Food Storage & Other Adventures in Motherhood

33 Practical Ways to Save Money: On Food

by heather

I know that there are plenty of lists out there of ways to save money.  But it seems like every list I have ever looked at has several items that I think are totally impractical for me, and I’m assuming for many other people out there. So I thought I would compile a list of things that I have found that actually save me money and don’t make my life too much more difficult in the process.  I really use these things to spend $150-$250 per month to feed my family of five. Some of these things I have mentioned previously, but here are all of my food saving tips in one place. Make sure that you don’t look at this list and feel overwhelmed. Don’t feel like you need to do these all at once. Try a few at a time. As you get comfortable, try a few more. There are many other ways to save money on food that I don’t do because they don’t work for me. You can make your own yogurt, bread etc. However, my time is valuable too, and I’d rather just buy my own yogurt. This is a first in a series of money saving tips.

  1. Have a plan– At the beginning of the week I plan 3-4 meals based on what I have in my fridge and my pantry. Other nights will be filled with leftovers, sandwiches, salads and sometimes social occasions.
  2. Eat your leftovers– or plan a meal that can be refashioned into a second meal (like sandwiches or casserole).
  3. Limit your portions. Only the eat the calories that you actually need. (and the occasional slice of cheesecake.)
  4. Drink more water. Your body needs water for every bodily function and cell process. If you don’t drink enough water, you are more likely to eat too much, not to mention you won’t be as healthy. And water is so cheap
  5. Eat less meat– We started with Meatless Monday, just cutting meat out one day a week, now we’re vegetarians. (I didn’t plan on the decision initially. Really, I thought going completely without meat was extreme, but I feel much better without it.) Eggs, beans, nuts and other forms of protein are significantly less expensive than meat.
  6. Eat more fruits and vegetables– Generally cheap and sooo good for you, which leads to…
  7. Join a food co-op– Where I live Bountiful Baskets provides fresh, in-season fruits and veggies for a great price. It is seldom that I can find produce for cheaper than I get there. And I found that it has encouraged my family to try foods that they probably wouldn’t try otherwise. (Who would have known that asparagus was Thing 1’s favorite?)
  8. Buy produce that is in season. It will cost less and have better nutritional value.
  9. Compare bagged vs. loose produce. Apples and oranges are usually cheaper bagged. Some varieties of onions, not so much. I don’t know why.
  10. When buying bagged items, don’t assume that they are all the same. A 5 lb bag of apples just has to weigh at least 5 lbs. Often it is more. Grab the heaviest one. (Back when I ate meat, I used this one to really save. Once by quickly comparing bags I found a bag of frozen chicken that was 4 lbs heavier than marked.)
  11. Compare unit prices– Just because you’re buying the larger item, doesn’t mean that it is always the best price per ounce.
  12. Can your own food. Be careful with this one. Sometimes it saves you money, sometimes it doesn’t, and it will always cost your time. If you can get a good deal on tomatoes (this year I found an amazing deal with our food co-op), making your own salsa saves money. And after enough practice my salsa has become pretty amazing if I do say so. Making your own apple pie filling is definitely cheaper than buying it. However, many times you get a better deal if you just stock up on certain sale items. Then again, there’s something to be said for the health and quality of home canned products.
  13. Shop sales and stock up– This only works for some things. I do this for pasta, cheese, cereal, cake mixes, canned goods and other pantry items.
  14. Buy a chest freezer, it’s worth it. Good items to freeze when the prices are right include: fruit, chopped veggies, yogurt, marinated meats, breads and various baked items.
  15. Plan your grocery trips–  Don’t just get everything you need on the way home from work. I use grocerysmarts.com to determine where the best deals are and then make a list on an envelope in which I have placed any necessary coupons.
  16. Limit the number of times you visit the grocery store. The less often you go to the store, the less likely you are to pick up an impulse purchase.
  17. Go grocery shopping without your children (or with only one child if that’s what you can manage). I know it’s a hassle to make these arrangements as a SAM, however your trips will be faster, more focused and less frustrating without your adorable little distractions. However, once they are older, shopping is an important skill to teach them, one on one.
  18. Watch carefully at the checkout, the money you lose here adds up fast if you aren’t paying attention. And review your receipt afterward. This has literally saved me hundreds of dollars, just by catching mistakes.
  19. Don’t shop hungry– You’re more likely to make impulse purchases.
  20. Try store brands– I have long since discovered that nothing compares to Kraft Mac & Cheese, but many store brand items are quality products.
  21. Cook from scratch– If you are craving something, why not try making it? If you don’t have the right cookbook, the internet is a great resource.
  22. If you are tired of the standard fare, try new recipes. Check out Pinterest, old cookbooks, or pick your friends’ brains. Ask them what their families loves to eat. Variety helps to keep you out of a rut, and decrease your chances of giving up and ordering out.
  23. Make your own snacks– They’re healthier and my family actually prefers my muffins, fruit leather and energy bars to the store-bought variety. True story.
  24. Eat out less– I have found that my family is usually more satisfied with the things that I make at home and it costs me far less. (Example: Once we went out for my birthday. We paid almost $5 for a serving of mac and cheese and when it came to the table, Thing 2 announced “Oh, I don’t want mac and cheese”. Funny, because he wanted it 20 minutes before.)
  25. When eating out use a coupon– If you are pressed for time, or going out for social occasions or are just feeling exhausted, just choose an eating establishment that offers some coupon or discount. Here in St George we make good use of the Dixie Direct card. I usually save about $8 every time that I use it.
  26. Use your food storage– I mean beans, oats, rice, pasta and wheat. I can’t stress enough how cost effective this is, not to mention healthy. Plan your meals around them. If you don’t have food storage, start building some, a little at a time. I think this one is the biggest factor in my spending under $250 per month on groceries for our family of 5. And I could probably spend far less than that if my family didn’t have such an appetite for a wide variety of cheeses.
  27. Cook without your oven– I use my crockpot, and toaster oven a great deal and am falling in love with the sun oven that my husband got me last year. All of these appliances use less energy than a traditional convection oven and don’t heat up the house like a traditional oven does, meaning less that I am paying to power the air conditioner.
  28. Cook in bulk– I do this with rice, beans and other side dishes. Then I freeze them so I have them ready.
  29. Grow your own herbs– This is the only thing that I have found to be worth the time and effort of growing in the desert. Growing more than this cost more money than it does to just buy it from the store. But fresh herbs are worth it, not to mention they make all my cooking taste so much better.
  30. Become familiar with prices– Knowing what typical and awesome prices are for an item gives you a better idea of when to “pounce”.
  31. Take advantage of store reward programs and digital coupons. No clipping involved.
  32. Shop warehouse stores for staple items. Where I live, Costco really is the best place to shop for many things. (As long as you stay away from the tempting prepared frozen items, it can save you a lot of money.)
  33. Take a survey of your pantry & fridge before you go shopping. That way you don’t buy something that you already have, and you’re less likely to get home and realize that you’re out of a crucial ingredient so you have to go back.

2 Responses to “33 Practical Ways to Save Money: On Food”

  1. Giggles says:

    One trick I learned was that the produce in season will be the produce on sale (supply and demand). As we go through the year and buy the produce on sale we get a real good variety in our diet.

    I agree, there are a few large brands that are worth the cost (I’m with you on Mac & Cheese), but for the most part you really can’t tell the difference.

    To help with eating leftovers, we put them away in small lunch sized containers so that the next morning you don’t have to mix your own small amount as you head out the door.

    Great tips!

    Found you on MMB.

    • heather says:

      It’s so true that eating what is in season saves you money & gives variety. Hooray for fresh fruits and veggies! Good tip about dividing your leftovers into small containers. Thanks for reading!

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