Many people find themselves living paycheck to paycheck, barely making ends meet. Sometimes it isn't easy to stick to a budget. For most families, food is one of the most expensive line items in the budget, so let's talk about ways to reduce that.
These strategies for living on a budget will help you reduce your food costs without sacrificing flavor or quality. You can still eat well without spending a fortune.
Ways to reduce your grocery bill
Saving money on your food bill each month requires some planning.
Use cheap meals as staples.
The list goes on: spaghetti, tacos, fried rice, egg or tuna salad, and breakfast for dinner. Which meals are family favorites and also affordable? Work those into your weekly or monthly meal plans.
Many stores offer deals on items you need each week, like milk or bread. Also, check your area's newspapers and major retailers for grocery specials. In addition, some stores offer reward programs that award you discounts after spending a certain amount each month.
Buy herbs in bulk. Fresh herbs don't last too long in the fridge and can be expensive at the grocery store. So buy them in the bundle to keep costs down. Better yet, grow your herbs!
Buy spices in bulk. Spices don't last forever and are pricey at the store. So buy in bulk when possible, or invest in a spice rack to use up what is already on hand before purchasing more!
Eat out less often. Eating out adds up quickly, especially if you have a large family. Even at McDonald's, which used to be super cheap, you can easily spend $40 for a meal. And let's be honest, the food isn't that great. Eating out is an occasional treat or a chance to celebrate – not for every meal.
Budgeting books, cheap cookbooks
Buy generic brands when possible. While some people may prefer brand names, generic brands are less expensive and will offer the same quality. There are a few things I buy name
brands, but most we buy generic, and they're fine.
They are buying what's on sale. Then, take the circular from the store each week and plan meals around it. Buying items on sale can drastically reduce your grocery bill!
Plan ahead for groceries. When you shop, creating a list to limit impulse buys is best. Better yet, order your groceries online. That gets rid of last-minute impulse buys ultimately!
Plant a garden. It takes some work, but growing your food is a great way to save money – and is rewarding in so many ways. Gardening can even be therapeutic.
Buy gadgets that make sense. Take a bread machine, for example. Package up baggies of all the dry ingredients needed to make various types of bread, put a label on them, and store them all in a container in the pantry. The Ninja Foodi is another example: it's an Air Fryer, Instant Pot, and more. All in one piece of machinery that fits on the countertop.
Use ice cube trays. Whether you're saving herbs and spices, homemade bone broth, or frozen coffee, ice cube trays have many uses and will save you time and money. Fill the trays with water and set them in the freezer. Place a label on each tray of what you're saving, so you'll know which is which when it comes time to use them. For example, I freeze my herbs, broth, etc., and then I take the cubes and put them into a freezer bag for future use.
When you're cooking staples like mashed potatoes, they can get boring if you don't mix them up. So instead, add crushed red pepper, garlic, or lemon. Changing the flavors of everyday dishes makes them more exciting.
Saving on food while traveling
Traveling on a budget is possible! If you can camp in your vehicle or handle tent camping, you'll save a fortune on lodging. If you stay in hotels, find ones with complimentary breakfast (but always compare prices). You can grab extra bagels, bread, muffins, fruit, cereal, and other breakfast items to eat as snacks throughout the day.
If you can get approved for a credit card with rewards, I recommend it. For example, some cards have a 100,000-point sign-on bonus. That's about $1,000 when spending in cash.
Shop at club stores—stock up on snacks and easy meals at Sam's Club or Costco. There are more than 100 Costco stores in California alone and more than 30 in Mexico. No matter where you're traveling by vehicle, you should be able to locate one. These club stores are also where we buy gas.
Keep a pantry and a cooler. Use a tote (or two) to keep a “pantry” during your travels. We have one tote for non-perishables, snacks, etc., and then we also have a cooler. Packing a cooler and buying a case of water instead of individual waters at the gas station will save you a fortune.
Become a fan of soup. Whether making your own or eating it at a restaurant, soup is usually cheap. Add potatoes or beans, or a cheap protein like chicken, to stay full longer.
Allow for splurges if you can afford to; allow for occasional splurges. Love visiting hipster coffee shops? Make your coffee most mornings, but check out a new coffee spot once a week. If your family loves Italian food, save $100 or so for that once-a-month treat. Each option depends on your budget but doesn't scrimp and save so much that you make traveling a chore.
Suppose you're looking for ways to reduce your grocery bill. In that case, it's time to start menu planning, buying and cooking in bulk, and getting familiar with inexpensive staples you can work into your family's mealtimes. So what's your best tip for saving money on groceries each month?