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
I am really bad at planning meals around things that are in season! That’s definitely something I can work on.
A rule I’ve always used is to always make my bread at home. 3 reasons..
1) It tastes leaps and bounds better than store bought Styrofoam
2) Makes the house smell great
3) Cheaper than Styrofoam
4) Keeps me from eating too many carbs since I have to work each time I want to stuff my face with carbs
LOL, much wisdom there, Will! Yeah, that store-bought stuff is horrible. I won’t touch it. Blech!
Huh, 4 reasons I guess. Why do I always get the urge to proofread my comments after I’ve submitted them?
I can totally identify, LOL. 🙂
I always buy and plan around sales. It’s something I learned from my mom. I can’t wait until we have more space to get a small freezer someday. My mom has one that’s great for all the “extra” packages. We do get bored with meals sometimes, though. I need to work on finding new ideas!
Yeah, I’ve been better about finding new recipes lately, as there was a bit of a koo bubbling up here over our standard menu. New stuff is fun! 🙂
It’s not my favorite thing to do, but taking leftovers with me to work every day really cuts down on our grocery budget. Once the food is re-heated I enjoy eating it, but hauling it to and fro (when I wear a suit to work) isn’t the most exciting thing ever….
Yeah, I’m not sure Rick is thrilled about bringing leftovers to work, but he loves us getting richer more than he loves the cafeteria food at work. 🙂
This is a fabulous list! We do pretty much all of these and I had to laugh out loud at #5 & #7 because we’ve eaten some unusual food combinations in the name of not wasting anything! Recent meal mash-ups: peanut butter on hotdog buns; sweet potatoes, green beans, and some cheese; and green pepper, olives, a banana and PB! We’ve mostly eliminated meat because it is such an expensive form of protein, though we do eat cheap frozen fish on occasion. Thanks for this post!
LOL, sounds like our house, Mrs. FW!!! Leftover night is much more exciting for the array of odd foods available than for the quality of food choices. 🙂
Actually, one of my biggest expenses is groceries. I have a list with me every time I go to the grocery store, but my problem is, sometimes I didn’t follow my list and pick up any foods that are not on the list.
OH yeah, that’s a tough one, Clarisse!! It’s so easy to get tempted by the yummy stuff they place out in the aisles. 🙂
I always like to meal plan in order to save money. It stops us from going out to eat all the time, and it also helps us lower the amount of food that we waste.
I agree, Michelle!! Crucial to cutting the grocery budget.
It is the extra trips to eat out that always kills my food budget. I always feel like eating out. I try to keep now to a per meal budget. It helps some, but I still spend too much on food.
I get that, Brad. I used to be a huge eating out fan too, but now that we’ve mostly cut it out, we don’t miss it all that much.
#1 and #5 for sure. I know that we always save money when we make a meal plan for the week, and anytime we decide to just “wing it” we always spend more than we usually do and end up with less food to show for it. And I can’t believe how much food gets thrown out in this country. It’s incredibly frustrating and sad, not to mention wasteful.
Yes, Ryan, the numbers on food waste are a shame, aren’t they?
I hate wasting food, so always re-use, or have leftovers. I also try to shop for deals, and eat mostly vegetarian. Another thing is I try not to shop until there really is no food left.
That’s another great tip, Melanie. We try to use up what’s in the house too, although we could be better in that area. 🙂
Awesome tips Laurie!! For me menu planning is mission critical to keeping our grocery budget low. We used to spend SO much money on stuff we never eat or planned to eat. If we are not going to consume the food over the upcoming week, then it doesn’t come home. And I am so happy you mentioned the tortillas again because FB Hubby actually made those last night for our fajita dinner and they were phenomenal!!! SO much better than the pre-packaged stuff and way cheaper.
Yay!!! Glad the homemade tortillas went over well!! Aren’t they tasty??
Lunches in our home consist of left-overs. I think that a stockpile doesn’t have to be a huge one. If you stockpile on things you know you and your family are going to eat then go for it. I tend to budget a few dollars from my groceries to purchase things that are on sale that I know my family eats. There are weeks where I don’t find anything on sale so that money adds up. When I find something at a rock bottom price I use the money to get it. Great post Laurie.
Totally agree about the stockpile stuff, Brit. We focus on things we absolutely know we’ll eat, that way if the expiration date starts to come close, we just put the items in our regular pantry. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. 🙂
I think I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m OK with what I spend on groceries even though it’s around 400 for just me. I ended up wasting more with meal planning because by the time it came around to that particular day, I couldn’t fathom what I had meal planned. I think I’m just super picky. Too complicated to explain in the comment section. 🙂 But…I am so much better about not wasting food. Although I don’t plan my meals around sales, I do shop more frequently but buy smaller amounts, so way way less goes to waste.
I try to meal plan as much as possible too. There is so much stuff going on that knowing what is for dinner makes it a little bit easier. 🙂 We also try to shop seasonal so we’re getting fruits and veggies not only at their peak, but also at their best price.
It sure does, Shannon! This is where those extra tired/busy days can really be saved. 🙂
I’ve been doing most of these things Laurie and they have helped me cut my grocery bill by $100/month. Meal planning has been great as before I used to always struggle to come up with ideas on the flash.
We used to do that too, Raquel! Coming up with ideas last minute is such a budget buster, isn’t it?
Thanks for sharing more good ways to save money on food shopping Laurie! I struggle with getting creative with meal planning. I don’t go out to eat much but I do tend to pop to the supermarket for top up shops when I’m hungry and fed up with eating the same things. If I get more creative in the first place, then maybe this wouldn’t happen!
google things like “cheap, easy dinner ideas”. Great stuff will come up!
#5 is a bad habit our ours that we are trying to break. We shop at least once a week so we trying not to over purchase fresh food. Trying to find the right balance of what we need until the next shopping trip can be tricky, but with the right planning can be accomplished.
You guys are working on your plan, Brian, and that’s what counts. Like you said, just keep on working on the right planning, and it’ll work out fine. 🙂
The biggest one for us is creating a grocery list and including the meals for the week, we recently included lunches for the week because not every time can it be leftovers. Eating out can cost us as much as our grocery bill so it’s certainly in our best interest to plan and get the groceries.
One thing that I would like to do that you mentioned is keeping a log book/app/excel sheet for what everything costs, my memory works against me in this situation. We do however base a lot of our meals and grocery list on sales, but milk, eggs, bread, are almost always going to be on that list regardless of the sale.
Yeah, I’m lucky that those numbers and prices just stick in my head, but I love the idea of an Excel based price sheet. One tip I learned from another blogger is to have your price maximums for certain items. For instance, if you know that Spaghetti sauce goes on sale every spring for a buck a jar, be committed to not pay more than a buck a jar and stock up big when the sales come. This has helped us a lot to know what’s a good sale and what’s not. Best of luck to you, Steven!
I do shop sales and I have a general idea of what I’ll eat each evening during the week, but I’ve gotten a bit lax about meal planning lately. It’s something I can work on for sure!
It’s easy to get off track with. Some days, when menu planning or the urge to cook goes out the window, we’ll just heat up some popcorn or make some noodles with butter and parmesan. Easy and cheap. 🙂
We’ve always been terrible about meal planning, but I think now that I’m off for several weeks for baby leave it might be a good time to give this a go. I do think it will be a money-saver AND a time-saver, so we’ve just got to get started doing it!
Great idea, Dee! Especially now with your daughter here, organization will be more important than ever. 🙂
This is one of those posts I can go on and on about since grocery shopping is a big part of CBB. I think you touched on many important aspects of saving money on grocery shopping. I’d certainly say that planning around sales and deals are a great way to save along with meal planning. Mr.CBB
Thanks, Mr. CBB! Yes, you are definitely an expert, in my opinion, on this subject. There really is lots to be learned.
I was so good at meal planning and it seems everything relaxed for dinner. I’ve got a routine for Breakfast and Lunch but I really need to plan better for the evenings. The question “what’s for dinner?” is a real stressor for my Husband. Thanks for the reminder!
These are all great tips. For us, meal planning and eating leftovers help so much! I hate throwing food away.
It’s frustrating, isn’t it! Glad you guys are taking full advantage of the benefits of meal planning and eating leftovers. Huge money savers!
Ana and I crave different styles of food often. So to avoid the urge to go to a new restaurant for a new flavor. Once a week, we look at the world map, point to a country, and find a recipe for that country’s best dish! It tends to be very cheap, and keeps our taste buds at bay!
Joshua, I LOVE that idea!!! We’ll have to think about incorporating that one. Thank you!
My pleasure Laurie, it’s definitely fun. Last week, we took it a step further and got something new from a different country for every day…but that got to be a bit much…once a week is perfect.
Hey Laurie and thanks for the great tips!
Numbers 5 and 6 are my “go-to” ways to save money on groceries, and while I don’t have a deep-freezer, I make lots of use with my fridge freezer. I’m always amazed at how long food lasts when it’s frozen.
Thanks again and I hope all is well with everyone. Take care and my best to all.
Hey, Lyle, good to hear from you!! I know you are a pro at saving money in general. We love our freezer too. It’s what allows us to save the money we do on groceries. Have a great weekend, Lyle. 🙂
The amount of food that goes to waste drives me nuts! Especially in the summer. This heat is just making everything rot so quickly!
My grocery budget was the first thing we tried to tackle when we started to cut back our outgoings. It really is amazing how by implementing so simple processes, you can make substainale savings.
Thanks for sharing a great and informative post.
I’ve made this one of my top 5 posts of the week:
Thanks so much, Ricky!! Yes, you’re right: groceries is one area in which substantial cash can be saved with a little effort.
Great tips. I especially agree with knowing and trying to reduce your per-meal cost. We wouldn’t eat out without knowing how much we’re spending, so why do it at home where we eat most of our meals? Knowing your expenses is the first step in reducing your spending.
So true, Gary! I think so many times people view all grocery spending as a necessity, when it really isn’t that way and there is tons of money wasted at the grocery store.
Great tips. I can attest to the wonders of the deep freezer. We got tired of stuffing meat and veggies in our tiny freezer. It actually forced us to eat out more. Now that we have the deep freezer, we can stock up on meat and my favorite, frozen pizza!
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