16 Ways To Successfully Cut Your Food Budget

The price of just about all groceries is sky-rocketing upward.  Each week you can easily spend 10-20 percent more, even though you're buying basically the same foods you've always purchased.  I've written before about our personal budget.  My "food" budget includes all meals for the week as well as coffee, tea, paper, plastic, and other household items.  Since I make my own cleaning products, the ingredients to make those are also included in my number.

A quick word about budgeting.  I honestly believe budgeting is for everyone - not just those trying to make their paycheck stretch.  I'm not saying you shouldn't eat well though, I think we all have to decide our own priorities and eat the best we can with our specific budget.  What I have learned, is money saved by budgeting means a bigger savings account and less financial strain.  Basically, if you budget before you need to budget, life will be much easier for you if you're ever in that position. 

We average, for 2 adults, $60.00 per week.  I used to average just over $100.00 dollars per week but since I tightened up our budget to $50.00/week for one month and used the excess {$50.00/week} to stock up on sale items such as meat, veggies, canned or boxed items that were on sale and that we eat regularly, it's much easier to now keep my budget intact.  Remember that we also grow our own veggies and preserve them for Fall/Winter eating so my veggie purchases throughout the year are extremely limited.  I do, however, buy most of our fruits.

I don't use many coupons so you won't see a focus on that.  Why?  Because I've found it much easier to focus on store sale items and keeping our diet as much about whole foods as possible.  The reality is, you just don't find many coupons for meat, milk, veggies and boxed pasta.  I do, however, clip coupons online {I don't bother buying the Sunday paper} if I find them for the items we would normally purchase.

Here we go.

1.  Use A Meal Plan - I know, I know, I point this out in all my budgeting-type posts but I can't stress this enough.  This single step has really helped me stay on or go under budget in a few ways. 

First, I shop only off of what my grocery list says which is written straight from my meal plan.  The only time I veer off is if I know I have extra money to spend on sale items, and I do so, keeping within that budget for later consumption. 

Second, if for some reason I have less to spend that week on food, I can create a lower cost set of meals for that week.  We normally average $60.00 but say we have additional costs to cover in another area of our budget and I need to shave $20.00 off of the food budget.  I can do that by looking at my list of meals and choosing those that are least expensive for that week.

Third, I can add an expensive meal in the week {steak, lobster, etc.} by planning lesser expensive meals the remainder of the week and still stay within my food budget.

Fourth, it's a great way to plan to use leftovers either for a dinner or lunches so there is no waste.

2.  Don't Use Recipes That Call For Expensive Ingredients - if you do, use the tip from above and plan lesser expensive recipes for the remainder of the week.  Also, if the one recipe you're making doesn't use up all of that particular ingredient, try to find additional recipes that can be incorporated to use it up if it's a perishable item.

3.  Bulk Buy Sale Items - mentioned in #1, if you don't have additional money to begin purchasing sale meats, veggies, canned or boxed items that are on sale and that you eat often, make deeper cuts to your food budget for 1 month to free up $20.00 or more per week to use specifically for bulk sale purchases.  This will snowball into weekly savings.  Each week you'll be spending a bit less because you've already purchased some of the ingredients.  Use that money to continue buying bulk sale items.

4.  Invest In A Freezer - if you'll be buying sale meat in bulk, you'll need a place to store it.  Same thing goes for bulk veggies or fruits that freeze well.  Make sure you freeze any of these items in single use sized packaging.   If you can't afford to buy new, check out Craig's List, your local Want Ads or thrift stores.

5.  Learn How To Preserve Foods - if you're fearful of canning, learn what types of foods freeze well so you can buy them in bulk during sales and stock up for consumption later.  Citrus fruits {juiced}, avocados, bananas {for baking}, zucchini {for baking}, beans, carrots, onions, peppers, some herbs, ginger, broccoli, tomatoes {for sauce}, berries, etc. all freeze well.  When I freeze onions and peppers, for example, I freeze them in a few different ways.  I have bags of sliced, bags of halved peppers {for stuffed peppers} and bags of minced for soups, etc.

Related: Writing and Using A Meal Plan
               11 Tips For Eating Real Food On A Real Budget

6.  Buy Store Brands - at least try store brands.  If you don't like the flavor, you can always switch back but you'll be amazed at some of the items that taste similar or just as good as brand names.

7.  Go Meatless At Least One Day Per Week - meat is expensive so 1 meatless meal per week will automatically result in a savings. 

8.  Forgo Convenience Foods and Make More Meals From Scratch - better for your health and better for your wallet.  

9.  Use Leftovers - reducing items you throw away will result in savings.  We use leftovers for my husband's lunches.  There was a time where the man just would not eat leftovers.  My mother always inherited them. {thank you Mom!}  What I found out was he didn't like them for his dinner, but enjoyed them, instead, as lunch.  I started trying to slip a leftover as a lunch item 1 to 2 times per week.  Once he realized how good it was, he began requesting leftovers.  Now, at dinner, he'll happily say "is there some leftover for my lunch tomorrow??"

10.  Right-Size Your Recipes - cut your recipes down, if needed, to have the least amount of leftovers {unless you're trying to make enough for leftovers}.

11.  Buy Fruits/Veggies In-Season - particularly if you have any local individually owned stands you can usually find good prices.  You may also ask what their bulk price is and get enough to eat for meals that week as well as to throw in the freezer for later meals at a great savings.

12.  Make Ahead What You Can - many breads, doughs, beans, desserts, sauces, etc. can be made ahead and stored in the freezer until needed.  At the beginning of each month I make pizza dough, bread dough, muffin batter or scones, cookie dough, pie crust, bagels, English muffins, meatballs and whatever else can be made ahead and throw them right in the freezer. This will prevent you from wanting to purchase them ready made and save you time in the moment.

Also, I try to keep one or two freezer meals on hand for the nights we either don't want what's on the meal plan or for the nights we either don't have time to make what's on the plan or are missing ingredients.  This prevents the last minute calls to ordering out because we don't have other options.  If these meals aren't used in the month I've prepared them, I add them to the meal plan the next month.

In the summer I also put all of my meat with marinade in freezer bags when I get home from the grocery store.  This way all I have to do is remove it the night before to thaw so we can grill it the following night.  Also, there's many freezer meals on the internet where all ingredients are tossed in a freezer bag and added to the slow-cooker in the morning before you leave for work.

13.  Use Coupons Only For Only What You Would Typically Buy - and find out your store's policies so you can use them to your advantage.  If you find a $1.00 off coupon for an item that costs $1.50, you buy it but don't eat it, it's 50 cents wasted.  It seems like a small enough problem but it all adds up.  Also, if you typically buy store brand tomato sauce, for example, and you have a coupon for 25 cents off of a name brand, check the prices.  It may still be cheaper for you to buy the store brand with no coupon.

14.  Use Grocery Store Sale Flyers - use these flyers to determine your meals that week {or month if you meal plan for the month}.  You can also use these flyers to determine what items you'll be stocking up on that week.

15.  Know Your Prices - many of us shop at Warehouse Stores assuming the prices are better than those at the grocery store.  But are they really?  Find out if you are actually saving money before making the purchase.  What we found was we only actually saved money on 4 items we regularly purchase for groceries and if one of the grocery stores had these items on sale, the sale price was the same as the warehouse regular price.  Instead of spending money on a Warehouse Club membership, we now stock up on the grocery store version when it hits the sale price.

16.  Don't Toss Things Out - of course there are some things you'll have no choice but to toss, however, start looking at the bits and pieces you would normally toss and think what you could use them for.  As I've mentioned before, keep a container in your freezer for bits of veggies that can eventually be used in soups or stocks.  You can also keep containers for beef or chicken bones that can be cooked in the crockpot with bits of carrots, celery and/or onions and covered with water.  This will give you soup stock that can be used immediately or stored in the freezer. 

What types of things do you do to save money on your food budget?


  1. So many great tips. I think if folks grew more of their own veggies, they'd be amazed at how much they save!

  2. I learned to can tomatoes last year..lots of work but they taste better and cost so much less! I just wish I could get my husband more interested in leftovers for his lunches. Also I make my own broths and freeze into cubes for faster melting when needed and make my own bread crumbs with left over heels of bread. great tips! THANKYOU!

  3. So true Daisy.

    Hooray Elisha for canning tomatoes! They're the best, aren't they?

  4. Great tips! Thank you, Staci. I'm always looking for ways to cut down on my grocery bill!

  5. Thanks Caitlin! There's so many other things you can spend the money on. :)

  6. I like your idea of a Planner but it sure wouldn't work for us. If we make tortillas and beans (most call these burritos)for dinner (only 2 of us) we always have leftovers for days. We don't freeze our dinner leftovers, we eat them the next night for dinner. We can generally get three to four dinners out of this one meal. Of course I also serve our home-canned peaches/pears/applesauce. Thankfully I have a husband who will eat anything, hates to waste even one bean, and will mix up different dishes in the frig and be as happy as a clam. (not so much me on this one)
    Going out to dinner is very rare for us -- usually one of our grown children call and want us to meet them someplace for dinner. But other than that, we eat at home.
    I do not use coupons or weekly ads. I generally go grocery shopping once a month and replenish the pantry.
    We just moved to our farm in March 2015 and are extremely busy trying to get it up and running. We bought a foreclosure (need I say more?). Twenty-five and one-half acres with a collapsing barn. This use to be a Christmas Tree farm many years ago - now it's a total mess and in need of a lot of work and tender loving care. We are having a blast and enjoying each and every minute.
    For those of you who think you are too old - unless you have serious health issues - don't believe it. We are closer to our 70s than our 60s and are doing great. We also live on way less than $2,000 a month. We have a long ways to go, but we sure are enjoying the ride.
    Thanks Staci for such an inspiring and uplifting blog. I've been following for less than a month now but sure do enjoy what you are doing. My next challenge is to learn to make cold press soap (I think that's what it's called). Not only for ourselves, but next year we intend to give gift boxes of home-canned veggies, fruits, soap, crocheted dishcloths, and baked goods for gifts. We will also be making the crates ourselves. I love the look of your soaps. I'll start collecting supplies after the 1st of the New Year.
    Happy, Healthy and Productive New Year To You!


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