wikiHow to Save Money on Food

Two Methods:ShoppingCooking

Trying to stretch every dollar? Using a few simple tricks, you can save significant money on food. It might be something as simple as buying generic brands and clipping coupons. You'll be saving money in no time!

Method 1
Shopping

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    Clip coupons for things you need. Shop at stores that double or triple the value of a coupon. Take time to find the best type of coupon, one that offers a free product.
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    Coordinate coupons with store ads. Shop at stores where coupons are honored on items already on sale.
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    Join a coupon-swapping organization. Swap coupons with people in your geographic area. Exchange for items that you frequently use.
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    Create a grocery list, and stick to it. Don't let eye-catching advertisements distract you. Your grocery list should be generic enough to allow some flexibility with close substitutes. For example, writing "20 pounds of vegetables" is better than listing names and quantities of specific vegetables, because you may not know which vegetables will be on sale at any given time.
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    Don't buy things just because they're cheap. Buy what you actually need.
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    Stick to your budget. Record your monthly spending on food, and keep looking for ways to go lower. This will force you be more creative with your recipes and pay more attention to your nutritional needs.
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    Compare prices. Many grocery stores post the price per ounce or kilogram along with the total cost of a product. Otherwise, a pocket calculator can be handy.
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    Buy in bulk. It tends to cost less if you buy larger quantities. Buy durable goods that you'll need in the future, such as bath tissues, grains, canned food and dried beans.
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    Shop for baked goods early in the day. That is when bakeries and grocery stores mark down their day-old items.
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    Shop for meat later in the day. That is when the meat department marks down items about to go past the "sell by" date. This meat is perfectly safe and can be frozen for later use.
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    Consider buying private-label or store brands. In many cases, these rival the quality of the better known brands at a significantly lower cost.
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    Avoid processed foods. They may be convenient, but they're usually more expensive and less nutritious. Shop on the periphery of the store where fresh produce is located. Avoid the center aisles where processed and packaged food is found. Buy inexpensive but healthy foods that are easy to fix, such as oatmeal and legumes.
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    Select plant proteins. Include vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes and nuts. Animal products can be very expensive and not necessarily as nutritious, which could conceivably increase medical costs down the road. Meatless Monday is a public health campaign associated with the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. It encourages people to give up meat once a week to cut the intake of saturated fat. Visit Johns Hopkins University's website for meatless recipes!
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    Check deep-discount grocery stores. They purchase overstocks and test-market items from manufacturers. Be flexible, as they offer a rotating stock, and items change daily. You can save up to 40% on brand-name items by adjusting your menu. The American west coast's deep discounter is Grocery Outlet (www.groceryoutlets.com).
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    Consider joining a wholesale club. They usually sell in bulk at cheaper prices than their competitors. Examples are BJ's, Costco and Sam's Club. Consider the costs of membership and transportation. They may outweigh any savings they may provide. If you buy mostly fresh produce and not much packaged food, wholesale clubs are probably not for you.
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    If you need a job, look for one in the restaurant industry. You can frequently take home free or cheap food. Family-run businesses often provide this benefit.
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    Plan your weekly menu before you go shopping. Then you can make a careful shopping list and buy only what you need. Maintain some flexibility, however. If something not on your shopping list comes on sale at a steep discount, be willing to alter your menu accordingly.

Method 2
Cooking

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    Learn how to cook. Go to the library and borrow cookbooks and magazines with simple recipes. It's easy to make a nice dish with pasta, rice or beans. Practice makes perfect.
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    Learn to enjoy cooking from scratch. You will be less likely to eat out. You can carefully craft low-cost, healthy meals.
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    Learn to roll yesterday's leftovers into today's meal. Create a new dish.
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    Learn to make great-tasting dishes at a lower cost. Eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches instead of roast beef. Eat macaroni and cheese instead of steak.
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    Manage your refrigerator. Never let food go bad. Eat it or use it as an ingredient in a sauce, casserole or soup. For example, old salsa can be added to a curry, and old milk can be turned into a quiche. Don't use anything that has actually gone sour or rancid.
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    Plan meals based on what you have on hand. Bring out your creative side.
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    Plan meals based upon what's on sale. Change your recipes accordingly.
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    Watch for sales.
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    Don't eat out very often.

Tips

  • Share a plate of food. Restaurants usually serve enough for two. Don't pay for more than you need. Take food home for an extra meal.
  • Change your diet. The bulk of your food should be plants. Basing your diet on carbohydrates such as rice and beans will save you lots of money. Meat does provide important nutrients, but so do fruit and vegetables.
  • Try growing your own fruits and vegetables. Do this even if it's only tomatoes on a sunny windowsill in your apartment. Take the seeds of whatever you eat (before you cook it), and place them on a paper towel to dry. Try germinating them in a pot or a garden. Read planting and growing tips on commercial seed packets or in books or magazines.
  • Forage. Plenty of highly nutritious, wild, edible plants such as dandelions are available for free if you are willing to put in a little effort to gather them. If you are lucky and live in a good area, foraging alone may supply enough food to feed you and your family, and you won't have to spend a dime at the grocery store.

Warnings

  • Don't clip coupons for things you don't need.
  • Be aware of coupon expiration dates.

Sources and Citations

Article Info

Categories: Food and Grocery Budgeting