(This post may include affiliate links. If you click on a link, I may make a few dimes, this helps fund the blog so that I can provide free info to you on how to save your dimes)
What is the one thing that we cannot live without, whether we are living on a budget or not? You got it, food. There is no way we can eliminate this item from our spending. But can we figure out a way to spend less on this? Sure, but we’re going to have to get creative, and think outside the box. There are a thousand articles out there that will offer tips on couponing, shopping high and low in the grocery store, and buying in bulk. Those are all helpful tips, so use them if they work for you. What I want to offer are different ideas, ways that I’ve found to cut our grocery budget that maybe you haven’t thought of.
In our area, we only have three grocery stores, and one of those is a superstore. None of them honor competitor’s coupons, or multiply coupons. Unless you are buying a name brand item you were going to buy anyway, it’s a little harder to save a lot of money using coupons like you can in more metropolitan areas. The prices in our superstore are usually the best, and because prices are lower the produce especially is fresher because of faster turnover. The problem with these types of stores though is that I walk in for milk and eggs and walk out with pretty new towels. So often I haven’t saved any money at all.
I’m not going to ask you to live off ramen noodles all week. That’s a flashback to our poor college student days. We’re not going to be that drastic but you may need to make some changes in order to have a little extra cash to throw toward paying off debt or building our emergency fund. Remember that most of this is temporary. We are going to do this until we are debt free. After that, usually we are still careful about our spending, but then it’s because we want to instead of having to. In the meantime, though, we want to be able to eat well and still be able to afford the light bill. We want to focus on balanced meals while still making inexpensive meals.
There are three key factors to saving money on food. The first is that you must cook at home. Eating out on a budget usually translates to a fast food value menu. This isn’t the direction we want to go. We want to stay healthy and feel good so that we can actually enjoy being debt free. The second factor is that you might have to rethink your regular meals. You might need to try new recipes, making the entire process a new adventure. And third, you need to plan meals. If you are in the grocery store several times a week, you will inevitably spend more money overall. On the other hand, though, if you plan your meals ahead of time, you can buy some things in bulk, and cook larger amounts of things like meat so that you save time during meal prep.
Use your crock pot on busy days so that dinner is ready when you get home from work or activities. Plan mobile meals such as homemade “hot pockets” or wraps for when you are going to be gone from the house until later in the evening. Look at your family schedule when you are meal planning so that you can put together a menu that fits with your lifestyle, taking away those times when it’s late and you’re tempted to just grab something on the way home.
I rarely buy meat at the grocery store, we buy almost all of our meat through Zaycon Fresh. That way we are getting grass fed beef, wild caught fish, and antibiotic free poultry, and if I watch my email for coupons it costs me less per pound than what I would spend at the local grocery store. Right now boneless, skinless chicken breasts are listed at $1.69/lb., and ground beef is $2.99/lb. Until 8/14/17, use the promo code ZAYCON20 to save $20 off your first order of $75. Having meat in your freezer helps save on your weekly groceries, and makes it easier to meal plan. Click here for more info:
Think about using bulk staples such as rice or beans as a bigger part of your meal instead of just a side dish. If you find the right recipes, you will probably find some meals that you like better than some of your old ones. We like to have Meatless Monday. It saves money, and feels like it gives our systems a break by eating a bit lighter occasionally. I found a really good quinoa chili recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod that our family loves, even though my husband is really a meat-and-potatoes guy, https://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com/vegetarian-quinoa-chili/. I try to go out of my way to find recipes that make good substitutes for a meat filled meal. I also love making meals from black beans, which I buy in bulk and keep in the pantry at all times. Here is an amazing recipe from Moosewood Restaurant for sweet potato and black bean burritos. They can also be made with rice as a burrito bowl, and are so good you won’t miss the meat. https://moosewoodcooks.com/2014/07/black-bean-sweet-potato-burritos/ .
Eggs. These are inexpensive and full of protein, they make such a good addition to a budget friendly diet. Try eating breakfast for dinner once a week. It’s fun for your kids, and usually a good go to if you are running late and need to fix something fast. Be creative in how you cook them to add variety, but with a dozen eggs typically costing less than $2, I can provide enough protein for our family for dinner for about $1. We also like to hard boil several and have them in the fridge for snacks or on-the-go meals.
Repurpose leftovers. Leftover chili can become tacos, grilled chicken can become almost anything. Cut vegetables become minestrone soup. Taco meat becomes nachos. Fish becomes either fishcakes or fish tacos. You get the idea. Throw nothing away. If you aren’t going to eat it for lunch, transform it into something else for another dinner. If you have leftovers that will make good lunches, put them into individual containers right away. You are more likely to take leftovers to work for lunch if they in a “grab and go” form instead of having to transfer them in the mornings when you are in a hurry.
Every so often, try doing a “food storage” week. This means you are going to make all your meals using only what you have on hand, either in your pantry, your freezer, or your refrigerator. Make this fun, get the kids involved, and be open to any and all ideas for meals, even if it’s a cereal for dinner night. This is a fantastic way to use up your bulk items, and use all the veggies in your fridge so that you don’t throw things away. And you can save a lot of money by not buying any new groceries for a week. Chances are, you will be surprised how much you can do with just the items in your pantry alone. Google recipes and be adventurous. Check to see what veggies and leftovers you have in the bottom of your freezer that need to be used.
When we stay at a hotel, we always use the “hand bar” of soap for our showers and bring the bath bar home. I haven’t bought soap for ten years, these household items come out of the grocery budget. I also save napkins and condiment packages, using these in the cooler when we travel and take our own meals. Try using a few of those hardboiled eggs we were talking about, mix them in a cup with 1 package of mayonnaise, a little mustard, a package of relish and a package of onions for a quick egg salad.
Order online if it is available in your area. You will probably pay a delivery fee, but it is likely less than the extra you spend on impulse purchases. I am good at coming home with many items that are not on my list, either because they look good or they are on sale. Avoiding the store helps avoid those extra purchases.
Make your own. Look at making cleaning supplies, granola bars, baked goods, salad dressing. You will know what ingredients are in the products you use, your cleaners will be safer and more ecofriendly, and your foods will taste better. Once you try homemade salad dressing, you will have a tough time going back to store bought.
Make a plan for the money you save on groceries so that you don’t go through the work planning and cooking so that the extra cash can just slip through your fingers. If you can cut $50 week from your grocery budget that gives you an extra $200 monthly to put toward paying off a car or credit card balance. Keep your financial goals in mind so that you stay motivated, especially when you’ve had a busy week and don’t feel like cooking. The easiest way to blow that extra money is by eating a meal out, so be diligent and make that money count. What are your favorite ways to save money on groceries?