One of the most common questions I get asked about budgeting is “How can I reduce my food bill?”
Let’s get this straight, next to the mortgage or rent, food is almost always the next highest expense of the family budget. Keeping that in mind, here is my list of 8 things you can implement today to save on your food budget.
1. Track your spending
By tracking what, when and why you are spending on food in your budget, you can look through and work out if there is a correlation between when and why you spend on out of the ordinary occasions.
Also, track ‘food’ and ‘eating out’ separately. By splitting your food budget into two different categories you can differentiate the habits around the way each category is spent.
2. Give meal planning a go
There are various ways which meal planning saves you both money and time.
Planning meals around left over ingredients or pantry items you already have is a great start.
I usually meal plan for one week at a time but fortnightly and monthly are also common.
I am then organised for my shopping trip with a list of groceries for the whole week which prevents wasting extra time and fuel on more shopping runs during the week, plus, no wasting money on ingredients you don’t need by guessing and no tempting checkout treats.
Meal planning also saves on time trying to decide what to have for dinner each night. Just knowing you have an option ready to go in the evening can prevent from falling into the take away temptation, occasionally swapping the days is common for me, when I need to adjust unexpectedly.
With meal planning you can also plan ahead bulk meals e.g. a double batch of bolognese, using half for spaghetti then freeze or use left overs to make lasagne or jacket spuds another night as a way to stretch the dollar further.
Check out my one month of meal plan dinner suggestions here.
3. Don’t go grocery shopping hungry
Ensure your stomach and taste buds are entirely satisfied. This includes not being thirsty as well. When we shop hungry or thirsty we tend to spend more than necessary and with a lot less will power.
4. Try shopping online
Sure it might cost $5 or so extra for home delivery, depending on the time slot and is usually less for pick up. But it is worth it when you can see all the items you wish to buy and the total price it comes to before paying.
It is also much easier to adjust by taking off any low priority items when the total has ticked over budget and save any embarrassment at the checkout when you have to put something back or stress over where the extra money will come from if over budget.
Bonus: You get to save that shopping time (and sanity with the little ones) on much more valuable things like time with your loved ones.
5. Buy in Bulk
OK you still need to be careful here. Don’t get caught up with a “buy x10 bottles of Coke for $50 bucks! Cheap!” kind of deal.
Please also avoid buying perishable groceries in bulk as it is often unlikely that you can go through the whole amount within the use by date which takes away from the original value in price from bulk buying.
If you find yourself lucky enough to be under budget in your groceries category, set that amount aside to buy items like pantry staples, cleaning products or toiletries in bulk. You can find these online or from a wholesaler such as Costco. As you save by buying in bulk you are increasing your grocery savings little by little which in the long run adds a bit more to that bulk category each month.
Another option to consider if you have plenty of freezer storage space is going in with neighbours or family members for a 1/2 or 1/4 in a cow from a butcher to share a portion of quality meat.
6. Grow your own
There are way more benefits to growing your own veggies, fruit, herbs or even chickens/ eggs than the savings!
The tastes you can experiment with in your home cooking. The flavours which are far superior to the grocery stores. Encouraging kids to enjoy the outdoors, learn from nature and experiment with new healthy foods that they have had a hand in growing themselves are just some of the benefits.
You don’t need a farm sized yard to get started. Simply several pots, a 2 x 1 metre garden bed or even a sunny shelf in the kitchen will do the job nicely.
7. Consider your values
Sometimes with groceries it is a matter of accepting that ‘eating well/organic/whole foods etc’ which tends to up the bill, is an important part of your values so we choose to spend more than average on healthy groceries for the sake of… health/family/nutrition etc.
Sometimes even just getting the groceries done as quickly as possible is important. Not comparing canned corn or scrounging for coupons simply saves our sanity with little ones at our feet! There is nothing wrong with that.
8. Have a back up plan
When eating out is separated in your budget and you are tracking your habits of how often you eat out and the reasons you find yourself going out. It should now be a lot easier to evaluate and control. If you are eating out a lot because you are exhausted after a long days work then there are a couple of options you might like to try…
Bulk weekend freeze up cooking is a great option but it can take up a fair chunk of your spare time, a Thermomix is great too but it definitely is a hefty investment. Sometimes just something as simple as having a pre-made back up meal such as leftovers or something with minimal prep can make all the difference.
Finding one or two things that is in between the cost of eating out and preparing your usual meal is ideal. My go-to back up is to heat up crumbed chicken tenders and wraps from the freezer, throw in a little salad and sauce then presto! Dinner taken care of.
If you are looking for more ways to save money in your household expenses you can download the “60 ways to save” PDF here: