Our food bill is by far the biggest part of our budget. We are feeding 8 mouths on a single income- and over the years I have had to get creative on how to keep our food costs down. Here are my 19 simple ways to save money on groceries- and cut your food bill in half!
Save Money on Groceries- and Cut Your Bill in Half!
The number one thing everyone should be doing to save money on groceries is Grow Your Own!
I am not talking a huge garden here- but even just a small 50 sq ft. garden or less than 10 containers on a patio could help out with food costs. If you are a beginning gardener be sure to focus on the calorie crops and versatile crops. Things like potatoes, winter squash, and sweet potatoes are easy to grow, fill up tummies, and have a good storage life. Check out my gardening section for tips- such as How to Grow, Harvest and Store Sweet Potatoes!
Make Your Own Bread (and tortillas and buns)
Bread is a staple item in most homes. And when money is tight bread items can be used to stretch meals and make them more filling. But those items are expensive- not to mention full of questionable ingredients. Learning to make your own is a must for saving money on groceries. Check out my posts on Homemade Tortillas and Honey Oatmeal Bread to get you started!
And while you are at it…Make Your Own Comfort Foods
I don’t know about you, but when I get stressed or upset I often turn to food- bad habit I know! In addition to warming soups and breads (see above), being able to make your own junk food can be quite a money saver. Things like brownies and cookies can be make at home for pennies per serving. Plus if you have to make your own, chance are you may decide you don’t need them after all and choose a better and more healthy stress relieving activity.
Make Soups a Menu Staple
Soups may be seen as a winter only meal, but a big pot of soup or stew can feed a whole lot of people. If you fill it with things like beans, potatoes, or rice you it will be incredibly filling as well as inexpensive. The best part is that if you follow tip #1 and grow you own almost an entire soup can be made straight from the back yard garden.
While I am on the subject of soup…Skip the Broth
Broth- unless it is homemade from home raised chickens- isn’t very economical. Sure it adds flavor, but I find that this addition doesn’t make up for the cost of the broth in the first place. Stick with water and seasonings. Most of us have stocked spice racks- so additional salt, pepper, garlic, onion, cumin, etc are negligible costs and make your “broth” just as flavorful.
Grow Your Own Herbs
I know I already said to start a garden. But herbs are truly something anyone can grow. They will grow indoors on a windowsill, in a small pot in the deck, in the front flower garden as edible landscape. Most are perennial or self-seeding annuals and require next to no work. They are however quick growing and super easy to preserve by drying. One oregano, basil or thyme plant will keep your soups seasoned all year long.
Make Your Own Spice Packs
Do you still buy special seasoning mixes for your tacos, hamburgers or rice? STOP! These seasonings are made of salt with a few additional spices. Keep a well stocked spice rack– onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, paprika, salt and pepper and you should be good to go on making most of these by yourself.
Go vegetarian…or almost
If you’ve got a garden in full swing, going vegetarian can drastically cut your monthly food budget.
Adding extra high calorie, filling veggies and legumes- such as potatoes or beans- can stretch your recipes while reducing costs. If your standard chili recipe calls for a pound of meat you can safely cut that in half and up the amount of beans and still get a full pot that is very filling. This goes true for all meat dishes- Reduce the portion size if your meat item and add in extra, less expensive side dishes.
Also consider taking meat out of a few meals each week. You don’t have to go full vegetarian unless you want to, but cutting the meat from 3-4 meals per week will save you on your grocery bill.
Make a menu plan- but be smart about it!
Menu planning can be one of the easiest ways to save money, but only if you plan wisely. If you are like most people you make your menu just before going shopping for the month or week. On one hand this is a good idea- you can take into account what you already have in your pantry and freezer. On the other hand don’t be a slave to your menu plan. When you get to the store and find that one of your go-to meal’s ingredients are full price while something else is deeply discounted you need to be able to change your plan to account for that discount.
There are a few meals we keep on rotation on our menu- the ingredients are fairly shelf stable and we keep them around. I also leave room for meals based off of sales I find once at the store. Our menu is not 100% final until after the shopping has been done.
Shop Discount Stores- such as Aldi
You may have to do more than one shopping or alter you menu to account for the items that are at the discount store that week, but stores such as Aldi can save you a great deal. I can get nearly twice as much food at Aldi than I can for the same cost at our local grocery store. They even have the real food stuff I look for- coconut oil, fresh produce, natural or organic dairy products, etc.
Limit Your Trips to the Store
I don’t know about you, but a quick run to the store to pick up one thing always ends up in a lot more- and those impulse buys usually cost a lot!
I have found we spend much less if I buy everything I need for 2 weeks to a month at a time. And then set aside special trips in between those large shoppings to pick up perishables- like fresh produce that just won’t last for a month at a time. The less time you spend in a grocery store the less money you will spend there!
Buy Manager’s Special
If you just happen to be at the store at the right time you can come across some great deals- they aren’t ones you will find on the weekly flyer- but daily Manager’s Special deals or Reduced for Quick Sale deals. We have stocked our freezer with meats, produce, cheeses, and other dairy for very cheap.
They want to get rid of it before it expires, so take advantage of the deal and freeze it for later. Cheese can be shredded and frozen. Bananas can be chopped and frozen for smoothies or banana bread. Milk can be frozen for homemade waffles.
Keep a Stocked Pantry
If your pantry is full- you won’t be as tempted to break your budget with take-out or convenience foods because you will have basic ingredients for different meals right at your finger tips. Keep rice, pasta, dry beans, baking staples, etc. This will also help you to make-your-own if your budget is spent for the month and you still have more meals to make.
And while you are stocking- Buy in Bulk
Buying in bulk can seem like it might be more trouble than it’s worth- you need more money up front, you wonder if the food will spoil before it is used, but if you can swing it bulk buying- through discount stores or food clubs- can save you month to month. This is especially true for baking staples such as flour or oats. Once you get in the swing of making your own bread, tortillas, buns, etc. you will see that buying small bags of flour is much more troublesome than buying one (or more) 50lb bag. Plus you never have to worry about running out!
Don’t Forget the Freezer!
This one goes both ways- don’t forget to stock it with on-sale items and don’t forget to USE the items that you’ve put into it. Your freezer is one of your best tools for keeping food fresh and saving you money on spoiled food. Make extra meals to freeze for later, buy in bulk to stock it up an then keep track of what’s inside so that you can “shop” for your freezer to meet your meal planning needs.
Reserve a Few Meals as “Dump Meals”
These meals go particularly good at the end of the month- when the budget has been spent and the pantry and freezer are a little less full. My favorite thing to make is soup- I just pull whatever I can find that might work- frozen veggies from the freezer, meat if I want it, pasta or rice from the pantry, whatever I can find in the garden. Throw it in a pot with spices and water and let it cook. It’s a great way to use up odds and ends in the pantry that have been sitting there forever!
Dinner does not have to be traditional dinner foods. Breakfast-for-dinner is one of the cheapest meals we eat around here- lots of eggs (from our own chickens) and a big batch of waffles or pancakes- everyone loves it and everyone is full. Sausage biscuits are another frequent dinnertime meal at our house- using on-sale sausage patties and homemade buttermilk biscuits.
Don’t Pay for Convenience
Dry beans are a lot less expensive than canned beans. Buying a ham to cook and slice your sell is cheaper (and better for you) than buying lunch meat. It takes more work and planning on your part to make your own, but the cost will be much less and in most cased the homemade version will taste better and be better for you as well.
And to totally contradict myself- my final tip is that Convenience Foods Have a Time and Place
We all have those days, when we are running late and didn’t get dinner started on time. When we woke up on the wrong side of the bed and are just have a horrible day and don’t feel like cooking. These are the days that convenience foods are made for. A $3.00 frozen pizza is better for your budget than a $10 take-out pizza. So having things like organic Mac and Cheese or cereal on hand will help you when you just don’t have the time or energy for from-scratch cooking. The key is to remember to save these for just-in-case as opposed to everyday eating.
© 2016 – 2017, Sarah R Toney. All rights reserved.