Below are some things that everyone can do which require little effort:
- Eat foods that are as close to their natural state as possible.
- Eat proper portions. No one needs 16 oz. of orange juice in the morning. One half banana or one half grapefruit is considered a serving. One or two cookies are a serving. When I make chocolate chip cookies, it is easy to eat more than a serving. I put them in bags of two and then put them in the freezer after they are cooled. Then they are ready for lunches or snacks in the future. This also reduces the temptation to overeat.
- Eat less meat and more beans. A pound of beans is cheaper and healthier than a pound of meat.
- Use your crock pot. Buy cheaper cuts of meat and slow cook them. Make chili or soup to use inexpensive vegetables like onions, carrots, etc.
- Learn to use spices. Most things can taste good if they are spiced well.
- Use your freezer. You can freeze leftovers for lunches another day or pancakes and waffles for a quick breakfast. You can stockpile food when prices are low and freeze until needed.
- Stop buying soda. Water is healthier and much less expensive.
- When using meat, use half the amount.
- Eat oatmeal for breakfast. It is inexpensive, full of fiber and can lower your cholesterol. Try adding raisins, dried fruit or fresh fruit to add some variety.
- Buy store brands. Many are guaranteed if you don’t like them.
- Look for items that are marked down such as day old bakery items and meat.
Buying things on sale can save you a lot of money. For example, if you can buy mayonnaise on sale for $1.00, you can get three or four for the price that you would pay for one. Buy as many as you can eat before the expiration date. Be careful not to over buy, or you will end up wasting food even if it is a good price. Eat what is on sale by planning your recipes around the sale ads. For example, if chicken is on sale for a good price, choose recipes to eat that use chicken such as fajitas, chicken enchiladas, spaghetti with chicken, chicken and rice casserole, chicken noodle soup, etc. If broccoli is on sale, make stir fry, broccoli cheese soup, broccoli and rice casserole, etc. Don’t buy things that you don’t like or won’t eat just because they are on sale. Take a can opener in the car with you and buy one can of what is on sale, and make sure you like it before you buy more.
Cooking from scratch is another way to save money on food. Find recipes for basics such as bread, tortillas, muffins, biscuits, rolls, bagels, crackers, etc. Learn to make your own cakes instead of buying a mix. If you make your own food, you will know exactly what is in it and it won’t be full of preservatives like packaged versions. Cooking from scratch doesn’t take that much more effort in many cases. Making your own French fries tastes better than the frozen or fast food version. There’s nothing like the smell and taste of homemade cookies.
If you don’t have a lot of time to cook by scratch or don’t want to take the time to buy things on sale, you can still do some things to lower your food budget. Try to find recipes that are less expensive to make. For example, instead of making lasagna, make spaghetti. Instead of tacos with meat, use refried beans. Instead of making enchiladas with chicken or beef, make them with rice and beans. Instead of cold cereal, eat hot cereal. Bananas are cheaper than strawberries; carrots and onions are cheaper than cauliflower and broccoli.
Food is one of the most flexible areas in the budget. Buying things on sale, cooking from scratch and using less expensive ingredients can help lower your food budget so you can free up money that is needed for something else.