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One of our biggest expenses by far is food. I see it time and time again, when people go through their expenses and work out how much they have been spending, in comparison to how much they think they’ve been spending, one of the biggest disparities is always around food.
Which is why I talk so much about how to save money on food, because it has the biggest margin for savings, is one of the easiest things to save money on, and can make a massive difference to your monthly budget.
Whether you’re wanting to tighten up your budget, cut your grocery spending down or just save a bit of extra money, these tips for saving money on food will have everyone covered, you may even be doing some already!
1 – Use What You’ve Got
One of the problems many people find is that they end up with a stockpile of random food that they either don’t know what to do with or they don’t even realise they have. Usually, these things are stored in a deep dark corner of a pantry and are rarely ever seen.
Make the most of this by shopping your pantry and using what you’ve already got. Make a list of everything you have (great opportunity for a pantry clear out too) and start creating meal ideas from this. Instead of having to buy all the bits and pieces for meals, this way you’ll only need one or two missing ingredients to be able to make your meals.
2 – Meal Plan
Meal planning is my number one way to save money on food. No matter what your budget is, meal planning will save you money, save waste, save time and save so much stress! You don’t have to be too over the top, meal planning can be super simple.
Grab a weekly calendar or meal plan template (like the one below – you can laminate it so you can use it week after week), and start filling in meals based on what you have, what you want to eat and what your week looks like. Make sure to plan things like cooking double batches so you can have leftovers one night (great for busy afternoons) or you can even use the leftovers for lunches!
3 – Use Fewer Ingredients
You don’t need complicated meals to eat well. Instead, opt for simple food that tastes good. If you have a recipe that calls for an expensive ingredient, try omitting it if the recipe allows, or use that recipe for special occasions.
There are so many tasty dishes you can make with fewer than 5 ingredients! Plan it all out in your meal plan and keep things simple.
4 – Buy Meat In Bulk
Check to see if your local butcher or grocer offers discounts for meat bought in bulk. If you have the room to store it, this can be a great way to save a fortune on meat and can often lead to huge discounts. Be sure if you are buying meat in bulk that you plan the use of that meat (like in a meal plan) so you don’t let the meat spoil. Also, be sure to mark it all properly before storing it so you know what is what and you aren’t randomly defrosting meat and just hoping for the best.
5 – Have A Meat Free Day
Vegetable based meals are often a whole heap cheaper than meat based meals and can be just as tasty too. Check out Pinterest for some super delish and inspiring meal choices and plan these into your meal planner too.
6 – Use Rewards Programs
Check to see if your local grocery store has a points or rewards program that you can use. Each year we save up our points to use for Christmas and last year we had over $600 worth of points! Some rewards programs might offer a buy one get one deal or discount on particular items.
The key to this is to only buy what you would normally buy and to not fall into the trap of buying extra items to get bonus points.
7 – Cook Double Batches
Most meals can be easily doubled and used as leftovers or saved for another meal. The cost-saving part here is that you can save money by buying in bulk (for example, often ground beef gets cheaper the more you buy) and you have less waste if the recipe calls for something that needs ‘half a packet’.
Cooking double batches also means you have extras to use for lunches and can save you having to buy lunches at work.
8 – Eat Seasonal Food
When fresh produce is in season it is considerably cheaper, and therefore eating food that is in season can save you a fortune. Check out your local Farmer’s Markets and buy your cheaper fresh foods there, then use this with what you already have in your pantry to plan out your meals. This is such a simple yet highly cost-effective way to meal plan and save money on food.
9 – Bulk Out Your Meals
Meals can be stretched further by adding starches like rice or pasta, or legumes like beans or chickpeas, or by adding extra vegetables. This can add more nutritional value and make the meal go further. Winning.
10 – Freeze What’s Fresh
How frustrated do you get when you end up throwing out those ‘fresh’ vegetables and fruit because they’ve gone bad faster than you can eat them? It drives me bonkers. Instead, buy your fresh produce in bulk (like at a Farmer’s Market) and freeze what you can’t consume quickly.
You can prep smoothies by adding a bunch of different ingredients into individual packs, or you can even blitz up your fresh spinach or kale with a small amount of water and put into ice cube trays to freeze in small portions for smoothies too.
11 – Shop Late At Night
Shopping late at night can help in two ways. You can shop after you’ve eaten dinner so you’re not shopping on an empty stomach (which will cause you to buy way more than you need), and often supermarkets will mark their meat and fresh produce down later at night so it can be sold while still fresh and not wasted. This means you can save a whole heap of money simply by shopping at a different time!
12 – Shop With A Calculator In Hand
Do you get to the checkout and hope you haven’t gone over your budget? Don’t shop by chance anymore and carry a calculator with you. You already have one in your hand, it’s your phone! Use the calculator to add things up as you go so there are no more nasty surprises at the checkout and you know that you’re sticking to your budget.
13 – Stick To Your List
Never, ever grocery shop without a list. It’s a guaranteed way to buy more than you need and forget something, meaning you’ll head back to the store for that one thing and walk out with 3 bags. It. Always. Happens.
Once you’ve mapped out your meal plan, you can work out what you need to buy based on what is in your pantry and what you’re missing. Write out your list and stick to it.
14 – Buy Online And Save
Not convinced you’re going to be able to stick to your list? Or simply don’t have the time to go grocery shopping? Why not shop online and save a ton of money? Most supermarkets offer click and collect or even delivery options for grocery shopping.
You could even sign up with a cash back site like Ebates (my fave) that offers real cash back and all you have to do is install their browser extension and shop as normal. If you land on a site that offers cash back, a little notification will pop up asking if you want to activate your cash back for the site. It’s that easy.
Doing your grocery shopping online means you can quickly compare between supermarkets so you get the best deal and you can grab what’s cheapest at each store in a fraction of the amount of time it would take to go in store and shop. You can also save by not strolling the aisles and be tempted to buy whatever jumps out at you at the time.
15 – Grow Your Own
Fancy yourself a bit of a green thumb? Then why not give growing your own food a go?
There’s a whole heap of different spices you can grow in pots if you only have a small space, or setting yourself up with a veggie patch might set you back some cash to set up initially, but can save you big in the long run.
You can get creative, grow what’s in season and you can even regrow tons of vegetables from your scraps! Nothing tastes as good as homegrown fruit and vegetables and you know they are fresh!
If you’re wanting to cut down on the amount of money you’re spending on food, there are so many ways to do it. You just have to be a little creative and a little determined and you’ll be saving money on food in no time!