I recently asked my twitter.com followers what they spend on groceries every month. I got answers ranging anywhere $250/month for a family of two to over $600/month for a family of 4. The largest family was a family of 6 who spends $450/month on food. Our food bill for a family of two is often larger than all of these other families.
Food Is Expensive Isn't It?
For the past few years one of our biggest weaknesses in our budget has been our food spending. Neither my wife or I likes to cook, and as a result we end up eating out several times a week. The food we do buy are the pre-packaged dinners which always costs more than if you just buy the raw meats and vegetables yourself. We like the convenience.
Just a couple of months ago we had a month where we spent over $1000 on groceries and dining out. That's a LOT of money to spend on food. I think that was a bit of a wakeup call for me. I realized that we needed to get our food spending under control.
20 Tips To Cut Your Food Bill
Here are 20 tips we'll be using to curb our spending on food:
- Eating out less: This may seem obvious, but it is our number one biggest reason we spend so much every month. We eat out several times a week, and on top of that we were eating out for lunch most days as well. When you add it up we're wasting thousands of dollars every year! We're not going to stop eating out all together, but we'll have a “restaurants” budget that will limit this spending category.
- Buying the ingredients and making it ourselves: Instead of buying all microwave dinners and pre-packaged meals, we're going to try to make more of our meals from scratch. Buying from scratch and making your meals instead of just heating them up can mean big savings. Lynnae at Being Frugal does this especially well, check out her post on the subject here.
- Not buying as much when we shop: One tendency that we've had in the past is to buy a ton of food when we go grocery shopping. If we think we'll need it in the next couple weeks, we buy it. The result is that we end up having a fridge full of food that we don't end up eating. We almost always end up throwing a bunch of old moldy food at the end of the month. It usually works better when we take several smaller trips to the store, only buying what we think we'll need for that week.
- Plan your trips to the grocery store: Make sure you're planning your trips to the grocery store, because while making smaller trips to the store can save you money on buying un-needed groceries, it can also cost you money through gas prices. Make sure you're planning your trips to the store so that you can make multiple stops in the same trip (if you need to) and make sure to keep a list during the week so you know what you'll need and where you'll stop. Aimlessly driving from store to store will NOT save you money. For tips on ways to save gas money while you're driving around, see this post.
- Look out for bargains: When you're grocery shopping keep your eye out for bargains. If you find something that's on sale, buy extra and stock up. This usually works best on canned items, pasta and things that won't spoil. (See the tip above about buying less to save – Don't buy 20 gallons of milk if it is on sale.)
- Stop drinking soda pop: Stop or cut back on drinking soda. For my wife and I just stopping the pop intake was hard/impossible, so we've at least cut back. Start drinking more water or buy cheaper powdered flavored drinks. You'll feel healthier and you'll be better hydrated.
- Cut back on junk food: Commercial snack foods are costly and usually unhealthy. Instead buy some veggies and dip, and eat some healthy food while you're laying around.
- Buy generic in-house brands when possible: When you're buying foods try and find generic alternatives to the brand names you usually buy. Most stores will have an in-house generic that is often just as good as the brand name, while costing quite a bit less. In some cases I actually prefer the generic!
- Don't eat meat every night: Instead of making a meal with meat every night, try making some vegetarian dishes with other sources of protein like beans. It will probably be healthier, and you can save a lot of money on meat if you just make meat-free dishes a few times a week.
- Avoid buying snacks in vending machines or convenience stores: This is one of my weaknesses – spending on snacks at work, when I fill up gas or when I'm stopping at starbucks. Instead of buying your snacks, buy some healthy snacks and bring them with you.
- Use Coupons: Actually using some of the coupons we get every week in the mail is a great way to save money – we just have to remember to bring them with!
- Plant a garden: Supplement your food by planting a garden in your backyard. It doesn't cost much to get one of these going, and you'll have some nice fresh veggies to eat! Check out FrugalDad's square foot garden to get a nice start!
- Make extra when you find good deals on meat – and eat the leftovers: When you're making food, try to always cook extra, and freeze the leftovers into meal sized portions. Or if you're really ambitious, use the “cook once, eat for a month” method that a lot of people are talking about. When you see good prices on meat, buy extra, take a day where you cook meals and then freeze meals and lunches for the next month. Saves money and time!
- Participate in The Grocery Game: When you play the grocery game at thegrocerygame.com, you'll get a weekly list of the lowest-priced products at your supermarket matched with manufacturers' coupons and weekly specials — advertised and unadvertised. The service does cost $10 every 8 weeks, but many have found that they save far more than that by using the service.
- Use deals websites like MyGroceryDeals.com: MyGroceryDeals.com allows you to enter your zip code, and find deals at your local food stores, pharmacies and other retail outlets. For my zip code it comes up with about 16 different stores with 650+ deals available. Download their Grocery Savings Tips E-book here.
- Never shop on an empty stomach: Try not to go shopping when you're on an empty stomach. You'll end up buying a bunch of stuff that looks good, that you don't really need.
- Shop using cash so you don't overspend: Set up a budget and only go grocery shopping with cash. If you run out of money, put something back. When you use a credit card you're that much more likely to spend more money on things you don't need.
- Eat smaller portions: Save money by eating smaller portions, and freezing any leftovers to eat later for lunch or dinner. Most of us in this country eat too much food anyway, eating until we feel sick. Control your portions and you'll be healthier, and you'll spend less on food!
- Don't think you have to buy two to get the discount: Often an item will be advertised for 2 for $5, or 2 for the price of 1. That makes you think you need to buy two items to get the discount. Often you can buy only one if that's all you need. Buy just one item and save!
- While you're at the store, pick up your free Redbox rental: While you're out saving on your groceries, you may as well save on your entertainment bill as well. Many grocery stores now have a Redbox.com movie rental machine where you can get your movie rentals for just $1 a night – or less! To find out how to find free rentals at the redbox and save on your Netflix or Blockbuster membership fees, read my post on getting free redbox rentals
So those are some of the ways I plan on saving on groceries (and entertainment) this month.
What are some of your money saving tips when you shop for groceries? Leave your tips in the comments below!