The top five ways we save money on food

A few posts back, I mentioned making homemade snack bars in an attempt to cut down on packaged food prices in mine and Jimmy’s grocery budget. I also said I would post about how we try to save money on food if anyone was interested. A few commenters were interested, so here we are. I’m hoping this post will spark some ideas for you, and that you’ll share any of your own tips in return!Food

1. Set a budget. Jimmy and I looked at our expenses and set a dollar amount that we will spend on groceries per week. Having a budget makes everything clear, and it helps to know a specific number you’re aiming for when grocery shopping. With budgeting, think about what you’re willing to spend more money on for quality, build it into your budget, and go from there. If you’re into organic meat, set aside a specific amount of your budget that you know you’ll spend on meat each week, and then plan everything else out. Personally, Jimmy and I are willing to spend more on good eggs (like Eggland’s Best–no this is not sponsored, I just like their eggs, haha), good coffee (preferably Starbucks!), and soy milk because I’m lactose intolerant and soy milk is unfortunately more expensive than cow’s milk. If we know we’re going to spend $20 each week on eggs, soy milk, and coffee beans, it makes it easier to plan around the foods and beverages we consider personal must haves.

2. Meal Plan. Having a plan of what we’ll eat each week is a huge help. I know exactly what to buy at the store, which reduces the amount of trips I make (more on this in the next point!). It also encourages variety in our meals because when I’m planning everything out, I feel more motivated to change things up or try new recipes. I know some people plan breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for each day, but I like to be more flexible. I usually plan two to three meals and spread them out during the week. On the days I don’t cook a “new” meal, we eat leftovers or random meals (like egg sandwiches, breakfast for dinner, tortilla pizzas, or frozen leftovers from previous meals). This works well for Jimmy and I because there’s just two of us, and we have a lot of leftovers from each meal.

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A recent meal plan. I didn’t plan specific days that I would cook each meal. I like to go with the flow!

As for planning breakfast, lunch, and snacks, we keep things pretty simple. I’m an oatmeal gal, so I buy a big tub of oats about once a month and spice them up each morning with whatever I’m in the mood for–fruit, maple syrup, honey, nuts, nut butter, cocoa powder, etc. Sometimes I’ll bake granola or buy frozen waffles if I’m feeling frisky and have room for them in the budget. Jimmy typically rotates between bagels and cereal. For lunch, we either pack sandwiches or eat leftovers. In terms of snacks, we have a “snack bin” that we keep in our cupboard. After each grocery shopping trip, I fill a little bin with pre-portioned servings of pretzels, homemade snack bars, bags of nuts and fruit, and more. Whenever we pack our lunches or need a quick snack on the go, we just reach into the snack bin. This keeps us from eating a whole bag of Doritos in one sitting (and thus wasting money) and makes our lives easier. I try to make as many snacks and staples as homemade as I can, too. If I have time, I’ll bake a loaf of bread, make bagels, snack bars, peanut butter, or cookies. I try not to stress out about it, though. Making your own food can save money, but it also takes time–it’s all about finding a balance that works for you.

3. Shop once a week. I recently started grocery shopping once a week and I’m loving it. This saves money because I’m not going back to the store three times a week because I buy what’s on my meal plan and stick to it. The less visits I make to the store, the less money I spend. If I go back once or twice to get milk or bread, I am always tempted to buy a package of candy corn or whatever else looks good. This method also saves time. When I was shopping more than once a week, I would have many instances where I would start cooking and realize I didn’t have a specific ingredient on hand. I’m usually dog tired after work (or just in sweats and don’t feel like changing…) and the thought of getting back in my truck and using gas to drive to the grocery store for a can of beans just doesn’t appeal to me. Grocery shopping once a week also sparks creativity. It forces me to “shop my pantry” on the nights when I don’t cook a meal. I try and treat it like a round of Chopped, like okay, I have a a head of broccoli on its last leg, rice in the cupboard, and leftover chicken from last night… what can I do with this?! Ready, go! Jimmy just laughs and shakes his head

4. Use coupons. Coupons can save a lot of money, especially if your grocery store doubles them. One thing to think about with coupons, though, is to only use them when they make sense. I know that sounds obvious, but it’s easy to fall into the trap of wow, here’s this hot sauce coupon for $1.50 off… even though I have two bottles of it that won’t expire for three more years. You know? Also, sometimes generic brands are cheaper than name brands, even with a coupon. In that case, I just buy generic and don’t use the coupon. I also scan weekly circulars while I’m meal planning and clipping coupons. If I see that pork is on sale this week, and I clip a coupon for a can of pineapple, I try and find a recipe that includes pork and pineapple. It’s like putting puzzle pieces together. Along with weekly coupon ads, there are also some great websites out there (like coupons.com) where you can print a wide variety of coupons at home.

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5. Visit more than one store. It’s not always fun to drive from store to store to save money, but it’s usually worth it. I pretty much stick to our local grocery store and Walmart, which are in the same plaza. I’ll typically visit Walmart first and buy everything I can there–especially items like toothpaste, cleaning products, shampoo, and paper towels. Our Walmart isn’t a super Walmart, so I buy our meat, most produce, and any specialty items from the regular grocery store. If you don’t have a superstore (like Target or Walmart) nearby, it can help to make a monthly trip for paper and personal goods versus buying them at your local grocery store.

How do you save money on food?

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14 comments

  1. This is really useful Allie. I do believe having a rough plan of what you are going to eat each week is super helpful. So many grocery stores also do mobile coupons now which is really helpful.

  2. Sooooo, this was REALLY helpful! 🙂 I do some of these things already (like having a budget, making a meal plan, and shopping once a week). BUT one of my biggest hangups is that – half the time – I don’t feel like making the meal I decided on for that specific night. I LOVE that you have a list of meal ideas, but that you can just go with the flow and pick from those meals. Maybe this should have been obvious to me, but I’ve never done it that way before. So an off night usually resulted in another trip to the store or an order of pizza. 😉 I’m DEFINITELY going to try this more flexible route!
    Also, I definitely need to take advantage of bigger meals and leftovers, I think.
    And lastly, LOVE the idea of a snack bucket!!! I’m totally going to make one!
    Thank you for the tips! I can’t wait for any future posts you may have on this subject. 🙂

    1. I’m so glad this post was helpful to you, Nicole! I know exactly what you mean about not being in the mood for a specific meal on a specific night. When I lived with my parents, they used to be pretty locked in on what we would eat certain nights and sometimes I was just like nah… I am not feeling tacos tonight.. haha. But I would get the choice of PB&J or cereal… but I would have rather had chicken or a burger or something. Remembering that growing up, I was like, no… I am not going to force myself to cook a meal because I planned it for a certain night! Flexibility has been amazing for me (in many areas of my life–and it’s something I’m still working on being better at, haha)! I hope you try the snack bucket, too! We love how easy it makes packing lunches/grabbing snacks! I will have to try and post again on any more ideas I have! 🙂

  3. We definitely coupon a lot. I find and save coupons for my favorite products, and I stock up on things when they’re on sale (provided they won’t expire before I can use them). Admittedly, I make a lot of trips to different stores, but we have a lot of stores around us too.

    Meal planning is great, but my husband is such a picky eater. I’ve stocked up on cereal or yogurt or a food he “liked”, only for him to suddenly decide it’s not for him anymore and not eat it… *sigh*.

    1. You’re so smart to stock up on your favorite products when they’re on sale and you have coupons for them! Having a lot of stores nearby makes trips to a few different ones much more bearable!

      I didn’t know Clay was a picky eater! Jimmy goes through phases, too! One day he is into a certain cereal or type of bagel, so I’ll buy them…. but then he gets sick of them, haha. He says I burn him out on things. I am the opposite and could eat the same things every single day 😉

  4. I eat food that is cheap. Peanut butter, rice, beans, regular lettuce. I don’t buy organic either. I would if I had the money, but I don’t and that’s not important to me. I also take expired food from work. I eat a lot of bananas and we always have brown ones that are unfit to sell. They are also a cheap fruit to buy from Aldis or Wal-mart. I also shop for snacky food at dollar stores. They are the same thing as other brands but cost a dollar.
    Great tips Allie!

    1. Amen to cheap food! That always makes life easier! We eat a lot of cheap staples, too (like rice, beans, oatmeal, nut butter). We don’t do organic food, either, unless it is cheaper than the regular version (which almost never happens, haha). I’m pretty jealous you get bananas from work!! I feel like I’m always waiting for bananas to go brown, haha. Good thinking on buying snack foods from dollar stores! I was in Big Lots recently and couldn’t believe how much cheaper their food prices were for packaged snacks. I need to go back!

      1. Big Lots is the bomb!!! I always find really odd things there too…like crazy flavored Oreos or European candy

  5. I’m the worst about using coupons, haha! I always think it’s a great idea and want to, but then forget. But I am a big believer in meal planning and cutting down on grocery store trips. Both of those definitely cut down on spending!

  6. Yayy!! I’m so glad you’re back!!! A trick we have is that we buy our starbucks coffee at … marshalls! We buy them out whenever they have them lol. I love your other tricks, such good ideas!! Now if I could cut my fancy cheese habit :/

    1. I’m so glad I’m back, too!! I have seen Starbucks at Marshalls and TJ Maxx! I have bought it there once or twice, but you’re so smart to buy it in bulk because it’s super cheap! So smart. And as for the cheese… we all have our “thing” that we love to splurge on 🙂

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