When you’re on a tight budget, buying groceries is one of the very last things you want to do. And while you can work your way around a lot of the things on your monthly shopping list, there is unfortunately no way to get around the fact that you need to feed yourself and your family. While you may not think you’re spending a lot, your food bill could kill your budget in seconds if you’re not careful!
But, there are some simple sure fire ways to keep your food bill down and still eat like royalty (well not royalty, but king of your castle at least!)
Step 1: Shop with coupons
When you’re shopping for, or about to spend money on anything there is very probably a coupon SOMEWHERE that will help you cut down on your overall bill. If you’re shopping online, you’ll most likely find free shipping coupons for most stores. If you’re shopping in-store you could find percentage or dollar off coupons on specific products, departments or your whole bill. Either way, you’ll be amazed at how much you save! It’s also a good idea to use coupons on your other purchases not involving groceries, which leaves you with surplus – there are some pretty useful Target promos available now, so make sure to check them out.
Step 2: Shop with a list AND a budget
Having a list and STICKING to it is the easiest way to cut your food bill because you’re less likely to buy items you don’t need, no matter how much you want them. Plan your meals for the week, fortnight or month (depending on how you shop) and then make a list of all the ingredients you’ll need for them. Then go through your cupboards, fridge and freezer to see what you might already have. If you’re unsure of a fair budget then check for what the average food bill is for a family of your size (remember to factor in inflation if the stats are old). Experts say that 5-15% of your take home pay should go towards food (including eating out) so use those two amounts to figure out a fair budget.
Step 3: Shop around town
As much as we don’t like to admit it, we do become attached to a particular store. Maybe it’s because it’s the most convenient – on the way home from work or closer to home, and sometimes it’s because we just like that store for whatever reason. But sometimes going to a couple of different stores can save you a whole lot more than usual. Now this isn’t to say you should head all the way across town for one item, but browse those flyers you get in the paper, check for coupons and if your bill would be lower at another store then head there.
Step 4: Shop the generic brands
You like that brand, you’ve always bought that brand and you’ve never considered another brand. Well stop it because those generic or store brands are normally just as good (sometimes better) and because you’re not paying for the ‘name’ you’ll be getting a FAR better price. In fact – a lot of store brands are the most popular brands with private labelling. So check the prices on certain foods, especially on staples such as salt, sugar, flour, pasta and rice. Chefs are perfectly satisfied with the generics and they’re the ‘experts’ so learn from them!
Step 5: Shop for a modern menu
When you were growing up you probably got used to two starches, meat, veg and dessert with every meal. But we’ve moved way past those days. A simple salad can be elevated into a full meal, sometimes a BLT is all you really want and an omelette is actually a pretty amazing dinner. And the best part is that because they’re easy to prepare, you aren’t too tired to quickly whip it up at the end of a long day so you’re less tempted by fast food convenience! If you have no idea about simple tasty meals then search for 4 ingredient recipes as they’re a pretty good guide and so super yummy you’ll be tempted to cut out ‘full’ meals forever!
Step 6: Shop the cheaper cuts
If your family is completely anti anything even remotely vegetarian i.e. they want meat with every meal, then shop for cheaper cuts of meat. Chicken drumsticks and thighs are far cheaper than breasts, even buying normal chicken breasts then deboning and skinning them yourself is better! A skirt steak can be just as yummy as a fillet steak and pork belly is a superb replacement for pork loin. If you love a lamb roast then opt for lamb shanks over a leg of lamb. It might require a little creative thinking and maybe searching for new recipes but you don’t have to go meatless if you don’t want to!
Step 7: Shop for multiple meals in one
We’re all guilty of shopping for and cooking too much food only to have a large chunk of it end up in the bin. So think about how you can use the leftovers from one meal to make another, go through your fridge and pantry and think about a meal that will use up any ingredients that are on their last legs. Again, the internet is your friend so if you’re clueless then look for recipes using those specific ingredients. Also think about how you can cook two meals in one. Grilled chicken leftovers make an awesome chicken pot pie, a roast makes great dinner and mouth-watering sandwiches for lunch, pastas work well as freezer meals and most anything can be turned into something else. And like I said before – use the internet if you need ideas!
Step 8: Shop your most budget conscious way
Some people say to always shop with cash, others say to always use a card. I say it depends on you. If using a card makes it easier for you to add things you don’t have on your list to your shopping cart then draw a set amount of cash and leave the cards at home. If you’re one of those people who spends cash willy nilly but is always reluctant to pull out the card then never walk into a store with cash in your purse or wallet. You could also combine the two and have a prepaid credit card or an account that is solely for groceries. If you’re worried that you’re not going to have enough money to pay for everything you actually need then that prepaid card could be your backup, or you could keep a little extra cash in your car for just in case. Don’t keep it on you – otherwise the temptation to use it may prove too great to resist!
And there you have it – 8 simple steps that could save you as much as half of your monthly food bill! I haven’t actually mentioned it here but you already know that eating out and takeout dinners will kill your food budget in seconds – no matter how convenient and delicious they are. Rather, set aside a fixed amount for those evenings where you want to spoil yourself and then get takeouts that make the expense worthwhile.
Have YOU ever done something amazing that’s reduced your food bill? Do share with us!
Due to the amount of comments from all of my wonderful readers, it is not always possible for me to respond to each one. However, I absolutely do read them all, and if you’d like to address something specific, or have a question for me, please don’t hesitate to email me at Kristen@theroadtodomestication.com. I will respond to your email as soon as possible! Thank you for visiting the blog!