As a reminder, I’m writing a 3 part series, “Budget Busters Series: Save Money on Food, Housing & Transportation.” Crown Financial Ministries defines budget busters as “areas that can result in financial disaster.” In the introduction article, we identified the 3 largest spending areas of the family budget as food, automobiles and housing. In this article, we’re going to look at 10 strategies for saving money and controlling spending for food.
Food is probably one of the most fun areas for our family to spend money. Whether it’s eating out, or buying snacks from the local grocery store, most people like to eat good food. But whether it’s eating at home, at a restaurant, or eating healthy (as many families try to do), there is always an expense to consider.
As a side note, grocery stores are in a great business. Everyone has to eat. Everyone wants and needs to buy food at a convenient location near them. And sooner or later, everyone is going to have to make a trip to the store for more. If we don’t have a strategy or plan, the grocery store can pretty much steer us in the direction of the price they choose by strategically placing certain items on sale at just the right time of the year.
Consider these tips to cut your budget and control spending on food.
The food category
Make sure you know what’s included in the food category. For example, many people get their budget off-track by including household items, toiletries, etc. in the food category. If you’re doing this, you’re most likely not budgeting enough, or too much for food. I recommend separating these other items into a miscellaneous category that can be tracked separately.
Identify eating out day(s)
Okay, so it’s obvious that many people blow their food budget by eating out all the time. Eating out can also be seen as a form of entertainment and perhaps even be tracked separately, but since it’s such a large food expense for some people, we’ll mention it here. How do you curtail this added expense, but still have some fun?
Pick eating out days of the week. Perhaps every Friday, or Saturday can be eating out for dinner day. Or, you can start family traditions of Saturday morning bagels at the local coffee shop. You can enjoy a lot of valuable family experiences this way without busting your budget.
Take your lunch to work
It’s no secret eating out for lunch everyday costs money. It costs a lot of money! If you can eat out for $5 per day, please contact me and let me know where. Most of the time, it costs a lot more. But even at $5 per day, that’s $25 per week and $100 a month. That amount of money could get you past the first $1000 in your emergency account in less than a year. But, if you insist on eating out for networking or just for fun, pick 1-2 days per week as days in which you can eat out for lunch and make your lunch the other days.
Most people shy away from using coupons, but you can find a lot of good savings in your Sunday paper on good deals at the grocery store and eating out. Make it a habit of clipping coupons to save a little extra each month. The small amount of savings for each coupon can add up for the trip to the store and can really add up across the entire month. If you’re able to save $10 per trip in coupons, you could potentially save close to $50 per month by using them.
I recently wrote a free report: Guide to Playing The Grocery Game. In this guide, I talk about how to play the game and how to use stockpiling and investment shopping as a technique to save money. The Grocery Game also leverages the use of coupons for extra savings. You can download a free copy when you sign up to receive my practical financial tips newsletter.
Shop with a plan
Grocery stores love when people enter their store without a plan. When you enter the store without a plan, you’re susceptible to all of the items marked on sale and good grocery store advertising and marketing techniques. Yes, as you’ll learn by Playing The Grocery Game, just because an item is on sale doesn’t mean it’s a good deal.
Shopping without a plan results in your emotions doing the shopping versus using your plan or shopping list. So, make sure you prepare in advance of your trip and then work your plan while in the store. Only deviate for items you forgot to include, or exceptional deals.
Don’t shop hungry
A few weeks ago, MyFinancialObjectives.com left a comment on a recent post with a great tip to not grocery shop while hungry. Have you ever gone into the store with your plan in-hand, but with an empty stomach? Everything in the store looks good, right? Chances are you’re going to spend a lot more money when you’re hungry. Eating a meal before you go will help. Otherwise, grab a snack, so that you’re not feeding your appetite with your grocery spending.
Part of having a good grocery shopping plan is to plan out your meals. If you don’t know what you’re going to eat for the week it’s difficult to determine what you’re going to have to purchase at the grocery store. For those who like to cook extravagant recipes, be careful as all of the extra ingredients can add up in cost. Try to keep meals simple and splurge on fancy recipes every now and then.
I heard an interesting tip on a recent Crown MoneyLife podcast that is a pretty good idea for saving money on food. If you like to entertain, or have people over to your house, consider sharing left over food with each other. I know it sounds a little bit out there. However, if you have 3-4 families from your neighborhood bring leftovers and share them, you can have a fun meal without extra spending and little preparation.
Coupon sharing sites
There are a number of collective buying power websites popping up out there that provide a coupon sharing service for people. The service benefits people and stores or restaurants. Just recently, we purchased a $20 pizza meal for $10 on Groupon and enjoyed an extra unplanned night out for the family because it was affordable and within our budget. The deal is on if enough people sign up. If not, the deal is off. This insures the company is making enough to where the deal works for them and you get the discount.
What do you think of these saving money strategies for food? Do you have any other ideas?