Previously, I wrote about what $100 means to me. What does it mean to you? A date night? New outfit? Building up your emergency fund? A gift for a special person or charity? Here are some areas where you might be able to trim your food budget this month to free up some cash.
First, you need to take stock of how you tend to spend money on food. You can do this by reviewing your transaction history on your bank’s website or simply thinking back to all of the places you got food in the past week. Did you frequent restaurants? Convenience stores? Vending machines? Grocery stores? Undoubtedly, the best bang for your buck is to grocery shop and then prepare food at home. This goes for snacks and drinks as well as your meals. You can cut a lot out of your food budget by planning ahead and choosing to eat at home.
Next, look at where you’re shopping. In my area, I know that shopping at Kroger or Walmart offers me more savings than Publix or Winn Dixie. And while I might not be able to find everything on my list there, Aldi usually has cheaper prices on produce and some of our standard pantry items. You also need to observe when you are shopping for food. Are you stopping at the store multiple times a week to pick up something for dinner? Are you prone to impulse buy when you go into the store hungry? Meal planning and shopping online can really save you money. I typically plan our meals for a week at a time and do one grocery order that I can pick up for free. If you’re paying for grocery delivery you’re certainly paying more than you would if you shopped for yourself, so you can save a good amount by changing your habits there.
On top of these basic ideas, you can consider a membership to a warehouse store like Sam’s Club or Costco, couponing, and cashback apps like Ibotta. However, be aware that you may end up spending more if you feel like you’re getting a good deal without actually price checking. Often, I find that choosing a store brand item is cheaper than a national brand even with a coupon and cashback incentives. But sometimes buying a larger package of a national brand item at a warehouse store will save you more than buying the same amount of that item in a store brand in smaller packaging.
Depending on how much you have been able to save by the above measures, you may not need to make further changes to what you’re eating. If you want to go further into slashing food costs, you can buy cheaper food. Dave Ramsey is famous for suggesting that those working on the early Baby Steps eat lots of rice and beans. We did our fair share of that when we were paying off debt. Other cheap (but nutritious) foods include peanut butter sandwiches, bananas, oatmeal, eggs, and tuna. You could challenge yourself to eat down your pantry, fridge, and freezer before making another grocery run. Buy meat only when it’s on sale (and stock up if you have freezer space). Buy fruits and veggies in their season; they taste better and will be cheaper than other options. You can also eliminate certain foods altogether like candy, soda, desserts, coffee, or chips.
What else have you tried when attempting to squeeze more out of your food budget? How have you used the savings?