The average American family of 4 spends around $7,729 a year on food. That’s $644 a month. Some of us are spending more, and some of us are spending less. Regardless though, there are several ways you can lower the cost of food for your household each month. Where you shop, how you shop, and what you buy all factor into the cost of your food. If you’re trying to figure out how to cut your grocery bill in half, consider trying some (or all) of the tips blow.
This is a staff writer post, written by Lindsey Smith.
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Create a Meal Plan
Do you ever…
- Put off doing a weekly grocery shop, scramble to figure out what you’re having for dinner, and end up going to the store every night to grab ingredients you need?
- Does it blow through your food budget by Wednesday?
- Sometimes, do you just give up and grab takeout?
Planning out your weekly meals and shopping once a week is a great way to start lowering what you spend on food. You won’t be making a run to the store everyday where you’ll inevitably buy what you want for dinner at the moment, plus whatever else you happen to stroll by. Having a meal plan gives you what you need for the week and nothing more, wasting less money and less food.
Planning your meals has the added benefit of skipping the what-are-we-having-for-dinner lament every single night. That in itself is priceless.
To use this method to save even more money, try making a meal plan based on what is on sale for the week.
Use the sale flyer to put together meals using ingredients listed on sale. Doing this every week cuts your grocery bill and forces you to eat a variety of different foods. Win win.
Plan your meals, stick to your list, and come out with a cart that is full of 100% useful, (and affordable!).
Serious about cutting your grocery bill in half? Eating fruits and vegetables that are in season for where you live will always save you money. Not only that, but they taste so much better too.
When you live in a colder climate, this can become a little trickier in the cooler months, but with plenty of potatoes, squash, apples, clementines and pomegranates, you can still shop for a wide variety of delicious produce.
You’ll also want to eat them in order, starting first with the items that will spoil the quickest.
Eat the berries, greens, and avocados first, and leave oranges, potatoes and carrots for the end of the week.
Another way to use timing to cut your grocery bill is to stock up on items during the season they’re typically on sale.
- During the warmer months, barbecue supplies are always going on sale, so it’s a great time to buy non-perishables like condiments, and chips, that you can store for later.
- At Thanksgiving, you can get sale items like cranberry sauce, boxed stuffing, and pumpkin pie filling.
- Think about what you use throughout the year, and consider buying up a bunch of it during its sale season.
Store Your Food Properly
It’s not always about how you spend your money on food. It’s also about how you don’t spend it!
Nothing wastes more money than food going bad while it’s waiting to be eaten. Proper food storage helps you maximize your food budget by keeping everything you spent money on fresh and ready to eat.
Eating in the order of what spoils first to last will help, but so will washing and drying all your greens, and storing them in an airtight container in the fridge. Keeping avocados in the fridge will also slow down their well known spoilage rate.
Try not to set your refrigerator to a very low temperature, to avoid tender vegetables and fruits accidentally freezing inside the fridge.
Make sure that you wait until leftovers have completely cooled to room temperature before storing them in the fridge, to avoid food poisoning. Leftovers are a great way to stretch your food budget and keep your grocery bill low, but not at the expense of your health.
What Are You Eating?
One of the easiest ways to immediately lower your grocery bill by a significant amount is to eat less meat. Before you completely write this off, I am not suggesting everyone has to cut it out completely, but try making simple swaps.
- Spaghetti and lasagna, for example, taste the same without adding meat.
- Spaghetti with lentils in place of ground beef is hearty, and still gives plenty of protein.
- You can make beans-only chilli,
- Or an American favorite: soup and grilled cheese.
There are many meals you’re probably already eating in which you could omit the meat, or replace it with an alternative like beans, tofu, tempeh, chickpeas, and lentils.
If you truly want to cut your grocery bill in half, it’s worth considering!
Bean burgers are delicious, healthy, filling, and cheap! Beef burger patties cost around $2/patty, and bean burgers cost less than $0.25/patty. Plant-based proteins are much cheaper, and can make your dollars stretch much farther than meat.
You can actually eat quite well on a super low budget, as long as you’re willing to try.
Think about what you could eat with the following healthy, but affordable foods:
- Brown rice
- Canned chickpeas
- Canned salmon
- Canned soup
- Canned tuna
- Frozen vegetables
Challenge yourself to see how many meal ideas you can come up with. Try google if you’re coming up short, but a really simple idea using this list is lentil soup. Cook lentils in some vegetable broth, add frozen veggies, maybe some chickpeas or beans, and stir in some spinach at the end, and you have a delicious, filling lentil soup.
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This is a big one.
Avoiding prepared foods is going to save you a ton of money. Sure, microwave meals are easy, quick, and convenient. But you’re paying for that convenience. If you need meals in a hurry, consider batching some foods on the weekend, so you have quick meals at home throughout the week.
Buying your food as close to the original source as possible is the healthiest for your body and your wallet. This includes pre-cut fruits and vegetables, another convenience you can do yourself and save dollars on.
Purchasing frozen produce will also save you money over fresh, both when buying off-season produce and avoiding spoilage. Frozen fruits and veggies are flash frozen, so they retain the nutrients they had when they were picked fresh. This is a great way to buy off-season produce and have the convenience of already prepared produce.
Check the Price Per Unit
Shopping at discount, bulk, or value stores is great for cutting your grocery bill, but always make sure to check the price per unit. This is how you’ll know it’s a good deal.
Toilet paper, for example, loves you give you hypothetical roll sizes to compare. If toilet paper A is the equivalent of three rolls of toilet paper B, then you’ll want to compare the price of toilet paper B to a third of toilet paper A.
This is especially true at bulk stores like Costco. In order to make sure you’re getting a deal, you want to check the price per unit, and make sure it’s not more expensive than you would pay at your regular grocery store.
Bottom line: A deal isn’t always a deal, and it’s up to you to make the best of your dollars. Make sure you have your calculator, because sometimes this can make your palms sweat like fourth grade math class all over again.
Love Your Leftovers
Making one meal stretch into two is the very definition of cutting your grocery bill in half. Anytime you throw away the leftover food after a meal, you’re throwing away money you’ve spent.
Even when there aren’t enough leftovers for a full meal, you can turn them into a meal with a little creativity.
- Meat can go into a soup or pasta dish the next day
- Mashed potatoes can become potato pancakes
- Tacos can be spread into a wrap for lunch the next day.
There’s so much you can do with the rest of your meals.
It’s also time saving. Cook once, eat twice. It’s the ultimate convenience food.
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We all know there are grocery stores that carry higher end produce and packaged food, and cost an arm and a leg. There are also stores that offer bargain pricing, but may not have the best quality.
If you truly want to spend the least amount possible on groceries, you know where you need to shop.
Of course, many people are happy just using the other methods listed to reduce their food costs and want to keep shopping at expensive stores, some will shop at stores that are moderately priced, and others will fully embrace the frugal life and shop at discount stores (Derek’s note: Aldi is still by far my favorite discount grocery store!!).
Still want to cut your grocery bill in half? Then you simply have to shop in the right places!
Once inside, there are several ways to save money
The biggest is buying generic brands.
These can be hit or miss, so you’ll need trial and error to find what is worth buying generic, and what is not. There are some foods where the generic brand, and the brand-name product are made in the same place. Those are worth buying generic.
The way the stores layout their food also tries to entice you into buying the brand-name products. Generic brands are typically found on the top or bottom shelves, with brand-name items in the middle. Always look around to see if there’s a generic version of what you’re buying, and give it a try.
Do you shop in the bulk section?
Not only is it more environmentally friendly, it saves you money. Usually, the per unit price is cheaper, and you only buy what you need. Rather than buying a whole package of something that might go bad, you can just grab what the recipe calls for.
Most grocery stores also have a cart with produce that is getting too old to sell.
If you’re planning to use it right away, or freeze it, this can be a great option for saving money. We love to buy bananas that are too spotty to sell at full price, freeze them, and make banana ice cream.
Along with produce, meat and bread are also marked down later in the day. So are dairy, and other perishable foods. They are put on quick sale so the grocery store can sell them rather than throw them away. Grab these deals to save money and help reduce food waste.
You don’t have to be a crazy couponer, but taking the time to clip coupons and even planning meals around them can really help cut your grocery budget. Whether you find them in the mail, download and print them, or have an app, you’ll find plenty of things you can use to lower your grocery bill.
Try and find a store (and there are many!) that double coupons.
There are some stores that do this daily, and others that list “coupon days” in their weekly ads. If you shop on these days, they’ll usually double or even triple your coupons. If you have a coupon to save $0.50, it’s now $1 or even $1.50. If you’re going to coupon, these are the days to do it.
Shop at stores that allow you to stack coupons.
Let’s say you buy shampoo at Walgreens, and you have a $1 off coupon. Walgreens also has a $1 off coupon for that same brand and size bottle of shampoo. They’ll let you “stack” those coupons, giving you $2 off the bottle of shampoo.
Find a good loyalty or rewards card to collect points or money towards your groceries.
The points you get just for shopping always add up, and many times can net you a free grocery haul once per year. Most grocery reward card holders get custom coupons sent to them a few times a year, increasing the amount you save.
Are You Ready to Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half?
In order to cut your grocery bill in half, you’ll need to make some changes. They might be food swaps, store swaps, or learning new cooking habits. Or, you can use all of the above ideas! Combine them all and you’re sure to cut your grocery bill in half!
What’s your favorite way to save money on your food budget?
My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.