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Unless you are Ghandi, planning a food strike for protest, food is not a line item you can eliminate from your budget to save.
It is a necessity but one that can quickly bulk up your budget and stretch your wallet more than you want.
When it comes to grocery shopping or eating out, it’s important to follow a few guidelines so your food spend doesn’t get out of control.
Eat healthy and eat well, but don’t let food add unnecessary weight to your budget.
Here are five ways to spend less on food and eat more economically so you can save more money.
1. Set a Budget
Maybe, the hardest part.
Setting a budget for food alone is usually a process of trial and error.
Start by looking at your overall monthly income. Subtract out all your standard items like rent, utilities, your car payments, etc.
Then, take a look at what is left over. Your food budget could be as small as $50 a week or as large as $200 a week. Obviously if your income is higher then your food budget can be as well.
It really will vary, but come up with a price that works for you and your eating habits. Test it out for a month.
After a month or two, you’ll be able to come up with a more realistic number that lets you plan ahead for the future months and even find more ways to spend less on food.
One way to make your budget go further is to use a cash-back and couponing app like ibotta.
Have trouble with overspending your budget once you have one? Learn how to prevent yourself from overspending your budget in this post.
2. Plan Ahead
This might sound too “big picture,” but planning ahead can save you both money and time.
Keep an ongoing notepad on your phone, computer, or desk and every time you think of an item you need, add it to your list.
Try to pick one day or night a week that you’re going to get the planning and shopping done. On that day, look at your list. Plan out your meals in detail (including all ingredients needed) and add them to your list.
Then, go through your pantry and fridge and make sure you don’t already have some of the ingredients.
Planning your meals for each day will prevent you from that quick run out for pizza, and spending an unnecessary extra $25, when you realize you don’t have the ingredients on hand or you’re feeling uninspired.
And if you do take that splurge to eat out, try these tips to save at restaurants so you don’t blow your food budget in one night!
3. Only Buy What you Need
Here’s where that list comes back into play. That list was made with items for your meal plans or things you needed around the house. It doesn’t include that candy bar by the front of the cashier, as tempting as it looks!
Stick to the list which will help you to stick to your budget!
This isn’t to say that you can’t spoil yourself every once in a while, but when you have a list it will help you stay on track. And keep you from wandering the aisles adding items to your buggy that you don’t need.
This is also a great way to eliminate food waste that happens when you buy more than you need and it goes bad.
*Bonus tip: DO NOT SHOP WHEN HUNGRY! Your stomach will take over and you will definitely buy unnecessary items.
4. Limit Eating Out
Once you’ve spent any amount of time waiting tables for income as I have, you become an automatic foodie. There is nothing I love more than to go out to eat. And when you are busy, it is much easier to go out than to cook at home.
But it is very expensive, and will basically blow your budget.
One of the best ways to spend less on food is to limit the number of times you’re eating out. Save it for special occasions.
If eating out is a social affair for you, invite all your friends over for a potluck instead.
If your go-to date is heading to your favorite restaurant, cook a meal at home together instead. Check out this list of the Top 13 Romantic Food Scenes in Movies!
If going out to eat is your favorite alone time, crank up the music and dance around your kitchen at home while trying out a fun new recipe!
5. Keep Your Freezer and Snack Drawer Well-Stocked
Especially when you’ve got some extra money in the budget, stock up on frozen meals and sides to keep in your freezer.
These are great for those nights where you’re exhausted after a long day at work and are tempted to order take-out.
Keeping a snack drawer stocked with filling snacks like nuts, granola bars, and dry fruits is a great way to avoid overspending.
Make sure to take snacks with you when you are on-the-go. When you are running from one meeting to another, or one kid’s soccer match to another, having snacks on hand will keep you from buying that overpriced smoothie down the street!
Eating economically isn’t always easy, but it is always possible!
We hope you enjoyed these tips and would love to hear any you’d add to this list.
Here are a few of my favorite budgeting and saving apps!
iBotta for special offers and cash back. Sign up for a $20 welcome bonus.