Here are five additional tips to help lower your food costs without coupons. If you haven’t already, check out my first post on this topic 5 Ways To Trim Your Food Budget. Let’s get to saving!
Look at the total cost of each meal
Most of us have staple meals that we cook a few times a month or even once a week. I love go-to meals because you don’t have to spend time thinking about dinner ideas. It simplifies things! For my family one of our staple meals was tacos, which we would have once a week. The problem was for some reason I assumed that because tacos are an easy meal that it was also a cheap meal. When I started looking at the total cost of ingredients for tacos I realized it was one of our most expensive meals and we were having it every single week. I love tacos and when I eat them I want a Chipotle like experience at home. We needed hamburger, taco seasoning, avocados, cilantro, cauliflower rice, salsa, tortillas, and lettuce to make our tacos and it added up. In order to decrease our food budget, we needed to decrease the number of times we made tacos or decrease the number of our must-have ingredients. Some of our new budget friendly staples for dinners are egg scrambles, Hamburger hash, and hot dogs with lots of veggies for sides.
Have a few eat what you have nights
If you are like my family it is very rare that your fridge and pantry are actually empty. This is such an under recognized blessing in my household. We have definitely experienced that sometimes the food that you have purchased may not sound as appetizing as something new you could buy. But eating what you all ready have is a huge money saver! It can even help you get a little creative with your food and break down lies about what a meal has to look like. As I have said before I love food and I love eating but I had to start realizing that every meal doesn’t have to be the best food I’ve ever tasted. Some nights can just be a smorgasbord of what you have all ready spent your hard earned money on.
Decrease the amount of snacks that you buy
If you have walked through a Costco or Sam’s Club you will no doubt be exposed to so many snack options that you never knew existed! Popcorn, pretzels, trail mixes, chips, cookies of all different flavors. The majority of these snacks have a few things in common: they are low on nutritional value and high on cost. I know when I buy popular snack items they just don’t last long. We open a box of cheeze its and by the time our hour long tv show is over our $3 snack for the week is gone in one sitting. The easiest way for me to remedy this is to not buy the snack item in the first place. I avoid going up and down the snack aisles at the store so I don’t have to intentionally say “no” to the sour cream and onion chips calling my name.
Stop buying as much produce (If you seem to throw it out)
Eating healthy is very important to me and part of that is eating a variety of vegetables and fruits. Unfortunately, produce can get expensive and it needs to be used relatively quickly after buying it. I’m sad to say that throwing out unused produce used to be a weekly occurrence for us. Those strawberries that looked so good and were an impulse purchase at the store were now covered in mold and had to be thrown out. I’ve had to learn what amount of produce we will actually use in a week’s time. One of the biggest reasons why we ended up needing to throw out produce was not sticking to our meal plan. Many times we would decide to eat out instead of cook and the majority of the produce for the meal we skipped would go to waste. This leads me to the most difficult and also most effective way we have trimmed our food budget…
Eat out less or not at all
I know. I know. If you are like me this one is hard! Eating out has always been a huge part of Alex and I’s relationship. We ate out all the time while we were dating. Ask us about what you should do in Akron, Ohio or Louisville, KY and we will be sure to give you a huge list of restaurants we love. But let me give you a few things to think on that may help you like they did me. Think back to a time when eating out was more of a luxury. It was usually a part of a celebration and looked forward to. It didn’t occur like many of Alex and I’s eating out experiences where we decided we were just too exhausted to cook on Fridays. Then we would spend 30 minutes to an hour deciding whether we really should eat out and what even sounded good. By reducing our eating out drastically I can tell you that Alex and I have been able to muster up the energy on many Fridays to cook. The amount of money we have been able to save by cooking at home is absolutely SHOCKING! I truly wouldn’t have believed we spent that much on eating out. An easy way to gain some motivation is by taking a look at your last month’s expenses and adding up the money you spent eating out including tips. You will have to spend some of that money at the grocery store but my guess is more than half of it could go towards paying off debt, saving for a want or a need, or whatever your financial goals are. Cooking at home every night is now the norm for us. Like I said above sometimes that meal is super easy like hot dogs and that’s okay! An unanticipated perk of not eating out has been that as our savings grew, my waistline shrunk a little with no additional effort.
Challenge yourself: Trimming your food budget doesn’t have to be an awful experience. Look at it as a challenge! Maybe decide you will only cook at home for a month and see how it goes. Or challenge yourself to spend $10 less per week. Small steps can lead to a great impact!