When you’re talking budgets it can be hard to see where you can save money at first. A lot of bills are fixed at a certain amount – your mortgage or car payment for example. But there are others that you can start chipping away at, and slowly but surely you’ll end up with big savings over the course of the year.
Our food budget was one of these things. It was huge – ballooning out of control at $600 to $1000 a month depending on how many times we ate out. When I think back, I cringe a little bit to think about all of that wasted money that could have been put to better use. If only we’d figured out how to save money on groceries sooner! Its so simple, and usually just takes a bit of planning ahead.
Now our budget is way down, and we used the following steps to get it there:
How to Save Money on Groceries
This is a tried and true one that lots of people will tell you to do. Its easy to say and harder to follow through on. My best tip is to pick a time of the week where you sit down and do this. Stick to it. Put it on a calendar and make yourself do it. Having a recipe book or binder on hand to easily pull from is also a huge help.
Buying in Season Foods
When you’re thinking about recipes, think about the food that’s in season right now. Strawberries will be a heck of a lot cheaper in the middle of the summer than the middle of the winter. If you’ve ever had a garden you know how this goes – you’re overflowing with tomatoes and begging people to take them off your hands. It’s the same thing with seasonal foods – the more being produced, the cheaper they are and the faster grocery stores want to get them off the shelves.
Buy Frozen Fruits and Veggies
Technically canned can sometimes be a bit cheaper and last you a little bit longer, but depending on the type of fruit or veggie I prefer frozen. It’s the closest to fresh you can get when things are out of season and still have it be affordable.
Start a Garden
All right, I know some of you are breaking out into cold sweats and already protesting the thought of trying to use your less-than-green thumb. But hang on – I’m not saying you have to start a whole farm in your backyard. A small little raised garden bed of tomatoes and cucumbers can do wonders for summer salads and pastas. Growing some of the more common fruits and veggies can save you a few bucks here and there at the grocery store and that adds up. Bonus points if you can those foods for the winter. My favorite things to grow are herbs and spices. Those can be ridiculously expensive at the store, especially if you want them fresh. I’d rather have a little pot of basil or mint on hand – and these can easily be kept inside in a windowsill for convenience.
Buying in Bulk
I think this secret has long been out of the bag, but if you have a food you know you’re going to eat a lot of then buy it in bulk. Peanut butter, oatmeal, canned black beans, rice, pasta – these are all things we buy in bulk and keep on hand. We know we’re going to use them and its just a matter of time until we can get them into our meal prepping rotation.
Cooking in Bulk
Kind of like buying in bulk, cooking in bulk can save you some bucks too.
Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting you eat the same thing every night for a week. I’m suggesting that foods that lend themselves to batch cooking – soups, stews, casseroles and the like also tend to be foods that freeze well.
My favorite thing to do is double a recipe and put the extra into individual portions and freeze them. I label them and stick a “made on” date to them and put them in the freezer. Then when I need a quick meal or don’t feel like cooking I can pull them out – or if you have picky eaters and you have a few prepared, everyone can have what they want!
Watch for Sales and Scoop up the Savings
This is one you have to be careful with. I wouldn’t recommend buying something you’ve never tried before just because its on sale, but if you’ve got a tried and true staple in your pantry – keep an eye out for when it goes on sale.
Use Your Leftovers
Plan for them so you can eat them for lunch the next day, or freeze them for a future dinner but whatever you do – do not let them go to waste!
Use Frozen Meat
Using frozen meat, like frozen raw chicken or breaded chicken strips can also save you money especially if you buy in bulk. Fresh cuts of meat can be spendy and have a limited shelf life (raise your hand if you ever forgot to freeze by the “freeze by date”). Buying frozen chicken in bulk has made life super easy. A quick round in the microwave on defrost and into the pan, and we’ve got dinner in a few minutes.
Meatless Mondays (and Wednesdays?)
Add a few meatless days to the menu. I know this is hard for hardcore meat fanatics (I’m married to one) but if you can replace some of the meat on your menu with beans or high protein veggies like kale you can save some extra money (and usually a few calories too!)