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Unless you’re the kind of person who keeps track of every dollar spent, I would bet the amount of money you spend on food will surprise you. Go on, have a look at how much you’ve spent over the last month by checking your bank statements. It’s seriously alarming.
Food is by far one of the easiest things to spend a lot of money on. A big grocery shop, followed by a trip to the grocery store every few days for ‘just one thing but leaving with 20 things’ plus going out for brunch or dinner here and there can seriously add up.
But here’s the thing – you don’t have to eat rice and beans in order to save money on food. By making a few simple little changes here and there, you can save yourself hundreds (maybe even thousands) of dollars over the year!
So here are some great habits you can create that will help you save money on food and put more money back into your pocket!
1 – Eat What’s In Season
It’s interesting to me that so many people don’t know what food is in season and when – or that fresh food even has a season! There’s a reason why bananas are $1.50/kg at one time and $6kg at another!
When fresh food is in season, it is cheap as there is an abundance of it and it doesn’t have to be imported. When fresh food isn’t in season, it is expensive as there is less of it and some of it has to be imported at greater costs.
Planning your meals around seasonal foods will help you save a whole heap of money and will also ensure you eat the freshest and most tastiest foods too!
2 – Bulk Buy & Freeze
Are you pretty obsessed with Mangoes and find that they are difficult to come by in winter? But you still love them and pay a fortune to get your hands on imported ones? There’s a better way! Buy your favourite foods in bulk and freeze them!
You can freeze just about any kind of food and it’s almost always cheaper to buy it in bulk. I even buy things like spinach and kale in bulk and blitz in the blender with some coconut water and freeze into ice cube trays ready to add to smoothies!
You can also buy in bulk and preserve foods like fruits (jams), tomatoes (chutneys), cucumbers (pickles) and even cabbage (sauerkraut).
3 – Create ‘Signature’ Dishes
Your ‘signature’ dish is that go to dish that you can make super quickly, it only has a few ingredients and everyone loves it. It should be fairly inexpensive and you should keep the ingredients for it on hand all the time.
The reason for this is so when you’re crazy busy, and your day gets away, or when you’ve forgotten to plan dinner, you can make one of these ‘go to’ dishes and you aren’t tempted to just get takeaway or make another trip to the grocery store.
For us, these meals include taco salad (taco mince + spinach, tomatoes and cheese), chicken and salad (grilled chicken thighs + spinach, tomatoes and cheese) or a big omelette with anything in it we have on hand.
4 – Meal Plan
There is no single habit that helps us save money on food more than meal planning. It is seriously a game changer. Did you know you can even take a meal planning course? It’s that serious!
We always find that when we meal plan, we can cut our grocery bill down by around a third, which adds up to a lot of money! Plus I always make sure we have our lunches on our meal plan too so I can plan leftovers and cook extra’s and freeze so I’m not buying lunch every day too!
5 – Shop At The Markets
Your local markets are a brilliant place to score some fresh produce at an amazing price. Farms take to market what doesn’t sell to the big grocery stores because it’s not ‘pretty’ enough. No judging here – this food is still fresh, still tastes amazing and will save you a fortune.
You can also often find great organic markets too that sell organic foods at a fraction of the price you can buy them for in the stores.
This also gives you a perfect opportunity to buy in bulk and freeze too!
6 – Eliminate Waste
Did you know, it is estimated that one third of the food used for human consumption is wasted every year? Just take a minute and let that sink in. One third. Even if you’re on the conservative side and ‘only’ throw out one fifth of what you purchase in a year, with an average grocery bill of $500 a month, that means you’re throwing out $1200 worth of food every single year.
That is a whole lot of food and a whole lot of money.
A lot of the tips above will help you reduce the amount of waste you have. Freeze food before it goes rotten like I do with spinach and kale, freeze whole extra meals to have for lunches so you’re not throwing away the leftovers, meal plan so you know what food you need to buy for the week and you’re not just grocery shopping when you’re hungry and buying everything.
If you plan your meals better, and plan your grocery shopping better, naturally you’ll reduce the amount of food you are wasting and therefore save money on food.
7 – Stick To a Budget
This tip is so important. Give yourself a weekly budget and stick to it. Take the cash out, put in in an envelope and that is the money you spend on groceries. If it runs out and you want to buy more food, you just make do with what you have until next week.
Using your meal plan you can create a grocery list and when you go shopping you need to stick to that list. Carry a calculator with you (it’s on your phone already) and add up every item you put in your cart so you know exactly how much it’s going to be, no surprises. If you go over, you’ll need to put something back or swap for a cheaper alternative because you only have the allotted cash amount with you.
Many of these habits work seamlessly together and combined can help you save money on food week after week. Even if you choose to just implement one of these habits at a time, you’ll find yourself saving money that can be put to better use somewhere else (like on chocolate…).