trips to the grocery.
Use Your Freezer
Cut down on ready-made meals and TV dinners. They offer little nutrition and are heavy on the pocket. Instead, prepare meals in advance, freeze everything that can be frozen, and defrost as needed. You can make large batches of chili, curry, or stew, and divide them into meal-sized portions so they’ll be ready whenever you need a quick meal.
Love Your Leftovers
Knowing how to recycle or repurpose leftovers into different dishes is a valuable skill if you’re looking to cut down on expenses. Identify and learn recipes that are leftover-friendly. Excess ingredients and food like carrots, celery, and rotisserie chicken can all be thrown into a pasta sauce and enjoyed as a new dish.
Start An Aromatic Herb Garden
The joy of preparing meals from ingredients freshly picked from your own garden is unparalleled. Contrary to what you may think, you don’t need a huge space to have a garden. Greens like herbs, cress, and lettuce can be grown on your window sill. Small vegetables like tomatoes, potatoes, and beans can be grown in pots that will easily fit inside your kitchen.
Track Your Expenses
Sometimes we buy food we don’t need out of habit. Tracking our food budget can help prevent this by making us aware and accountable for our expenses. Monitor expenses and your budget to scale back and change previous spending habits.
Shop Smart, Buy Local
Buying locally grown and produced food is fresher, more nutritious, good for the environment, and cheaper. Buying from farmer’s markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Programs also help the local community.
You can join a CSA by paying growers a lump sum at the start of the season. In exchange, you’ll get fresh produce at regular intervals that are cheaper by as much as half the price you pay in groceries.
You can also buy meat at the deli instead of the supermarkets’ meat section. They’re not only cheaper, but they’re fresher too.
Eat Before Going Grocery Shopping
When you visit a grocery store on a hungry stomach, you have a tendency to fill your cart with more food than you need. When you’re full, you’ll be less tempted and be able to shop more objectively.
Beware of Coupons
Coupons, cashback, and new customer discounts are great ways of saving extra money. However, exercise caution before you purchase items on discounts as coupons encourage you to buy more items than you need just because they’re on sale.
Budget-Friendly Habits: Start Small
There are many ways to cut down on food expenses and eat healthier, but they entail creating new habits in place of the old. The best way to adopt these budget-friendly practices is by starting with small steps and gradually adding more to your routine.
Whether it’s preparing your own meals, tracking your expenses, or cutting down on grocery visits, ease into it one habit at a time. You’ll eventually find yourself rewarded with healthier, better meals and have more cash to show for it.