Is food is one of your biggest daily expenses that eats away at your money budget?
You’re not alone.
Groceries, snacks, fast-food, takeout and eating out can take a quick toll on your efforts to save money.
“The USDA’s report on the average food cost for Americans from July of 2017 for a family of four with kids aged six through eleven ranged between $642.50 and $1280.70 for the month.” (Source)
“The average household spends an average of $3,008 per year on dining out, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports.” (Source)
Here are a few ways you can keep you expenditures on food in check – without feeling deprived.
1. Create a budget.
If you’re not budgeting, it’s difficult to track your spending. The first step to saving money on food and groceries is to figure out what you’re already spending, then look for ways to reduce and cut back.
Click here to download my free budgeting template.
So how much should you budget? Tracie Fobes of Credit.com wrote a piece on USA Today with some guidelines. Assuming that Americans already spend an average of 11% of their budget on food, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, you would do the following:
“Budget 6% for groceries each month and 5% for dining out. If your take-home income is $3,000 a month, you will budget around $180 for groceries and $150 for dining out. Of course, if $180 won’t cover your needs, you should cut back on dining out and use any additional money towards your grocery needs.” (Source)
2. Avoid convenience stores like the plague.
An easy way to save $10-$15 a week is to limit and/or eliminate your visits to convenience stores. You can save hundreds of dollars a year by shopping at lower-priced food stores.
Convenience stores often charge the highest price.
Have you ever thought about the price of bottled water in these stores when compared the price of gas?
A bottle of water at a gas station typically costs about $1.20. Gas is about $2 per gallon.
If you were to buy a gallon of Dasani, you could pay about $7.68 before tax. That makes high gas prices look like the deal of the week.
3. Cut back on the number of times you eat out (and order takeout) in a week.
Spend less on food by reducing the times you eat away from home (or order in from a restaurant).
If you’re currently eating out 4 times, reduce it to 3. Next month, try reducing to 2. Then 1.
When do you do eat out, order water instead of a $2.25 beverage.
4. Meal plan.
Services like emeals makes this easy. I’ve used them in the past. You get to keep the recipes, too. You can choose from a variety of a meal plans and start your 14 day free trial. (not a sponsored link)
5. Shop once a week – and stick to it.
This has been helpful for our family personally. We’ve gotten into a rhythm of cleaning the house Saturday morning, then I go to the grocery store (without the kids!) and everyone helps unload the groceries at home.
It helps to do a quick inventory of what you have on hand before you go. Take into account what you ran out of early last week. We always have to buy double eggs and double milk to last the week!
6. Buy seasonally and on-sale.
When you shop, take a list and come armed with coupons and knowledge of that week’s sales from the store’s flyer.
Websites including www.couponcart.com and www.coolsavings.com have free coupons you can download—double your pleasure by shopping at stores that honor double-coupon days.
When you buy seasonally, you’ll save, too, as these items are likely to be on special.
And by eating seasonally, you’ll be eating fresh produce, which is healthier and cheaper, too!
7. Shop at discount retailers like Aldi (my favorite!).
I save $30-$40 each trip over other area grocery stores. And the best part? I don’t have to coupon there.
Other grocery store savings tips:
- Avoid buying prepared and packaged goods.
- Compare price-per-ounce costs of other units on the shelf.
- Stock up on items with lower per-unit costs (two pounds of carrots can cost $1.29, compared with $7.16 for the same amount of precut carrot sticks).
- When you find a great deal (like turkeys that are slashed in price after a holiday), freeze it until you can use it.
Aldi has great prices on wine, too. And it’s easier to splurge on packaged items when you want a treat.
My favorite is the chicken caesar salad bowl for under $3. It makes the perfect work lunch, and I save $10 by not going out or ordering delivery to the office.