When trying to save money and live on a budget, limiting your grocery spending is a great place to start.
Food can be expensive when you eat out frequently, or you let your leftovers go to waste.
There are a ton of ways to stretch your budget and to make the most out of the food that you buy monthly.
If you learn to cook some dishes, you can still have all the food that you love without spending a huge chunk of your income on restaurants.
While some places in the world are just more expensive than others, it is possible to stick to a budget of around $200 per month as long as you plan and reuse those leftovers!
How to Save on Groceries: The Basics
Saving on food may seem stressful and may make you feel like you need to carve out time to do some serious couponing.
In reality, you just need to make a few changes to your habits.
Buy What Is in Season or on Sale
When it comes to produce, try to buy what is either in season or just on sale to maximize your money when it comes to fresh veggies and fruit.
You may adore strawberries, but they are not always in season and they can be really expensive depending on where you live.
You might then see that apples and grapes are on sale, and you can buy those instead. You are still getting tons of vitamins from the apples and grapes, and you’ve saved yourself some money.
It can be easy to get stuck in our routines and think that we need certain things every time we shop but being flexible and buying what is on sale will help to maximize your money.
Experimenting with different fruits and vegetables may also help you to expand your palette and you might realize that you enjoy different things!
Variety is the spice of life, so try to buy a variety of produce when it is on sale.
Buy the Store Brand
Some of you may balk at the thought of buying store brand items, but they can sometimes be a whole dollar or two cheaper than the name brand item.
For the most part, store brand and name brand items are the same things. You can probably take a good chunk off of your bill every week if you buy store-brand condiments, yogurt, and cans of beans.
Of course, there is always the possibility that your favorite name brand might be on sale, so check all the prices on the shelf before you commit!
Shop at the Cheaper Stores
This point goes hand-in-hand with the one above.
You don’t need to shop at fancy grocery stores to eat well. Shop at stores that are known for being cheaper, and make it work for you.
It may feel nice to shop at a high-end grocery store with nice lighting, a home décor section, and a huge international cheese section, but you end up paying way more for no reason.
Buy in Bulk
If you eat meat, you may usually be tempted to buy the two-pack of chicken breasts that comes with all the skin and fat removed. Depending on where you live, this may cost you about $10 for two pieces of chicken.
If you do a little bit of work yourself, you can save money. Buy the value pack of chicken (usually contains about eight pieces of chicken). These pieces may have some skin or fat but take two minutes and remove those undesirable parts at home.
You can then cook a few pieces that day and freeze the rest for another time.
That value pack may cost you around $20, but you get about four times the amount of chicken as the two-pack of chicken!
The same goes for rice and beans, which are two amazing foods for saving money.
Buy yourself a big sack of rice every couple of months, or whenever you run out. It may be a $15 investment, but it will last you for ages.
If you buy a small bag of rice for $5, you may run through that in a week.
Another great way to stretch your dollar is to buy dried beans and cook them yourself. They are not always convenient, but with a bit of planning, you can save a ton of money.
One cup of dried beans equals about three cups of cooked beans, so buying yourself a bag of beans can also last you for months.
Learn to Make Your Own
Getting crafty in the kitchen is a great way to save money.
Making your own sauces or bread is a great place to start!
This is not a mandatory step toward saving, but if you enjoy getting creative in the kitchen it may be a great step for you.
Baking your own bread can be enjoyable and can save you money. Depending on your location, you can probably get a 10lb bag of flour for anywhere from $8-$10.
A 10 lb bag of flour is about 40 cups of flour, and if you make one loaf of bread you’d need about 3 cups of flour.
This bag of flour will last you forever!
Baking bread for the week could become part of your routine if you enjoy it and it can allow you to save some money.
Sauces are the same – you can make your own BBQ sauces or marinades out of other condiments that you probably already have such as ketchup, vinegar, soy sauce, mustard etc.
Try to get creative with what you have before you run out to buy more ingredients!
Repurpose Those Leftovers
Some leftovers, like Thanksgiving dinner, are delicious on their own. Some leftovers end up being rather unappealing the next day.
Reusing and repurposing your leftovers is a huge key to saving money.
You can turn your leftover chicken and veggies into a soup by adding some broth and cooked pasta.
If you end up with a bunch of leftover roasted veggies but nothing to pair them with, try cooking up some spaghetti and tossing it with the veggies, olive oil, and some spices. You’ll have a great dinner in no time.
Leftovers in all forms also make great lunches to bring to work, which will save you from going out and spending money on fast food every day.
Meals That Last
There is nothing worse than spending money on good food and having it go bad before you can finish it off.
Cooking in bulk also helps to maximize your time because you can eat your leftovers for work lunches or dinner again the next day.
Some great ideas for meals that last:
There are about a million soup recipes on the internet and most of them require some veggies, protein, and some broth.
Most soup recipes make 4-6 meals, so you can meal prep soup to eat for your work lunches and it will end up being quite cheap.
If you want to take it to the next level when it comes to saving money, make your own broth.
If you happen to buy a whole chicken, save the bones. You can boil them in water with some spices and you will have your very own chicken broth.
This is a great way to make use of the whole purchase.
Stir-fries are a great choice because you can make a big batch and they’re highly customizable.
Stir fry some veggies and protein (chicken or tofu is delicious) and add a sauce. You can buy some teriyaki sauce for cheap or make your own sauce from pantry staples such as soy sauce, sesame oil, and brown sugar.
Serve your stir fry over a bed of rice or noodles and you’ve got dinner and lunch the next day sorted.
Burritos (or burrito bowls!)
Burritos are a fabulous meal that last.
Cook some rice, beans, whatever protein you like plus some veggies like bell peppers and onions.
You can then assemble your ingredients into a burrito and dinner is served!
You can even make a large batch of burritos and freeze them. You can then reheat them in the oven for a quick meal.
It really comes down to finding foods that you enjoy and learning how to cook them on the cheap.
There are a million food blogs out there that will teach you how to cook all of your favorites.
What Not to Do
When it comes to living on a budget, here are some things to avoid:
Don’t Buy Foods You Hate
If you hate spinach but see it on a huge sale, don’t bother buying it.
Chances are you will buy it at a great price, but it will sit in your fridge because you know you don’t like it.
It is great to experiment but do it within reason and don’t waste money on stuff you know you will not use.
Don’t Skimp on Stuff You Like
Even on a budget, you can still work on all the stuff you love.
If you know that your favorite dinner in the world is fried chicken, buy yourself some chicken and learn how to fry it!
If you deny yourself your favorite foods when shopping, you are probably just going to order them later on when you’re hungry and desperate.
Take the time to learn how to cook your favorite meals so that you don’t blow your budget on eating out.
Don’t Go Hungry
Make sure that you are still filling your belly and eating foods that make you feel good. Like above, if you feel that you are depriving yourself and that you have no food in the house because you are trying to save money, you will likely just end up blowing money on takeout!
All in all, saving money on food can help to free up money for other things like paying down debt or saving for a big purchase.
It is a great way to test yourself and get creative with your cooking and your budget.
Good luck on your food budget adventure!
Image by VasiliyBudarin via Shutterstock.com.