One of my goals for the year that I hadn’t shared on the blog was to try and save money by living a more natural lifestyle. And for me that means cutting out all fast food. (Now don’t get me wrong – it’s very likely that you’ll catch me in a Long Horn or Red Lobster at least a few times this year but drive thrus? I’m swearing you off.)
A big part of my living more natural to save money has to do with food and household items. As you know, food can easily become a huge budget buster if you let it. At the end of a busy day it’s so easy to go through McDonalds rather than cooking yourself. I’ve been there.
If you want to get serious about saving on food you have to create your own convenience. (Which you can do!)
Here are 4 ways to save money on food.
Set an Eating Out Budget
I’m dead serious when I say I’m swearing off fast food. My goal is to have a meal on the table each and every night and to stay away from fast food all year long.
Jamie and I do go to Long Horn or Red Lobster when the girls are at their Dads about once a month. That will stay in my food budget. (Okay, let’s be real – that’ll stay in his food budget. 😉 ) All other non-home cooked meals gotta go.
Decide how much you want to budget for eating out and stick to it. I know I normally say you’ve got to start small with budget cuts but when it comes to eating out I do believe you can go cold turkey.
(I did last year and it was surprisingly easy. I went from going through a drive thru four times a week to not eating any fast food for a month. It felt so good.)
If you don’t want to nix all fast food then don’t. Just set a budget and stick to it.
Don’t Buy Perishable Items in Bulk
Its common advice to buy your food in bulk but this should ONLY be done for staples. (I.E. the food that goes super-fast in your house or that doesn’t go bad.)
Last year when I started shopping at a warehouse I began buying all kinds of food in bulk. A month later that food would sit in my cabinet untouched and start to go bad. I have since learned that there are only a few things that make sense for me to buy in bulk.
These things include:
- Drinks (Powerade)
- Juice Boxes
- Fruit Snacks
Almost everything else goes bad before we use it all, making buying in bulk a losing proposition. I’ve lost money by buying cereal, lunch meat, oranges, chips, salad, and bread in bulk.
Don’t fall for the trick. If it’s not something you regularly use its much better to buy smaller packages, even if it costs a little more per unit. If you buy food in bulk that you don’t use you’re wasting money not saving it!
Keep Your Meals Simple
Having a home cooked meal on the table every night does NOT mean you have to make everything from scratch or whip up a four course meal. Keep your meals simple. Have a list of easy recipes that your family loves that you can always resort to.
If you’re working with a really tight food budget estimate the cost of each meal and write it on your meal list. Then when you’re shopping you know what to buy.
I’m pretty repetitive with my meals. You can count on the fact that at least once a week there will be roast, potatoes, and carrots in the crockpot. (And that’s because I got a ton of beef for free.)
I also make a batch of homemade deer jerky about once a week. It’s the only way I like deer and I need to use up all the meat we have on hand. (All the men in my life are hunters. Some of the women, too.)
Make a Menu Plan
I’ve said before, my menu plans are ridiculously easy. I just write down seven dinner ideas and then when it comes time to make dinner I look at my list and cook up whatever everyone is in the mood for.
Menu planning should be easy! If you’ve made a list of meals your family enjoys then all you have to do is pick seven of those meals and give each meal a day. Now you’ve taken the mystery out of dinner time!
You don’t have to worry about what you’ll be having for dinner at the end of the day, you already know. You’ve eliminated the need to order pizza or run through McDonalds.
Free Menu Plan Printable
Here’s a menu plan printable if you want something to record your menu on each week. You can also just pull out a sheet of notebook paper, write everything down, and stick it to your fridge. Do whatever works for you!
What’s you biggest tip for saving money on food? What’s your biggest struggle?
Linked Up to Thrifty Thursday
I love some deer meat NOM NOM!! I very rarely get to eat though 🙁 Food is a huge pain the butt because you have to eat. And everything is so freaking good. I am super focused on using what I have and not going to the grocery store more than once a week. I just get sucked in and want to buy everything.
Taylor Lee says
My tip is when you make that meal plan, to center it around a theme or to make sure to some degree there is ingredient overlap. This will help you buy in larger sizes (usually cheaper) of the same ingredient or help you use up ingredient leftovers that you’d otherwise have to waste.
Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom says
We’ve given up eating out during January for a few years now, so great for rebooting our eating habits!
Great ideas! I really like what you said about buying in bulk. I’ve let far too much food go to waste because I simply had too much of it and couldn’t use it up in time.
Also, the simple meals are a must for people like me who don’t enjoy cooking very much. If I keep staples on hand for several meals that whip up quickly, I’m much more likely to cook than to succumb to ordering out at the end of a long, tired day.
I tried something new over the last couple of weeks. I’d seen so many bloggers post about doing a month where they didn’t spend money and didn’t buy any food, but used what they had. I did a modifited version of that plan for the last few weeks. I determined to only buy what was absolutely essential and to get really creative in using up food I’ve had sitting in my pantry and refrigerator rather than letting it go to waste or just sit there forever. I was amazed at how creative I really can be with cooking and everything I made was really good and mostly healthy. Plus, I ate more healthy for the sheer fact that I didn’t buy any snacks that I could easily reach for when I was hungry.
I actually saved in cash 40% of what I’d normally spend on groceries in a two week span! Plus, I saved a bunch of money in our checking account because I didn’t buy on impulse or just because I thought we needed something. I’m pumped!
Another problem with Warehouse size products ? They are heavy! And, have you ever spilled one ? Aye !
Hustle + Save says
Meal planning is such a budget saver! #1 you know exactly what you need to buy and don’t stray from that and #2 you know what you’re having each night so it’s not as tempting to go out. I love going out, but honestly, if we could stop going out 100% I would be so happy with the savings. Right now, though, I’m pregnant and picky so our food budget needs to be bumped up for a few months 😉