Simple changes can help you save big on groceries
Food is one of the biggest pleasures of life. It's also one of our biggest expenses, after housing and transportation. If you want to know how to save money on groceries and eating out, try these tips.
1. Clip coupons. The average coupon is worth about $1.44, and those savings add up when combined with sales and buying in bulk. To find coupons, scan newspaper flyers and direct mail, and check websites like www.couponmom.com, www.hotcouponworld.com and www.saversguide.com. Or email your favorite companies to ask for coupons and free samples.
2. Brown bag it. Reducing your daily lunch tab by $5 by switching from fast food to homemade could save you $1,250 a year. Add lunch supplies to your shopping list, including bread and sandwich fillings, drinks and snacks. Fend off boredom with a varied menu: leftovers, soups, salads, and frozen dinners can all make good work lunches. Avoid the morning scramble by packing your lunch the night before.
3. Grow your own food. If you have the space, put in a vegetable garden. Depending on what you plant, you could cut your food bill by $500 a year. To keep the gardening costs down, avoid unneeded gadgets (a shovel, hoe and good gardening gloves may be all you need) and try sprouting seeds instead of buying seedlings. Lettuce, zucchini and fresh herbs will give you fast returns on your gardening efforts. Fruit trees are a longer-term investment.
4. Comparison shop. Compare prices at your local grocery stores. Some people save money on food with loyalty discounts and rewards programs at supermarkets, while other people find better deals at discount stores. If you’re serious about finding the lowest prices, keep a record of your favorite products in a grocery price book, so you know if that “sale price” is really a good deal.
5. Prepare healthy, cheap foods. Home cooking can be good for your health as well as your wallet. Buying fruits and vegetables in season means they’re ripe, tasty, and cheap. Frozen vegetables can be as nutritious as fresh. Compare the prices for different meat cuts at your local store: some inexpensive cuts of beef are delicious when cooked slowly. A whole chicken may be cheaper than a tray of chicken breasts. Trying out a few vegetarian recipes, like bean burritos or veggie lasagna, can also help you save money on groceries.
6. Create a cooking club. Set up a weekly potluck lunch club at work to socialize and discover a variety of new foods without paying for a restaurant. Another idea is a soup exchange party: everybody brings a batch of frozen homemade soup in labeled containers to trade. Cooking with friends can teach you new recipes, lets you buy in bulk and make multiple servings to freeze, and motivates you to cook at home more often.
Saving money on food usually takes a bit more time both while shopping and cooking, so experiment with recipes to find ones that are worth the effort. With a little research and planning, you can cut food costs without compromising on taste.
What's next? Know when to pay more (or less)