Looking for some ways to trim back on your food expenses and save money on food? Maybe you have a trip planned to save up for in a few months? Or perhaps you are just looking for areas you can make a few adjustments in order to save a bit more? No matter your reason, eating healthy is definitely possible to achieve without breaking the bank. It may mean making some adjustments and changes but it can definitely be done. Some of my tips are possible simply by making a mental and behavior switch rather than changing what you are buying and eating. Here are my top tips and ways I use to save money while still eating healthy.
Buy frozen fruits and veggies
I think that many of us, myself included, think that fresh is definitely better. However, in the case of frozen vegetable this idea just isn’t true. Fruits and vegetables are frozen quickly after harvesting. Meaning they likely retain many more of their nutrients than fruits and vegetables that sit around or travel for a long period before being consumed. As an added bonus frozen fruits and vegetables will just last much longer after you buy them than fresh – months versus days or weeks. I can’t tell you how many times I have allowed fresh produce to just rot in my refrigerator simply because I never got around to cooking or eating them. And that is just money down the drain. Lastly, buying frozen fruits and vegetables provide you options when you throw together a quick dinner.
Buy dry products loose in bulk bins
Buying dried items from the bulk bins in the grocery store definitely saves you money. I am not sure if your local store has these. I have seen them in some grocery stores such as Whole Foods, and the natural food store close to my house in NYC also had about 20 or so products available in bulk.
Generally, bulk bins offer a selection of nuts, oats, rice, lentils and beans for purchase. Why are these products less expensive? The main reason is that you aren’t paying for any branded and fancy packaging or advertising for a brand. Another advantage helping your pocketbook is due to the ability to buy just the amount you need.
Stock up on healthy but inexpensive items
Incorporate as many inexpensive yet healthy products you possibly can into your meals. Consider items such as dried beans and lentils, brown rice, whole wheat pasta and eggs and use them to replace more expensive foods such as meat, cheese and dairy. Also, avoid buying processed package foods such as grain pilafs and mixes but instead use your herbs and spices along with different whole grains to create your own flavored grain dishes. It may take just a few moments longer but save you money in the long run.
Waste less food
A tried and true way to save money on food is to avoid wasting food. I already mentioned above how using frozen vegetables helps produce less food waste. Another consideration is freezing leftovers or at least plan where you will use them later in the week. Leftovers make a great lunch to take to work or maybe to heat up on a night later in the week when you know you won’t have time to cook. These two options are important to wasting less especially if are cooking for just one or two.
Meal planning is another way to eliminate wasting food. When you are meal planning you know exactly what you need to buy at the store to prepare food for the week so you are less likely to have ingredients go bad before you use them. Plus as I mentioned earlier when meal planning you can decide early on what you will do with the extras. Will they be a lunch meal later in the week? Or freezing for next week? Or are you preparing extra amounts to use in multiple recipes during the week?
However, if despite your planning and freezing, you still have vegetables that are beginning to go bad for whatever reason, consider throwing them together to create a soup. I did that this weekend before leaving town. I realized before leaving that I had an entire drawer full of vegetables I hadn’t eaten yet. It took less than thirty minutes to chop and cook them up. Now I have multiple lunches and dinners already prepared when I return home. And even better, I didn’t waste any of the money I had spent on those groceries. Think about freezing fruits as well to use later in smoothies. I do this quite often with bananas that are too ripe I don’t want to eat raw.
Make your own spice blends
I don’t know about you but I feel like I buy spices and they just last forever. There are a few exceptions because I use them more frequently. But unfortunately spices and herbs do lose some of their flavor over a period of time. So why not just buy the basics and then use them to create other combinations such as chili powder, Italian seasoning, herbs de provence and taco seasoning just to name a few.
Now I will admit that I stumbled on to idea by necessity rather than a method to save money. Buying spice blends and seasonings have been a challenge for since I moved to South America. Some that I like to use frequently I am unable to buy so I made them instead. However, it made me think that this is actually a way to save a bit of money as well. Most of them are really pretty quick and easy to throw together.
Eat seasonal fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are definitely less expensive when you buy them in season. Nowadays, it is common to see products available in the local grocery store year round. That’s because many products are imported from other countries when they aren’t available in the US. But bringing that product in from so far away costs money, and that is often reflected in the costs you see in the grocery store. For starters it’s really helpful to get familiar with what different products are available throughout the year. There are all kinds of lists put together by different organizations or even on Pinterest. You can look for your own or use the one I provide here.
Another really great way to experience seasonal fruits and vegetables is to join a CSA. When you join a community supported agriculture you receive products from them during their growing season. They differ from each other in price, product and schedule. I recommend looking into what’s available in your area. They do cost some money upfront but when you look at what you get through the entire 2-3 month season, it is well worth it. Another interesting bit about these types of organizations is that they can help expose you to a variety of products that you would never buy in the store. You don’t really get to pick and choose what you receive. They provide you with whatever is available each week and you figure out what and how to cook it.
Consider cooking more soups and stews
Soups and stews have been used for centuries as a way to make products stretch. I think it is most commonly used when meat is scarce. In those times a bit of meat is used to flavor an entire pot of plant-based foods that will fill you up. Soups and stews are also ways to make less expensive cuts of meat, which may be more tough, soften up because they are cooked slowly over time. I feel like it is definitely a trick my mom used from time to time when money was a little tight to help make her grocery budget stretch a bit.
This technique definitely translates to saving money when eating plant-based as well because when creating plant-based soups and stews you are mostly using inexpensive ingredients. Here’s an example. A 16 oz bag of Goya black beans costs $1.89 from FreshDirect. Combine it to create a soup or stew with a few vegetables, a whole grain and some herbs for seasoning you can create a meal for 6-8 people for not much money.
Look at where you are shopping
The place you shop most often may definitely be more expensive than other options around. For me, the grocery store most convenient is one of the most expensive grocery store chains in town. Of course, it is great because it is within walking distance of my home, but shopping there costs me more money. A less expensive option for fruits, vegetables and dry goods that is also close by offers much better pricing. Recently I started shopping there more frequently to save a bit of money. Also, if you have a Costco or Sam’s club membership think about what items you can buy in large quantities that are less expensive than what the grocery store charges. I know when I was younger my mom always bought Sam’s Club boneless skinless chicken breast because it was so much cheaper than the grocery store.
Avoid being sucked in by coupons
I have always felt that clipping coupons is a waste of time. I always find that most of the time coupons are for foods I wouldn’t normally buy. And more often than not, coupons are for more highly processed foods which are not the healthiest option. So if I buy something for $2.50 but save $.50, and it’s not something I really need or would usually buy…did I really save money? Just something to think about. But if you do find a coupon for something you normally buy then by all means use it because it’s saving you money.
Eliminate or cut back on eating out
Eating out is definitely more expensive than cooking at home. There is just no way around that fact. It may save you a little bit of time but to rely on it several times a week is not such a great idea if you are trying to stay within a certain budget on food spending. I am not saying you have to eliminate it completely as maybe it’s something you really enjoy or maybe it’s a way you spend time with friends. But consider reducing the frequency of these meals out if you are trying to budget your meals because this is one area I think you can significantly make adjustments and see it help. Do you eat out for lunch at work every day? Maybe you can bring your lunch a few times a week to help save a bit of money.
Avoid spending money on snack foods such as cookies, chips, sodas.
Yes, you can often find cheap versions of these foods. But they are more unhealthy and packed full of sugar, fat, sodium and lacking in other nutrients. The money, even if it’s just a couple bucks can be better used going towards something else.
I hope some of these tips help you if you are needing to sock a bit of money away or just need to cutback on the grocery store expenses. Whatever the case, I want to hear from you!! Tell me about your money saving food habits– are there any you use that I haven’t mentioned. Or maybe tell me what you think of these ideas. You can leave me a comment here on the blog or you can also send me a personal message via the contact me page.