One area that many of us can, or want to, save money is to learn to save money on groceries. It seems to be an area that people struggle lots in, according to the many comments and questions I’ve gotten from readers regarding this area. Here are some of the tricks we use to feed our family of six on less than $500 a month.
1. Menu plan and work to reduce per-meal costs. Yeah, yeah, I know, you’ve heard this before. But menu planning really does help to save a boatload of cash on groceries. How? By ensuring you can’t fall prey to “there’s nothing in the house to eat” and heading for takeout, and by making sure you only spend on groceries what needs to be purchased from your menu plan. Try it one month and see if I’m right. 🙂 Also, work to set a “per dinner budget”. We try and keep dinners at around $5 for our family of six. Even better if we can serve rice and beans, or have a popcorn night, and reduce that meal cost to around $2 a few times during the month. Then we’re free to fancy up have a couple of $8 or $10 meal nights. By memorizing what items cost and buying on sale, you can reduce your meal costs.
2. Buy and plan around the sales. This is another huge money saver. If chicken is on sale one week, make chicken-based meals, or buy lots and store it in a deep freezer (a deep freezer is a must have for those who want to save big on groceries). If there isn’t any meat on sale, have a meat-free meal week. If pasta is on sale, plan a few pasta dishes for the month and stock up. By using this trick, you’re ensuring that you rarely pay full price for ingredients and that you cut your grocery costs each week.
3. Stock up during sales and buy in bulk. Can’t underestimate this one. If we find pizza on sale, or spaghetti sauce, or some other thing that we know we’ll use, we buy 30-40 of them. You may be spending more at the outset, but if you plan wisely, meaning you aren’t buying things that you won’t use or that will reach their expiration date before you use it all, you can save between 30 and 50 percent on your grocery bill. Some of my go-to bulk buys? Spices, flour and sugar. Some of my go-to stock up buys? Jarred or canned goods that we’re sure to use that have an expiration date at least a year away, peanut butter and juice for the kids, and frozen foods like pizza. See my post on organized stockpiling here. Even if you live in a small space, there are stockpiling options.
4. Determine what you buy that can be made from scratch. We work to cook from scratch whenever possible. Take flour tortillas, for instance. A pack of the good ones at our local store go for $4.24 for a 24-count package. I can make the same 24 flour tortillas at home for under a buck. Is it more work? Yes. But it tastes much better and is much cheaper. Same goes for breads, pastries, desserts and many other processed foods. At the same time, know what’s worth making from scratch and what isn’t. For instance, I never make pasta from scratch because it’s so inexpensive at the stores if you buy on sale.
5. Stop wasting food. See my article here on the perils of food waste and how it can raise your food budget by a good 25%.
6. Prepare meals ahead of time. Take a Saturday or Sunday, make up a few soups and casseroles, and throw them in the deep freezer. This will save money for those days when you’re just too tired to cook and would have normally ordered pizza or went out to eat. You can just pop a hotdish in the oven and wait.
7. Be creative with meal planning. It’s important that you don’t get so ingrained in your menu planning that you and/or your family become bored with your meals. This will surely lead to extra trips to restaurants. The Internet has a wealth of frugal recipe ideas that you’ve never tried before. Make it a point to plan for at least one new meal to try every week or two. This will not only instill in your family a love of cooking, but it will make eating at home more exciting than eating out, saving you huge cash.
With a little work and creativity, most every family can cut grocery costs.
What are your favorite money-saving tips for food costs? What questions do you have about how to save money on groceries?
**Photo Credit: Free Digital Photos