Do you need to save money on food this year? Are you surprised every month with your food bill?
The bad news is that as humans we need to eat 2-4 times a day depending on our body's metabolic rate.
This does not mean that we need to become slaves to food. Sometimes I wish that there was a better way to get rid of hunger pangs (haha!).
Then I have to stop myself as I remember how lucky and blessed I am to have food on the table to eat.
Eating can be a chore for many people because it involves so many things to eventually get that food into the stomach.
Yes, one may think it is a simple affair to go to the supermarket to purchase the ingredients.
However, if you want to save hundreds every month on your food bill the process can be far more comprehensive.
The truth is that there are many families across the country struggling to find a way to reduce their food bill significantly.
It is possible to achieve this goal but it all starts with planning meals in advance as well as a few key insights.
In this post, I will outline a number of tips, tricks and hacks that will help you to save a ton of cash on food.
Disclosure: Please note that this post may contain affiliate links which means that if you buy one of my recommended products I get paid a commission for sharing the link at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products that I have tried myself and have experienced success.
Advantages of Meal Planning
Surely, if you need to feed 19-21 children you will definitely need to plan meals years in advance (haha!).
Meal planning is still important whether you are a family of 2 or you have 1-4 children to feed.
The reason for this is that each person in the family has different needs when it comes to food.
Meeting those needs without going broke or living paycheck to paycheck is a skill that can be developed over time.
Here is a list of meal planning advantages:
- Meals are ready on time
- Cut down on the cost of snacking
- Healthy eating habits
- Reduce the potential for illness
- Increased productivity
- Better performance in school or work
- A happier family all round
I am sure that the advantages certainly outweigh the disadvantages if you want to save money.
How to Save Money on Food
I have to admit that saving money on food is not going to be a walk in the park.
However, it doesn't have to be a triple-twisting double somersault either we'll leave that for Simone Biles.🤣
It is not going to be the most pleasant of experiences and it does require you to be ruthless.
Let's look at the list of over 21 ways to save money on food this year.
1. Make a List
Okay, this may be obvious to a lot of people but I can assure you that it still happens to me 1-2 times a year where I forget to make a list.
The key reason for making a list is that you are able to buy everything you need in one shopping trip compared to 3.
Also, you stick to the list and avoid buying the things that you don't need which means you save money instantly.
2. Freeze Sliced Bread
I know that I am going to get a lot of people rolling their eyes at me when they read this one but hear me out.
If you eat bread every day then it means that you will need to buy this every 2-3 days because of the expiry date and bacteria.
However, when you freeze bread you are able to take out as many slices as you need and leave the rest in the freezer.
Do I use bread past its expiry date? Of course, I do, because there are fewer active mole or bacteria in the freezer.
Here is an amazing article that shows you how to freeze bread for maximum freshness.
3. Less is More
I am a firm believer in using fewer ingredients to get the same results. For example, if I want to steam broccoli the ingredients I need are garlic, salt and olive oil.
Sometimes you look at a recipe and it calls for 5-10 other ingredients like butter, dill, rosemary, etc.
There is no way that I am going to make things complicated and expensive. Let's stick to the simple lower-cost option.
Leave the impressive recipes for Christmas or when you're entertaining guest for dinner.
4. Ditch the Juice
There are going to be many people who disagree with me but depending on your goals it will be a good idea to ditch the juice.
Having juice around the house is a superb idea and a healthy habit. However, if you really want to save massively on food then leave it for now.
Try drinking water instead because it is the healthier option and you will reduce the unplanned visits to the dentist as well. A definite win-win.
In some cases, you may have children at home who get their 5 fruits a day from smoothies so consider doing homemade smoothies instead.
5. Buy Food in Bulk
A great way to save money on food items is to buy them in bulk at places like Costco.
Items like toilet paper, pasta, rice, flour, noodles, foil, plastic wrap, shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and oats can all be bought in bulk.
It means that you only need to buy these 2-4 times a year so that when you go to the supermarket you can focus on fresh food items.
6. Check the Unit Price
Buying things in bulk can be tricky so it is important that you check the unit price before you put it into the trolley.
I always check the price per litre, per sheet or per kilogram before I bag the item.
Not everything that has a discount is actually cheaper compared to similar items in the aisle.
Here are examples from toilet paper showing the price per sheet for each package.
As you can see the 24-roll package is the lowest cost per sheet. However, here is one that I found at Lidl that cost 7 cents for 100 sheets.
So, I found a way to save money on toilet paper without leaving the comfort of my home. You get 9 rolls for only 1.39 Euro.
7. Use the Supermarket App
The one thing that I found really handy when it comes to meal planning is checking what is on offer before I get to the supermarket.
Technology does have its advantages especially for helping you to save money on food.
On the app, I can see the special offer price including the start and end dates as well as the price per kilogram or gram.
Below is an example where I can see what is on special offer and the dates associated with those offers.
8. Eat Before Going Shopping
This reminds me of a funny story that I need to share with you. As a child growing up my mother always got us to eat before leaving to attend a wedding (haha!!).
As funny as that may seem it is true that you should never shop when you are hungry.
The smell of the items at the bakery will only tempt you to buy something to eat anyway.
I am always amazed at all the children in the supermarket walking around eating stuff from the bakery.
9. Save or Freeze Left Overs
It is such a common practice to throw away leftovers because nobody would be interested in food from yesterday (except me).
However, these same leftovers will come in handy later on and it is perfectly good food to eat.
Think of all those people all over the world who could really benefit from those leftovers.
The trick with freezing leftovers is to store them in an attractive manner with labels indicating what it is and when it was placed there.
10. Best Before vs Use By Expiry Dates
I have seen so many people throw away apples, oranges, pears and even baked items in the last few years.
Their simple reason is that it expired yesterday or two days ago so it is no longer fit for consumption.
It is time to give you another story from childhood. We had tons of fruit trees in our garden and I would climb the tree, pick the fruit and eat.
At no point did any food authority label the fruit on the tree as good or not good to eat.
I also picked up fruits that fell on the ground under the tree, washed them and ate them. Fruits in a bowl for a week, I just ate them.
As humans, we suddenly need someone with a badge to help us use our common sense.
If you need to understand the difference between best before and use by expiry dates then check this resource.
Always remember that it is super important to store your food properly if you want it to last longer.
11. Cook In Bulk on Sunday
If your week is the standard Monday through Friday 9 to 5 then you may find it necessary to cook in bulk on Sundays.
You can cook items like rice, peas, beans, pasta and vegetables in advance and store them in portion sizes in the fridge or freezer.
It is very tricky to get the process done perfectly but it can be accomplished with a bit of practice.
A quick tip: Always scald storage containers with boiling, hot water to get rid of excess bacteria so your food will last longer.
12. Invest in Kitchen Appliances
In many cases using kitchen appliances to help you to get all your cooking done is a great idea.
Two of my favourite appliances include a rice cooker and a slow cooker. Sometimes even a pressure cooker also helps.
It means that I don't have to babysit the food cooking process as much since these appliances do all the hard work.
Ensure that you use, clean and store these appliances properly so that they will last you for many years.
13. Avoid Ready and Precut Food Items
Over 20 years ago the world was a different place where people would buy carrots and other vegetables then go home and cut them up.
Today you can get almost anything already cut, sliced, diced and precooked. However, those conveniences do come at an added cost.
It is a lot cheaper to avoid ready meals and precut food items and your bank account will thank you for it.
In the example below, sliced and peeled carrots costs 126% more than if you purchased and cut them yourself.
14. Shop at Ethnic Supermarkets
I am always surprised at the price that regular supermarkets charge for ethnic food items.
Whenever I need to buy peas, beans, curry powder and stir fry sauces I prefer to go to the Asian supermarket.
The truth is that their prices tend to be cheaper and the ingredients more authentic and better quality.
15. Bring Your Own Bags
A number of years ago the government introduced a charge for shopping bags as if they don't tax residents enough already (haha!).
Anyhoo! It is a good idea to be kind to the environment by using recyclable and reusable bags.
Shopping bags can set you back between 0.39 cent to $1.50 per bag so it makes more sense to bring your own bags.
16. Ask for a Doggy Bag
If ever you decide to eat out, don't be ashamed to ask for a doggy bag to carry home the leftovers.
After all, you are paying for the entire meal and the leftovers also cost money.
Unless it was a dodgy or horrible meal then feel free to carry the rest home and use it the next day.
17. Buy Frozen Fruit and Vegetables
In my experience, I have seen instances where it is cheaper to buy frozen fruit and/or vegetables.
Depending on what you are making like stews or curries the vegetables may not necessarily need to be fresh.
A good example could be for smoothies where you get the same amount of nutrients from both fresh and frozen fruit/vegetables.
Here is a great example of the humble spinach leaves. The fresh leaves are great for salads but do you see the price per kilogram!!
So, which one will you buy in the future? The reason why the one at the far left is more expensive even though it is on offer is that brand name is popular.
18. Meatless Mondays
Take advantage of Meatless Mondays 2-3 times a week and reduce the amount of meat in your meals.
The easiest replacement would be peas and beans which can be made in bulk on a Sunday in advance.
Also, explore the vegetarian or vegan items in the fridge or freezer section that you can stock up in advance when they are on special offer.
Here are three examples of Meatless Monday vegan and vegetarian options. Always check the price per gram or kilogram after discount.
Remember to check prices at similar supermarkets to ensure you get the best value for your hard-earned money.
19. Reduce Processed Sweet Treats
Cakes, biscuits, chocolates and other sweet treats can cost you a lot in the long run. Yes, like you I have a sweet tooth but I also want to be healthy.
I have replaced all of those sugary foods with dried apricots, dates, prunes and sultanas for the last 6 months.
The surprising thing is that I lost weight and I don't have the craving for them as much anymore.
Here is a side by side comparison looking at the amount of saturates and sugars across similar treats.
As you can see I am able to make smart shopping choices from the comfort of my home to reduce the temptation to go over budget.
I get to remain healthy as well (haha!).
20. Supermarket Layout
I was reading an article that highlighted the fact that every supermarket is laid out in such a way as to get you to make unplanned purchases.
At first, I thought that it could not be correct but then I remembered a project I worked on a number of years ago that revealed this fact.
Here is a diagram of the layout of the standard supermarket. Thanks to Lovin Dublin.
If you notice all the perishables are at the extreme left and back. However, other items that can be bought in bulk are in the aisles.
In other words, you need to go through these aisles to get to the cash register which means you may buy something you don't need.
You already bought paper goods and cleaning supplies in bulk so there's no need to go through those aisles anyway.
21. Do Seriously Fun Meal Planning
Finally, it is important to plan every single meal down to the salt needed for each dish (I'm only kidding about the salt).🤣
There is no point buying all that food and not making a plan about when and how you are going to eat it.
Make meal planning a fun activity and get the kids involved as well so that they will eat what has been cooked.
Being a mother of older kids I can tell you that one of the secrets of getting your children to eat food (I had fussy eaters too) is to get them on board.
My children would literally write up a menu of what to make based on what's in the cupboard and fridge.
It's hilarious looking back but my daughter would sit at the table and order what she wanted from the menu.
You must try it sometime.😉
Because that list was so long I think it would make sense for me to summarise everything for you.
Here are those 21 ways to save money on food in a nutshell.
- Make a list
- Freeze sliced bread
- Less is more
- Ditch the juice
- Buy food in bulk
- Check the unit price
- Use the supermarket app
- Eat before shopping
- Save or freeze leftovers
- Understand Use by vs Best before
- Cook in bulk
- Invest in appliances
- Avoid ready meals
- Shop in ethnic supermarkets
- Bring your own bag
- Ask for a doggy bag
- Buy frozen fruit and vegetables
- Meatless on many days.
- Reduce sweet treats
- Supermarket layout
- Serious fun meal planning
As you can see it does not require a PhD to win at saving money on your monthly food bill.
However, you will need to be super intentional about your approach to spending since you will need to eat 2-4 times a day.
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