Monday, January 9, 2023

50 Money-Saving Food Tips

If you've been to the grocery store lately, you know that "inflation" as the government calls it is not 8% but closer to 300% based on price increases in many food categories.  If you need to stretch your food budget to meet ever increasing food costs, consider these ideas:

  1. Garden and grow your own food if you can (it's harder than it sounds).
  2. Hunt, fish, and forage for wild food that is available in your area.
  3. Sign up for SNAP, WIC, free school meals, and other government food programs if you qualify.
  4. Hit up local food banks, food pantries, and meal programs if you are in need of food.
  5. Shop grocery store sales, app specials, and loss leaders to add to your food stockpile.
  6. Skip restaurants, fast food places, Uber Eats, and your morning coffee at the drive-thru and make your own food and drinks at home.
  7. Learn how to cook and bake at home; there are infinite resources for this online.
  8. Switch out meat and dairy for beans, legumes, and vegetables in your cooking--it's both healthier and cheaper.
  9. Buy in bulk--50 pounds of rice, giant boxes of oatmeal, 25 pound of beans, etc. are often cheaper than buying smaller containers of these items (be sure to store them properly).
  10. Learn how to can, dry, freeze, pickle and otherwise preserve food as it comes on sale.
  11. Shop a variety of stores to get the best prices (ie: buy loss leaders at several stores, buy items at membership stores if it is cheaper than at the local grocery stores, shop Dollar Tree if the price is cheaper, etc).
  12. Check out ethnic grocery stores; many of these places have cheaper prices on meat/grains/produce than regular grocery stores.
  13. If you do eat out, try ethnic restaurants, find things you like, then try cooking these items at home (food from poorer countries is often tasty, healthier, and cheaper to make than standard American meals).
  14. Eat less.  Adults need about 2000-2500 calories per day yet many adults easily consume 3000+ calories per day when you add up the food and fancy beverages they ingest each day (thus the skyrocketing obesity rate in America).
  15. Experiment with making your favorite restaurant/coffee shop meals and drinks at home.  There are literally recipes for everything you can think of online, examples here and here.
  16. Get fresh produce from local u-pick farms, farmer's markets, and CSA programs.
  17. If you want to host a get-together with friends, consider making it a potluck or progressive meal so the full cost of entertaining isn't all on you.
  18. If you must eat out, consider eating lunch out instead of dinner (it's cheaper), use coupons, and decide whether a buffet would be more cost-effective than a sit-down restaurant.
  19. Be sure to keep your fridge, freezer, and pantry organized and rotate food into these places so nothing gets left in the back and ends up getting thrown out because it is old and/or rotten.
  20. Drink water.  It's much cheaper and much healthier than drinking milk/juice/soda/etc all day.
  21. Eat leftovers.  If you don't like leftovers, freeze leftovers and have them at a later date so it will be "newish" food.
  22. Cook in bulk and freeze the results for future meals.  This is a great way to pull out a meal at the last minute instead of ordering takeout.
  23. Make friends with local farmers and ranchers.  This gives you an inside track to maybe buying a half cow for the freezer or trading things/skills you have for the food they produce.
  24. When cooking, save scraps.  You can regrow these, use them for animal food, and/or make soup with them.
  25. Buy a $5 roasted chicken from Costco or Sam's Club and use it to make several meals--chicken pot pie, chicken tacos, chicken salad sandwich, chicken fried rice, chicken soup, chicken Caesar salad, etc.
  26. Share food as well as membership club cards.  If you can't eat 50 pounds of rice in a timely fashion but still want the bulk price, offer to split the cost, and the bag of rice, with a friend.  If you can't justify the cost of a Costco membership, see if a friend will take you with them when they make a Costco run so you can shop there using their membership.
  27. Always have (homemade) snacks and drinks with you when you leave the house, this way if you get hungry or thirsty you won't be tempted to stop by a fast food place or the vending machines at work.
  28. Unless you have an expense account, bring all of your work/school meals from home.  Again, this saves money and is healthier than cafeteria/restaurant meals.
  29. When grocery shopping, keep track of the price of each item you add to your basket on your phone's calculator.  Often times, sale and discount prices don't ring up correctly at the register and you end up paying more than you should.
  30. Try dumpster diving for food.  Many people are immediately repelled by the "ick" factor of doing this but others have turned it into an art form
  31. You can pick up a bit of free food at grocery stores (Costco always has food samples), some community meetings offer snacks as well as open houses, weddings, etc.
  32. Use apps that pay you back with credits that can be used for food items like Ibotta and Fetch.
  33. Swing by mom's, dad's your grandparent's or auntie's homes around meal time and you will more than likely end up with a free meal as well as food to take home.
  34. Google $1 a day eating challenge and low cost meal challenge for ideas on ways to eat well on the cheap.
  35. Check your credit cards and see which ones give you cash back or bonuses for using them at grocery stores and use these to purchase your food (be sure to pay the card off each month!).
  36. Make your own beverages--from beer to wine to soda to teas to juices--these are often cheaper (and more fun) to make at home.
  37. Pay attention to unit pricing when shopping for grocery items (sometimes the bulk size can be more expensive than the smaller size on an ounce-by-ounce basis).
  38. Buy useful food prep items at the thrift store--bread machines, blenders, cast iron pans, popcorn makers...these and many other items you use to cook with cost pennies on the dollar at a thrift store compared to buying them at a big box store.
  39. If you must have coffee--and many people MUST have coffee--make your own, as cheaply as possible, at home.  Consider a drip coffee maker or French press instead of using a Keurig or expensive espresso maker.
  40. Check the discount sections at the grocery store first.  Buying discounted meat, produce, and bakery items can be much cheaper than buying these items at full price.
  41. Raise your own food like chickens, ducks, goats, pigs, or even cows.  Obviously you will need a good bit of knowledge and real estate to raise a cow but there are myriad videos on YouTube about raising backyard chickens even in the city.
  42. Learn how to use spices.  Spices can make a blah meal great and are a cheap way to take your cooking to the next level for not a lot of money (note that ethnic stores often sell spices for a fraction of the cost of spices at the regular grocery store).
  43. If you are trying to both pay down debt and save money on food, consider getting a second job at a restaurant or other business that provides free meals to employees (I know a few people who work in casinos who eat ALL of their meals for free in the employee dining room where they work).
  44. If you are missing ingredients for the recipe you are making, consider substitutions instead of running out to the grocery store.
  45. Try shopping at co-ops and other discount stores like WinCo (cash only), Aldi's, and Trader Joes; these places are famous for being cheaper than regular grocery stores.
  46. If the stores you shop at have bulk bins, see if the bulk bin prices are cheaper than buying items off the shelf.  Rice, oats, spices, beans, etc are often cheaper in the bulk bins than in the pre-packaged section.
  47. Buy dried beans and cook them instead of canned beans, it's much cheaper this way.  Note that cooking beans, meats, and grains in an Insta Pot is a very fast and fuel-saving way to cook them.
  48. Try to only shop once a week and do so defensively.  Grocery stores are designed to separate you from your money so get in and get out as quickly and inexpensively as possible.
  49. Pick hobbies that get you food--mushroom hunting, fishing, wine making, truffle hunting, etc.  There are dozens of hobbies where the end result is food so this is a great way to have fun and increase your food stockpile.
  50. Eat down your food stores occasionally.  This is a good way to save money (like when someone is laid off and can't afford food) and use up old food (like cooking for a large event when you need to feed a lot of people).

1 comment:

  1. Excellent tips. I particularly love the food challenges.