After your mortgage payment, food is likely to be one of your biggest expenses.
Since the grocery bill can be much more flexible than housing expenses, it’s often the first place people look when they need to make some cuts in order to save money for a down payment on a new home.
Sure, you can save a lot of money by eating nothing like ramen and Kraft dinner, but that approach gets old quickly. Instead, use our tips on how to eat big on a small budget.
1. Plan Weekly Meals Based on Sales
Pay attention to the grocery stores’ weekly sales flyers, then create meals based on ingredients that are on sale. When ground beef is on sale, for instance, you might make hamburgers, tacos, or chili. If yogurt’s on sale, you can plan on that for breakfast. While it’s always smart to plan meals and shop from that list, this approach saves you more money overall.
2. Eat More Legumes
Legumes such as kidney beans, peas, and peanuts, are an excellent source of plant protein and are super filling; not to mention, you can buy them at a fraction of the cost of a pound of meat! If you want to save on groceries, it’s wise to incorporate these inexpensive food staples into your diet.
You might make a hearty lentil soup, chana masala, or a black bean quesadilla. If you check out some vegetarian cookbooks, you’re likely to find some plant-based recipes that mimic some of your favourite meat dishes (and, don’t worry, you’ll still be getting similar nutrients to meats, poultry, and fish.) Go ahead and experiment.
3. Stick to Your Grocery List
Grocery stores cleverly organize their shelves to encourage you to spend more money. How many times have you purchased an item on display because it looked good? Before you go to the store, make a list. Make a pledge to not buy anything that’s not on your list. If you see something you like, consider adding it to next week’s meal plan.
4. Freeze Some Meals
Certain meals freeze quite well, and if you double the recipe while cooking, you can have a ready-to-go meal in the freezer. This helps you avoid eating out when you just don’t feel like cooking. Some people even take this idea to another level with “once a month cooking” – a technique where you spend one weekend cooking an entire month’s worth of food.
5. Vary Your Diet
When you’re trying to cut back on food costs, it’s easy to find yourself eating the same foods over and over. This gets boring and makes you more likely to go on a spending spree when you finally can’t take it anymore. Yes, you might be eating a lot of pasta because it’s cheap, but that doesn’t mean you have to have spaghetti with marinara sauce multiple times a week.
Instead, experiment with different types of pasta dishes. Come up with at least five different recipes for each of your favourite inexpensive foods. The more you have, the happier you’ll be. Pinterest is a great place for seeking out new recipes and saving the ones you like.
6. Stock Up During Sales
Stores often run deep discounts on certain items. These are called “loss leaders” because they hope that you’ll come into the store for that item, then spend money on other things as well. Stock up on the things you like when they’re at their lowest prices. If possible, track the store’s prices so that you’ll know when to get the best deals.
7. Only Buy in Bulk if You’ll Use It
Bulk stores like Costco offer great deals on a per-unit basis. You can get good prices on meats, cleaning supplies, fruits and veggies, and dry goods. Of course, these things are only good deals if you’re going to use up all of your purchase. For a single person living alone, the packages of lettuce or grapes that you can get at Costco might go bad before you finish them. In cases like this, it’s better to buy smaller quantities at a different store.
8. Shop at Cheaper Stores
Getting all your groceries at the grocery store nearest your home might be the most convenient, but it’s rarely the cheapest. Instead, you have to do some exploring to find which stores have the better deals. For instance, Save On Foods can have great sales, but their everyday prices tend to be higher than other stores. No Frills tends to offer the most consistently low prices in the area, but ethnic grocery stores are also good places to get some inexpensive staples.
9. Plan Healthy Snacks
You already know that planning your meals saves money, but it’s also smart to plan for healthy snacks. If you don’t have something on hand, it’s easy to head to the office vending machine or the coffee shop down the street for a little treat.
Those small purchases can add up.
You’ll save money by bringing snacks wherever you go. Fresh fruit is always great, especially when it’s in season, but you should also look into crackers and cheese, granola bars, veggies and hummus, or yogurt. Check the sales flyers for healthy snack foods.
10. Change Up Your Leftovers
To make the most of your money you spend on food, it’s important to eat up the leftovers. The hard part about this is that it gets boring eating the same meal throughout the week. To make your meals more palatable, switch things up.
Roast a chicken on Sunday, use the meat for tacos later in the week, then use the bones for a delicious soup broth. When you have some vegetables that are starting to look wilted, it’s time to roast them or put them in a soup. When you use up all of the food you buy, you spend less.
Sticking to a grocery budget helps you save up money for the things you want, but you don’t have to have a boring diet just to save money. With careful planning, you could be eating affordably and deliciously!