This is the first in a series of money saving strategies for reducing your FAITH expenses. FAITH = food, apparel, insurance, transportation, and housing.
We all need to eat every day – several times a day. Reducing the amount of money spent on a food budget begins with a plan. There are really 5 easy steps to reducing your food budget:
Reducing FAITH Expenses: Food
Don’t you just love how there are only 5 easy steps involved?
Yes, a plan to cook wholesome, non-processed meals at home. Yes, a weekly meal plan (you knew I was going to start with this, right?) If you have a plan you eat healthier and less expensively at home. (If you need more reasons to meal plan, I came up with 11 reasons.)
Families in the U.S. throw out approximately 25 percent of the food and beverages we buy. That’s an estimated annual cost of $2,275 or more for a family of four, writes Jonathan Bloom. In his book, “American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food,” Jonathan shares about why we waste food, what we can do about it, and why it matters.
Combat the food waste problem at your home by meal planning, first, before you grocery shop. Review what’s in the freezer or pantry so you’re not buying food items you already have. Buying only the food that you and your family will eat for a week will keep your food costs lower, too.
A long-term benefit to eating wholesome, real foods? You’ll be in better health. This will save you money in the long run on health care costs. Don’t forget, planning ahead means you minimize trips to the grocery store which is a time and resource saver as well.
If you cook at home every night, you must be wondering when you’ll have a night off in the kitchen? Well, here’s the secret: assign a night once-a-week for your kids to cook for the family. They need to learn these skills anyway, so why not teach them and then put your feet up?
Below is an example of a weekly meal plan from our family. It’s not glamorous or fancy, but non-processed, wholesome foods that are also easy to cook and make quick meals that taste great, make it easy to eat well and save.
Learn to cook. That’s it. If you can read and follow directions, you can cook. Learn a few basic meals and what food items to keep on hand – pantry, refrigerator, and freezer staples. With an arsenal of a few simple meals, you can pick one day to cook dinners and freeze them for later eating. And, don’t forget, if you learn to cook well and cook something tasty the first night, you’ll want to eat your leftovers the second night.
If you really want to get serious about reducing your food costs, take a break from restaurant dining. This isn’t easy if you’re used to dining out. How about starting with packing your lunch for work as a small step to start with? Small, incremental changes are ones that stick.
Buy what’s on your grocery list. Skip the impulse purchases and only go to the store with a list that you’ve made from your meal plan.
Need a meal plan PDF? Here’s what I have hanging on our refrigerator: Weekly Meal Plan
Buy simple wholesome, inexpensive non-processed foods and buy from the bulk bins if possible. Save more time and skip the coupons and opt for simple, wholesome ingredients instead. Coupons are generally for processed food, which is expensive and not quite as good for your health.
Always be careful to check unit prices. Just because something is “on sale” or “family size” doesn’t mean it’s the best price. Look at the per unit price and know the prices of the food you buy to make sure it’s really the lowest price.
Beans are a favorite way of mine to save money in our food budget. By only buying beans from the bulk beans and not canned, we have saved over $500.00 on our food bill, in one year! Yes, we eat a lot of beans but they’re good for you and taste great when cooked with onions and garlic. Cook beans ahead of time, freeze them in portion sizes, and have quick, healthy meals ready in no time.
Eat at home and learn to love your leftovers. If you meal plan, you’re not cooking every day and you’ll find a night or two of leftovers will become your best friend. Choose one day a week to do lots of cooking and have “homemade” prepared meals ready to enjoy.
When’s your busiest time of day? If it’s after work and you don’t feel like cooking when you get home, wouldn’t it be great to have a several homemade prepared meals ready to serve?
Reduce your food costs even more by not going out to eat at restaurants. If restaurant dining is part of your regular routine and hard to give up, try not going out to eat for 1-week. Or, instead of dinner out at a restaurant for a date, go out to lunch instead. It’s still a meal out and almost always costs less than dinner.
We skipped going out to dinner as a way to save money for our home exchange trip to Spain last summer. By not going out to dinner, we had money to pay for airline tickets. Not a bad trade off…
Packing food for lunches, picnics, and outings is another helpful way to save on food costs.
Utilizing freezer space can really keep food from being tossed out, especially if you have a large freezer. Keep a close eye on what you have to try and freeze your food before it starts to go bad. As far as I know, the only food items that can’t be frozen are raw eggs in the shell. Because food expands as it freezes, eggs in the shell have no where to go. (Also, I just froze some sour cream. It tasted fine, un-thawed, but the consistency became runny).
Another great way to use food from the freezer is to grow your own vegetables or pick from a local farm and freeze for later use. Take advantage of the lower prices of vegetables and fruit when they’re in season and freeze them.
We all have to eat several times a day but with a little planning and cooking at home, you’ll find yourself eating at home more often. By only buying the food that’s on your grocery list, you’ll save not just money in your food budget but resources and time as well.
What are your tips for reducing food costs? How do you reduce food waste?
Go Gingham related links:
Grocery shopping from the bulk bins and food storage containers
Pantry basics for the home cook – what’s in my pantry
Refrigerator basics for the home cook – what’s in my refrigerator
How we keep food waste to a minimum
More related links:
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an online resource for healthy food and eating. Their helpful booklets are available in PDF formats and listed below. They have many simple, healthy cooking tips, tricks, and recipes.
From The Washington Post on food waste can be found here: “In U.S. Food is Wasted from Farm to Fork“