In the past, each month I would check my monthly spending and realize I’d spent a lot of money on food. A lot. Way too much. Between groceries and eating out I overspent my food budget every month.
It was something that continually frustrated me because I overspent on food constantly. It wasn’t until I was forced to cut back that I finally took control of the situation and stopped spending a ridiculous amount of my income on food.
Eating on the cheap is totally possible but it does take some effort, just like eating healthy does. I was spending so much money on food each month because I wasn’t thinking about it. I was making healthy choices for food but I wasn’t making great financial choices. I spent a lot of extra money on convenience foods that were healthier but more expensive. Spending money on convenient foods and eating out really does add up quickly. It might not seem like much when you are spending a few dollars at a time but it’s something that snowballs quickly.
Now my budget is about half of what it used to be for food and I actually stick to it! It’s pretty amazing that I once spent so much on food when it was entirely unnecessary.
Below I’ve collected some of my personal favorite ways to save money on food. Hopefully they can help you reduce your food budget too!
Tips to Save Money On Grocery Food
- Commit to cooking more. Learning how to cook and preparing food at home is a great way to save money on food. If you know how to cook and do it often the savings will add up. Choosing to cook at home rather than get a meal at a restaurant saves me $5 – 15 dollars per meal in most cases.
- Check out what you have in your pantry. Using what you have already will keep your grocery shopping list smaller. It’s also fun to create meals from scratch using what is available. I like to have “Chopped” nights where we pick pantry ingredients and make something using them. It’s not as weird as the show and usually turns out well!
- Plan your meals around your cheap staples. Planning your meals helps you keep food costs down. Planning around cheap staples that you can buy in bulk like rice or pasta will make your costs substantially lower. There are many ways to prepare these staples so it’s not something you will get bored of eating.
- Go grocery shopping once a week or less. The more you pop in the more you will buy the little add on items that add up. Every time you step foot in a grocery store you will have more opportunities to overspend. Stop that from happening by buying everything you need in one trip and sticking with what you bought. You can still have veggies and fruit that is good for your last day with proper meal planning.
- Make a grocery shopping list. Stick to what you planned to buy and don’t deviate. Impulse buys at the grocery store used to cost me a ton of money every month. By making a list and forcing myself to stick to it I save $10-$25 per grocery store trip since I’m not grabbing whatever looks good. Having a plan and a list also means nothing goes to waste which will save you money and frustration!
- Clip coupons and shop the sales. This isn’t as hard as it sounds and once you’ve done it a few times it gets even easier. When you meal plan and know what something regularly costs you will be able to take advantage of the sales and save money by buying items at their lowest price. Using coupons as well will just add to your savings.
- Adjust how you think about food. For some people food is the ultimate pleasure and they live to eat. This can be an expensive way to live since you will spend more on food that you enjoy. Adjusting how you think about food and recognizing it as just fuel for most of your meals will help you spend less overall. You can still cook or go out for decadent meals but they should be an occasional occurrence instead of every meal.
- Take advantage of free food. While I don’t do this in the extreme, I definitely take advantage of free food where I can. I attend several networking events and meetups that are sponsored in the form of free food. Several days a month I get a free meal by attending these events. Chances are there are some days where you can attend an event or get a meal at work for free. If you have the opportunity, take it!
- Eat with others at home. Host and attend potlucks and dinners at friend’s houses. Spreading the cost and time of cooking between multiple people helps save money. Just remember that you don’t have to serve the best food ever – spaghetti or hamburgers works just fine when you are spending time with people you love!
Those are just a few of the the ways I now save money on food and keep my budget under control.
It’s great to spend less money on food because it gives you more money to work with in other areas of your life. I’d much rather feel secure in paying my bills and having extra money to save than eating my way through my paycheck!
Mary is the founder of Pennies Not Perfection where she shares her journey to build wealth through online income. She quit her day job in 2021 after she paid off her debt and doubled her 9-5 salary.
Mary's favorite free financial tool is Personal Capital. She uses their free tools to track net worth and work toward to financial freedom.