How to save money on food

Saving money, everyone talks about it, everyone wants to do it, but it’s hard to do. With most of us on tight budgets, it’s more important than ever to save every penny you can.

The main reason saving money seems hard to do is it usually means having to give up something that you would normally want to buy or do. My hubby and I live off-grid, we budget ourselves tightly, that includes food, but we still eat very well, the trick is to find ways of saving that doesn’t hurt so much. Here are some of the ways I save money. Let’s focus on food, something we all have to have to survive.

First are the obvious ways to save, like clipping coupons, you can even download coupons, but make sure you are actually going to use the downloaded and printed coupons because it does cost money for ink and paper, you can find that your savings gets eat up by the cost of printing, and all of those coupon sites REQUIRE you to print using THEIR ink settings, full ink, you can’t use the draft or grey-scale settings, and often these coupons cannot be doubled, so think carefully if it is going to be worth your while to print coupons.

Get together with your coworkers, people you go to church with, people in your neighborhood and create a coupon co-op, share the ones you have but aren’t going to use, and people will share with you. You can even go on eBay and find coupons for sale, while it’s not legal to “sell” coupons, what they are doing is selling the time they took to find, package and ship these coupons, you can often find $10 or more worth of coupons for a buck or two. I have acquired coupons this way, the eBay sellers often throw in free coupons that are close to expiring.

The next thing is cutting back on things you don’t really need, things that are the wants in life. Such as eating out, take your lunch to work instead of eating out, that’s 5 meals that you aren’t paying a premium for, and think of this, chances are you are going to eat healthier if you are in control of what you are making. How about not buying from the snack and drink machine at work? That will definitely save you money and improve your health too. If you want snacks at work, buy fruit, buy vegetables, wash and cut them up over the weekend, package them in individual reusable containers, before going to work, pop in a cold pack and you will have the healthy calories you need for the day without breaking the bank. If fruit and veg aren’t your thing, then even if you buy a package of chips, crackers and/or cookies at the store and repackage them for the week, you will still save money.

Food is one expense we can’t live without, often we find it all too easy to eat out, or buy prepackaged foods, here’s one way to look at it, the more a food is processed and the less you handle it before you eat it, the more it’s going to cost. Look at a box of macaroni and cheese, it’s going to cost a few dollars and you still have to add milk and butter, if you buy a package of macaroni noodles, a brick of cheese, some milk and butter, you can have that same meal for pennies and chances are it’s going to taste better and have healthier ingredients. Start eating out less, and start learning how to cook from scratch. I know a loaf of bread costs 3-5 dollars, it’s not hard to make your own bread, especially if you have a bread machine. I know a bread machine would cost money, but consider it an investment, you can even get one second hand from a thrift shop, or put a note up on a bulletin board at church, school, work or at your local store, indicate that you are looking for a used bread machine, chances are there is someone who has one they don’t use, they got bored with it, or it was a gift and they don’t use it… You can make your own bread for pennies on the dollar, I have a quick and easy recipe I use, there is not much measuring involved, I have ratios I use, here it is:

1 1/2 cup white flour (bread flour is best)
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup cornmeal (optional)
2 T sugar
2 T yeast
1 T salt (I typically use 1 teaspoon of salt for every cup of flour)
1/4 cup oil (use whatever oil you have, olive oil, veg oil, melted butter…)
2-3 T molasses (optional)
enough water or milk to make a happy dough

Add the dry ingredients to the bread machine, I turn on the bread machine and allow the dry ingredients to mix for a few seconds, then add the wet ingredients, adding the water or milk last, I have made bread enough times by hand to know what the dough should look like, it shouldn’t be too dry, it shouldn’t be too wet, it should form a ball and become smooth & elastic. I don’t worry about warming the water or milk, I use the milk right out of the fridge, it has never been a problem (with the yeast). If it sounds like your machine is laboring, add a little more liquid. Allow the machine to continue working and baking the bread. I promise you there is NOTHING better than the smell of freshly baking bread in your kitchen. Also invest in a decent bread knife, if you have an electric turkey carver, that works even better, it needs to have a good serrated edge to properly cut the bread. You can add other things to your bread, don’t be afraid to experiment, here are some extra ingredients you can add, oats, flax seeds, chia seeds, cinnamon, brown sugar, red pepper flakes and shredded cheese, onion… you can make it sweet or savory.

Another cooking appliance you can invest in is a crock pot or slow cooker. This is especially good for those on the go, you can start something in the morning before you go to work, and your dinner will be there, all ready for you when you get home, pair that with homemade bread and you will be eating like a king without breaking the bank. There are so many crock pot recipes out there, I’ll not even try to name them, do a search, or check out these cookbooks.

Don’t ignore the store brands or generic brands of food, some are good, some are really good, but some are awful, be sure you buy one or two of something and try it before stocking your pantry with it if you haven’t tried it yet. Often the less processed store brand foods tend to be just as good as the name brand, such as canned milk, sugar, flour… These minimally processed ingredients are hard to mess up, flour is flour and milk is milk, sugar is sugar. Using these basic ingredients to make your foods will save lots of money for you, not to mention the health benefits of eating foods with fewer ingredients and no artificial additives, flavorings, preservatives and such.

Buying in bulk, if you don’t already have one, try your best to get a warehouse club membership to Sam’s or Costco or one like it. If you can’t afford the price of a membership for yourself, check with your church, friends, family or neighbors to see if they have a membership, I can’t speak for the other club stores, but Sam’s will now allow non-members to come in with members and purchase items using their own money, check, credit or debit card, they used to not allow that, but now they do, I have a friend who goes with me to Sam’s on a monthly basis, we both shop, when it’s time to ring out, I put my items to be rung up first, then hers, when all of mine are rung up, I pay with my debit card, then her items are rung up and she pays for hers with her debit card. I’m sure this isn’t something a Sam’s club would advertise, BUT this does bring more revenue for them.

So, now that you have figured out how to get a membership for practically nothing, (it is nice to pay SOMETHING toward the membership if you are always going with a friend, or at least do something nice for them…), use that opportunity to buy at least one item in bulk a month, something that will not go bad, you should be able to afford at least one item a month or per paycheck, right? Be sure to have a budget and a list when you go in, remember you are buying in bulk and will be initially paying more even though it’s going to save you in the long run, don’t blow your budget just because you can’t resist a 10 lb package of cheese… :) One of the ways I keep from overbuying is I eat BEFORE I go shopping, it makes it much easier to walk past all the things I don’t need but would want if I were hungry.

Don’t forget about shopping at the multitude of dollar stores, you can get lots of food deals in there too. Shop the sales, don’t be afraid to go to multiple stores IF it will save you more money, stock up on sale items if you can.

What do you do to save money at the grocery store?

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4 Responses

  1. I typically buy with the intention of canning leftovers. There’s only so many days in row you want to eat beef stew, so I buy enough ingredients to fill up a 12 quart stock pot, and then ladle out 4.5 quarts into the crockpot. That way, my friend and I both eat well for a few days, and the rest ends up being canned for future consumption. The last big batch of beef stew I made priced out at $2.50 a quart, and it dishes up four 8 oz bowls. In the summer I can the produce from the garden. It offsets some of the summer food bill, but really makes a big difference in the fall! And if all else fails, ramen noodles always fall into the “cheap eats” category. Two bricks and a bag of frozen veggies can easily feed four people; $2.50 at the local supermarket, or much less if you buy the bricks and a 5 pound bag of bulk veggies at Costco.

  2. Hi Wretha, I look for all foods that are going out of date the day I’m at the store. I get my milk for 2.00 a gallon, bring it home and freeze it. Remember to pour some milk out of the container into another container before freezing or the container will break when you thaw.
    I buy all of my meat on sale or reduced and can it. It will stay on the shelf for well over 2 years and I don’t have to worry about freezer burn or losing power and trying to keep my food from spoiling.

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