How to Reduce Food Costs

Everyone loves to see a full fridge, right? However, keeping a fridge full isn’t that cheap. The truth is, food costs, and saving a few bucks every now and then can definitely lead to you witnessing more and more money in your pockets. It’s important not to waste money whenever it’s not necessary and to be careful about intake.

In today’s article, we’ll be taking a look at some of the most effective cost-reducing measures when it comes to food, and we’ll be teaching you about what you can do to keep your home cost-effective and not wasting any food.

How to Reduce Food Costs
How to Reduce Food Costs

Let’s get started!

1. Don’t Buy Bottled Water if Not Necessary

There are places around the country with great water supply, and then there are places where the water supply is terrible (to the point of being contaminated), and there’s no other way to take water but to buy it.

However, more and more people are making the mistake of insisting on always purchasing bottled water instead of drinking water from the tap. Make sure to check what’s the state of water supply in your area, and if the water’s good, then there’s no need for you to waste hundreds of dollars a month just to buy water.

The truth is, many people have become irrationally paranoid because of this, and they now buy water even though they have perfectly good water flowing through their pipes. Even if the water’s good, some people get disgusted just from the sight of seeing water leave the tap – this attitude is completely wrong and it’s definitely going to cost you money.

If the water in your area is bad, then you should definitely buy bottled water. However, chances are that the water is good and you should make sure to check that information before you decide to buy water. So, don’t be paranoid, and don’t irrationally insist on purchasing water if the water from the tap is just fine!

2. Prepare a Meal Plan

Preparing a meal plan is actually a great strategy for both saving money and keeping yourself on a healthy dietary plan. This way, you’ll control your intake better and you’ll be able to control your budget better.

Here’s how to do it. Firstly, you need to think about every single member of the household. If you’re living alone, then there’s a lot off your plate (pun intended) as you don’t have to work out a meal plan for anyone else. Now, think about your daily caloric intake. We’re not going to get all into nutrition in this article, but you can simply calculate your daily caloric needs on the internet.

Following that, think about what you like eating and what’s healthy for you to eat. It’s preferable that the largest part of your diet is consisting of protein and carbs, as carbs are essential for keeping us on our feet throughout the day, while protein is here to build muscle and we desperately need it.

So, make a list of what you’ll eat throughout the next two weeks. If you’re planning on ordering food or eating out, make sure to include that in the plan. Once you have a list of all the things you’ll eat, you can calculate how much each meal is going to cost. This is much more effective than just buying groceries chaotically.

Your meal plan should look something like this:

Monday: – breakfast – oatmeal, two slices of toast, peanut butter

              – lunch – rotisserie chicken, salad, potatoes – ice cream for dessert

              – snack – a sandwich – two slices of toast, ham, butter, cheese,  salad

              – dinner – lunch leftovers/tuna with olives and fresh cheese

You need to break down the next two weeks meal by meal and have a finalized cost for every day, put all of those together and that’s how much money you’ll have to spend on groceries (it’s also the largest part of your shopping list). Also add some money for snacks, as you can’t really predict when you’re going to be snacking, so buying crackers and chips is okay if it’s on a whim. Also, add at least 50 dollars for unforeseen costs. That’s your budget for the next two weeks.

We suggest buying food on a biweekly basis, as it’s long enough for you to manage your budget effectively, and the food won’t rot. Buying your food on a monthly basis is too much of a stretch, as something can happen that can force you to leave home for a while and all that food will go to waste – and that means that your money’s going to waste.

You also can’t guarantee that you’ll actually stick with that schedule for a month, and that’s very ambitious. It’s much better to make up a schedule for two weeks and update it and buy new groceries every two weeks than actually try to buy food once a month.

If there are more people living in the household, then you need to make individual eating plans for all of them and combine the costs.

Also, make sure that you don’t go to the grocery store if you don’t need to. Make your trips minimum. Whenever we go to the store, we’re all bound to buy a thing or two we don’t need – that’s why you should always limit your trips to the store. It’s much better for you (financially) to visit the store once a week or once every two weeks, than to visit it every few days. It’s also better for time management.

You can also separate your trips, especially if your car space is limited. You can, for example, buy groceries on Monday and then return next week to buy something other than groceries. However, buying groceries, again and again, every few days makes little sense and it’s a terrible time and money management.

You should also plan your grocery trips before you make them. By that, we don’t just mean to make a shopping list – you should determine how much money you’re going to make beforehand. Almost all grocery stores send out flyers of their current offers to the local community, and you’ll be seeing a large number of great deals on those flyers.

You can accommodate your meal plan according to discounts in grocery stores! For example, if pork is at 35% discount, then it’s actually smarter to purchase pork than chicken (you can actually look it up and see that pork is very rich in protein). That’s why it’s important to always be on the lookout for the deals offered by grocery stores as you can save up a lot of money. It’s actually better to make these meal plans according to what’s on a discount this week, rather than what you feel like eating.

Know, however, that these discounts rotate – and pork won’t always be cheaper (per our example). Next week it could be fish, chicken, beef, or something else – so you won’t always be stuck with the same choice of groceries.

Another great idea is to head for the farmer’s market, as there are vendors that are much cheaper than grocery stores and you’re supporting your local farmers!

3. Don’t Waste Food

This is probably the most important entry on this list of tips. Don’t let food go to waste. There are many methods you can use to stop wasting food, and we’ll now explain some of them.

To save your potatoes, you need to ensure good storage. Potatoes are some of the most versatile vegetables out there, as you can essentially do anything with them (including making vodka). To keep them safe, it’s crucial to store them properly. Potatoes like to be stored in a cool, dark place, ideally between 5 and 8 degrees Celsius, but they don’t like fridges. If you have a cool basement, then it’d be great to keep them in the basement. A cool pantry or a shed will get the job done, as well. Keep them in a paper bag or hessian sack – this will let the moisture escape, but they won’t sprout or rot. You can keep them for a long time like this.

You should insist on buying whole heads of lettuce, rather than buying salad in a bag. Salad will start to rot as soon as oxygen comes into contact with it (those bags are usually full of nitrogen, which keeps the salad fresh – and the same goes for bags of chips if you were wondering why the bag is usually half empty – otherwise, both chips and salad would go bad very quickly.

Buying whole heads of lettuce is going to ensure that they last much longer. If it’s loose-leaf you’re looking for, opt for watercress, rocket & spinach medleys.

Dairy can also usually last longer than you allow it to. You can freeze the milk that’s nearing its usage date and defrost it when needed. You can also use leftover cheese scraps for freezing, as that will keep the cheese fresh. You can also make your own ice cream, but actually a healthier version – mix natural yogurt with crushed berries or mashed bananas. Freeze that and take it out whenever you feel like having a bit of healthy ice cream.

You also don’t have to waste bread. Bread can easily be frozen and defrosting it is a minute’s job, as many microwaves or even toasters have the defrost option. Make sure to cut it into loaves and put it in your freezer. Whenever you need toast, all you have to do is defrost your bread – this is a great way of making sure that your bread doesn’t go stale.

Before your apples go stale, bake an apple pie – don’t let them go to waste.

Also, always keep a list of what you have in your freezer. It’s easy to forget that you have a whole loaf of bread in the freezer and you might make the mistake of hopping in your car and driving yourself down to the bakery just to buy some bread. So, it’s always best to keep a list of what you have in the freezer and to update it constantly, as you’ll want to always know what’s ready for you.

4. Plant Your Own Garden

If you have a house with its own backyard, you always have the option of planting a garden. The garden can be as small or as large as you’d like and as the size of your yard allows you to.

Make a list of vegetables you need the most, for example potatoes, carrots, tomatoes. Check if you live in a climate where those vegetables can prosper and grow. If you are, then you can easily plant them and live off your own land – you don’t need to make that trip to the grocery store for vegetables (unless it’s winter).

Learning how to take care of plants isn’t difficult, and horticulture is something that we, as a species, have excelled at for ages – so you have all the information you need online, and you’ll see that it isn’t even an everyday job, aside from watering your vegetables.

5. Learn to Cook

If you want to be an amazing chef, you’re going to need decades of honing your skills. However, if you want to be able to cook for yourself and your family, you’ll quickly learn that it’s not that difficult. Cooking is basically just following instructions.

Of course, if you don’t know anything, take up a few cooking classes where you’ll be taught the basics – how to bake and cook. After that, all that’s left is experimenting and moving on to more and more complicated recipes. You’ll quickly see that cooking isn’t all that hard, and it’s much cheaper than constantly ordering in.

However, cooking can be time-consuming, especially if you’re preparing more complicated meals, so you should know that you’re going to need at least an hour a day to prepare all your meals.

6. Make Simpler Meals

Eating at home is the biggest budget saver, but you don’t need to prepare extraordinarily intricate meals, as there are very simple meals that don’t take a lot of skill to prepare – the meatloaf, for example. Pasta meals, for example, don’t take long to make and are usually very simple, but they’re also nurturing and are definitely going to keep the belly full, so you shouldn’t stray away from them.

Making tortillas, spaghetti, and other similar meals is very simple and you shouldn’t look those over when you’re focusing on your cooking.

7. Be Disciplined

It’s always difficult to adapt to a new lifestyle, but if you want to save money on food, you’re going to have to be disciplined. You’re always going to be tempted to go over your budget and spend more money than it’s actually needed, but this is a trap you needn’t fall into. You should always insist on keeping up with your schedule and your budget, and you’ll quickly learn that it’s not that difficult.

After a few months, you’ll quickly see that you’ve adapted to the new lifestyle you’re living and that it’s not difficult at all for you to browse through grocery catalogs in search of discounts and that cooking isn’t at all that difficult.

8. Work with Others

Make a suggestion to your friends that you try to save money on food together. This way, you can have potluck dinners at someone’s home every other night, and you’ll collectively be saving both money and time. Another great aspect of this is the support you’ll be having from your friends, which is always a big plus.

9. Coupons and Sales

You’ll often find coupons for certain groceries in your local newspapers and you should make good use of that. Couponing and comparison shopping is a great way for you to save money and you should definitely take that chance to have a few more dollars in your wallet.

You will also find many sale commercials in various forms of marketing, and you’ll notice that the prices during sales are much lower than regular prices – you should take this to your advantage and visit those stores when they’re having something 50% off, or even more.

Also, don’t be afraid to try store brands. People usually look store brands over because they’re afraid that the quality of the product is bad, but that’s very irrational. It’s actually proven that most store brands concentrate on the quality of the products, what they don’t concentrate on is marketing – that’s why you don’t see fancy commercials and packaging designs. Let’s face it, if everyone was reading the caloric table on the back of the packaging – store brands would actually be selling more than other brands.

Packaging design is something that’s drawing buyers, not the actual information and truth about the products, but don’t fall for that trap. Make sure to compare store brands and other brands of the same product – you’ll often see that store brands have products of the exact same quality for a much cheaper price tag.

This isn’t only true for food, but for other products as well. The most sold-out products on the market, be it technology, food, or something else, are usually the ones with the best marketing. iPhones most certainly aren’t the best smartphones on the market, but they’re the most popular smartphones in the world because of the marketing behind the product. That’s why many users make the mistake of wasting a ton of money on them when they have something that’s cheaper and actually better for half the price.

You do not want to be making the same mistake with food – make sure to always check out the quality of a certain product and compare it with other products on the market. You’ll often find that it pays off.

10. Meat and Alcohol aren’t Cheap

We’re not suggesting that you become a vegetarian or that you stop drinking, as we don’t want to get into anyone’s habits – but you should definitely get this a thought.

If you take a look at the receipt after every shopping trip, you’ll notice that meat is much more expensive than fruits and vegetables. Add desserts to that list, because they’re also very expensive. If you’ve thought about switching to a vegetarian diet, be it for dietary reasons (most people who switch to a vegetarian diet lose a lot of weight) or moral reasons – this might be the time to do it. Vegetarians don’t have to spend as much money on food as omnivores and you’ll definitely be saving a lot if you decide to stop eating meat.

Secondly, alcohol is very expensive – for very obvious reasons: it’s not that easy to make. If you like to have a beer once or twice a week, fine – but if you have a beer once or twice a day, you’re spending a lot of money on that.

So, we suggest that you try going without a drink for a week – then take a look at your receipt. You’ll notice that it’s substantially smaller and you haven’t spent nearly as much money you would have previously while drinking.

Having alcohol for a special occasion is one thing, but having it in your home constantly and drinking it constantly can be costly and you should definitely think about cutting that habit out.

11. Ready-made Solutions Are Expensive

If you’re constantly buying pizzas that can just be put in the oven for a while and they’re ready to eat – you’ll quickly learn just how expensive that is. Take the example of gluten-free meals. If you suffer from celiac disease and you can’t eat gluten, then you surely know just how expensive gluten-free bread and other gluten-free products are.

However, if you actually tried to make gluten-free bread on your own, you’d quickly learn just how much money you’d be saving by doing this on your own. That’s why we suggest that you cook as much as possible and that you stay away from ready-made solutions, which definitely aren’t the way to go if you’re looking to save some money.  

12. Buy Large Quantities

There are many things you can buy that can stay for a long time without going bad. Canned food, for example, can literally be stored for years without going bad. It might be prudent for you to calculate how much of a certain food you’ll be eating in a year and to buy a whole year’s supply of that food.

Buying wholesale is always better for the budget, despite not looking like it in the beginning. However, it will definitely pay off in the long term, and you should definitely look into all the things you can buy wholesale without having to worry about them going bad.

13. Track Your Spending

There are many apps out there that allow you to track your budget and the number of groceries you have in your home, and you always know what you need.

For example, if you buy a pound of ham – you input that into the app. Once you eat half of that, you update the status and you can always track just how much of something you have to buy. This way, you’ll have more control over your budget and you’ll always know if there’s something missing in your fridge.

There are also apps where you can actually plan your meals and enter the things you buy, and the app can plan out your next shopping trip and save you the trouble of doing that on your own. It can also suggest what you should buy on your next shopping trip.

14. Fallback Meals

Sometimes cooking doesn’t pan out! You might have messed something up easily, and if you don’t think of something – dinner won’t be served. Ordering in might be your first instinct, but if you have fallback meals, then you can simply cook something that’s simple and quick instead of spending money on ordering in.

If there’s one thing we want you to take in from all of this today, it’s the fact that you’re allowed to enjoy your meals, but there’s a difference between enjoying something and needlessly spending money. Make sure to balance your budget and adjust your meal plan to your needs – that’s more important than money. It’s always best to plan for everything ahead, and learning how to cook and how to store food can go a very long way!

Annika Vallgren

The old housewives, in general, were in charge of everything in a household. From doing budget deliberations, meal planning to implementing actions and everything in between, they are simply the right person for the job, period. A major portion of their time was spent doing laundry, cleaning, and feeding her hungry children, who would come home tired from school. I believe we have a lot to learn from her. So, here you will find old housewife tips mixed with modern life hacks, knowledge about washing and cleaning, and much more the modern housewife needs!

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