woman eating a burger in a yellow jacket

Tips For Reducing Your Food Bill

Buying food is essential, of course, but if you’re not careful, it can also eat into your budget.

Reevaluating Costs

Reducing your food bill starts by creating a budget. In order to make a change, you need to know what you’re currently spending and set a goal. Go through the last month of your transactions on your debit and credit cards and add up what you currently spend on groceries, eating out, your daily coffee, or those snacks you buy when you fill up your gas tank. Once you know how much you want to dedicate to food each month, keep to it! The best way to do this is to consistently track what you spend for a period of time and then make plans cut back on unnecessary purchases.

Limiting how much you eat out is perhaps the most obvious way to save on your food bill, and the most effective. While eating out can be a nice treat every once in a while, the fact of the matter is that you'll often be spending much more eating out than you would if you made your own meal. When deciding how often is right for you, remember that it’s all about moderation and being aware of where you can afford to spend a little extra and where you’ll need to be more conservative.

This includes the inclination to order food take-out during a pandemic. While taking the task of "making dinner" off your plate may help you with budgeting your time - when, let's face it, we're all trying to take steps to conserve our energy during a stressful time - make sure you're not stretching your budget too much on food delivery apps. Planning ahead and cooking several meals at once during the weekend can help you save time during the week when you're too spent after work and would rather order something "quick and easy". We cover more ways to master prepping your meals later on.

Grocery Shopping

The next step toward reducing your food bill is being thoughtful at the grocery store. Try to purchase staples that are affordable and versatile. This can include basics like bread, pasta, cheese, beans, and rice, but, of course, should be tailored to what you think you’ll actually eat.

While it may be fun to try out something new or unusual every so often, it's not so good for an expensive ingredient to end up sitting in your pantry for weeks without being eaten. Find substitutions for recipes with fancier and more expensive ingredients. You don't always need the truffle oil that's listed on that blogger recipe you found, but you can always use the olive oil that's already sitting in your pantry along with a few chopped up mushrooms. If you see something on the recipe list that has a high price tag, search online for that ingredient with "substitution". The internet has a wealth of answers for people on a budget.

While it may be fun to try out something new or unusual every so often, it's not so good for an expensive ingredient to end up sitting in your pantry for weeks without being eaten.

If you find yourself frequently throwing out food that’s gone bad, buying canned ingredients or other items with long shelf lives can make a huge difference in your budget. Focusing on things that can last can help you avoid losing money on food that you’re not actually eating.

A box of spaghetti pasta, a can of beans, and a can of canned fish

Finally, buying in bulk generally allows you to get more for less per ounce or container. But this one requires being conscientious of your choices. If you aren’t using all that you buy or are buying more than you really need, it isn’t saving you anything. The best way to approach buying in bulk is to make a plan for how you’ll actually use the food before going all in on 20 containers of it. The deals at wholesale markets can be so appealing but make sure you're not simply lured in by the low price tag if it's not something you'll use up in a reasonable amount of time.

Cooking and Prep

At least once or twice a week when you prepare big meals, try to make enough to have leftovers for lunches or snacks. While you don’t want to make extra that may go to waste, making a little more than you can eat in one meal will help those ingredients stretch longer and get you more bang for your buck.

Meal prepping is another way to save some cash. Starting the week by preparing, or at least planning, your meals means you’ll be less likely to resort to eating out when you’re pressed for time. If planning a whole week feels overwhelming, then start by getting lunches ready the night before. If you’ve already put effort into making it, you’ll be less likely to throw it out and opt for buying something more expensive.

But remember some self-care during this time of COVID-19. Maybe you don't need to order lots of take-out lunches or spend money on al fresco dining to feel better, but you can easily add a box of brownie mix to your shopping list as a treat, or create a fun weekend activity for your family with a home-made sundae bar - with toppings like fruit or jarred items that you can use later too. It's all about balance (and, remembering to take a walk around the block after an indulgence can help your mood too!)

Reducing your food bill requires being aware of what you’re spending and making conscious decisions that will cost you less. But, with a little bit of effort, your changes can make a big difference and you’ll end up with more money in your pocket.

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While we hope you find this content useful, it is only intended to serve as a starting point. Your next step is to speak with a qualified, licensed professional who can provide advice tailored to your individual circumstances. Nothing in this article, nor in any associated resources, should be construed as financial or legal advice. Furthermore, while we have made good faith efforts to ensure that the information presented was correct as of the date the content was prepared, we are unable to guarantee that it remains accurate today.

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