It’s not just takeaway meals and eating out that causes us to overspend on food. Many of us also overspend on groceries. In fact, many of us could easily halve the amount we spend on food shopping bills each month by making a few simple changes.
It’s partly down to what we buy and partly down to how much of this food then goes to waste. On average, each home throws away 30% of the food it prepares. This doesn’t account for the rest of the food that sits gathering dust in our cupboards, only to be thrown away because it’s gone past its expiry date. Meanwhile, a lot of the food that we do consume could be sourced elsewhere cheaply or substituted for less expensive types of food.
Many households spend over $7000 per year on food. To help you lower your grocery bills and save you money, here are just a few measures that you can take.
Create a shopping list
Creating a shopping list doesn’t just prevent you forgetting important items – it can also stop you from buying things you don’t need. Those of us that go shopping without lists are more prone to impulse purchases. Some of us may also stock up on foods that we already have, which can lead to these foods being stored past their expiry date and never eaten.
Before going out shopping check your kitchen cupboards and refrigerator and create a list. Make it your mission to stick to this list and not buy any extras. Don’t fall victim to deals on items you don’t need – even if these items are heavily discounted, you’re still spending extra money.
Shop on a full stomach
Shopping after having eaten can further reduce the need to make impulse purchases. When you shop whilst hungry, you’re more tempted to buy lots of food – you may find yourself buying more snacks and richer foods. By shopping on a full stomach, all this unnecessary stuff will seem less appealing.
Try meal prepping
Meal prepping involves planning and preparing meals several days ahead. This can help to reduce wastage by ensuring that foods are eaten before they expire, plus it can stop you making spontaneous decisions to eat out or get takeout. Not only that, but it can save you time spent cooking – by preparing foods several days ahead and storing them in the fridge, you only then have to heat them up and dinner is served.
Many people choose Sunday as meal prepping day. You may be able to cook all your food for most of the week on this one day. Be wary that certain foods like meat and pasta shouldn’t be stored in the fridge for more than a few days.
Use your leftovers
The key to meal prepping – and reducing food waste in general – is to reuse your leftovers. Foods left over from last night’s dinner may be able to be eaten for tomorrow’s lunch. This saves you buying foods for lunch.
There are many sites online dedicated to recipes using leftovers so that you may be able to make new meals out of leftovers. A lot of leftover vegetables and meats can be reused in stews, pasta bakes, curries, soups and casseroles – or simply used as sandwich fillings.
Eat less meat
Meat is one of the most expensive ingredients that many of us use in cooking. By buying less meat, you’ll save a lot of money on your groceries.
One way to reduce your meat is to use smaller portions of it per meal. If you’re making a pasta dish with diced chicken in it, don’t use the whole packet of diced chicken – save some it for another meal. There may be cheaper ingredients that you can bulk up food with such as vegetables or more pasta.
Going vegetarian a couple days a week could almost make a big impact. You can find plenty of wholesome vegetarian meal recipes online.
Eat less processed foods
Processed foods can also be more expensive than relying on raw ingredients. Whilst many processed foods such as ready meals make preparation easier, you’ll save money by learning to cook from scratch (plus it will be healthier).
Not all home-cooked meals are difficult to prepare. There are lots of easy meals using fresh ingredients that you can try.
Reduce your portions
You can also save money on groceries simply by eating less. This may not be recommended if you already eat small portions, but if you often pile up your plate and can’t finish your food, opting for smaller portions could help to stretch out ingredients.
You may be able to still prepare large batches of food that can then last multiple meals, or you could aim to use less ingredients as you cook. Find the strategy that is best for you.
Buy fresh ingredients in season
Certain types of fresh food will cost you less to buy at certain times of the year. When foods are in season locally, they do not need to be imported and tend to cost less. Strawberries for example tend to cost less in summer.
If you’re not sure as to when certain foods are seasonal, you can look this up online. Seasonal foods may vary depending on where you live.
Try own brand products
Generic brand foods get a bad rep as being the bland option, but many can be equally as tasty as other branded foods.You’re certainly not going to notice a big difference when it comes to basic ingredients like milk, rice and pasta. Don’t be afraid to also try other foods like cooking sauces, cereals and soft drinks where you could make big savings.
Buy in bulk
Buying foods in bulk often results in bulk discounts. A giant bag of pasta may contain five times the amount as a small bag but only cost three times more. This allows to get more meals for less.
You should be wary of buying foods in bulk with short expiry dates. For instance, there’s no point buying a large pack of onions if you’re not going to get through half of them before the expiry date.
Take advantage of loyalty points
A lot of grocery store chains have loyalty schemes that allow you to collect points. These points can then allow you discounts on future shops. Some stores only give you points for spending over a certain amount – this could be worthwhile if you’re doing your weekly shop for a large family, but may not be worthwhile if you’re shopping just for yourself.
Make use of personal finance apps
Personal finance apps could help you to save money on groceries. Some are able to help you budget whilst others can even help you to find discounts. Some even encourage you to save up money by rounding up purchases to the nearest dollar and putting the spare change into a high interest savings account. There are guides online that can help you find the best personal finance apps. Many of these apps are free to use.
Hunt for coupons
Coupons can give you access to discounts at various grocery stores. You can hunt for coupons online at specialist coupon sharing sites. You may also be able to find them in magazines, by signing up to mailing lists or by taking out certain subscriptions.
Try local farmer’s markets
By shopping at local farmer’s markets, you can buy fresh local ingredients directly from farmers themselves. This can often be cheaper than buying from stores in which these foods are priced higher to cover store running costs. For the best deals, try shopping at a farmer’s market just before it’s due to close – many of the stalls will offer massive discounts in order to make some last minute sales.
Grow your own food
If you have the time and patience, you may also be able to save some money by growing your own foods in your backyard. By starting a vegetable patch, you can enjoy your own free vegetable produce – you’ll only have to pay for the seeds. Some people even go as far as to own chickens so that they can have their own fresh eggs.