It’s no secret that food prices are not what they used to be. This year you can pay somewhere between 5 to 14% more for some food than at the same time last year.
In general, food prices have risen steadily over time, but the rise in the first half of 2022 has left some people wondering how they are going to stay within their allotted food budget by eating healthy.
In this article, we’ve compiled tips and suggestions from finance and nutrition experts. Following these tips can help you stay on budget and continue to eat healthy, whether at home or out.
Keep a budget
Table of contents
- 1 Keep a budget
- 2 Track all your food expenses
- 3 Make a menu for a week or a month
- 4 Always take a shopping list
- 5 Grab a calculator (or open a calculator app) when you go grocery shopping in person
- 6 Enroll in Product Reward and Membership Programs
- 7 Order products online
- 8 Eat seasonal local foods
- 9 Consider frozen fruits and vegetables
- 10 When you eat out, be aware of the portion size
- 11 Choose to dine out rather than dine out
- 12 Eat plant foods
- 13 Main conclusions
- 14 References
If you don’t have a spending budget yet and want to save money, what are you waiting for? It’s time to get a budget.
A budget is a plan for allocating money to various items and activities. In short, everything you spend money on during the month should be reflected in your budget. This includes groceries, rent or mortgages, streaming services, transportation, gifts, gym memberships, savings and retirement account contributions, and walking.
Some people don’t budget because they have no idea how much they spend each month. Even if you try to be conscientious about prices and food needs and be mindful of what you spend on walks, it’s very hard to know where your money is going and how you can save if you don’t have a budget.
If you have a budget, that’s great! Learn how to get the most out of your budget by creating sub-categories and updating them each time you spend money so you know how much you have left to spend in your budget.
Are you still not sure if you need a budget? Finance expert Amy Bell offers six reasons why budgeting is essential to achieving your personal and family goals.
- This will help you set long-term goals and work towards them.
- This helps make sure you don’t spend money you don’t have.
- This will help you plan for your retirement.
- This will help you be prepared for emergencies and unexpected expenses.
- It helps shed light on bad spending habits.
- This will help you avoid guessing where your money is going.
If you don’t have a budget, you can start by tracking all your expenses for a month or two. Find out what you spend money on and how much you spend. Based on this information, you can set goals for how much you want to spend in these categories.
There are many budgeting apps available, including YANAB as well as Mintwhile some prefer the old plain Excel spreadsheet.
Track all your food expenses
Having a budget is great, but it’s useless if you don’t keep track of all your expenses. Track every coffee and vending machine purchase, impulse purchases, and stops at major grocery stores.
Luckily, there are tools to help you keep track of your expenses. You can download apps like Cost manager as well as money manager which allow you to enter your immediate expenses or save receipts and check your card transactions to enter your expenses at the end of the week. Most budgeting software also has a built-in expense tracker.
Remember that if you forget to track even one transaction, things won’t even out at the end of the month.
Whether you’re calling it a weekly menu or a monthly meal plan, knowing what you’re going to eat each day is a helpful way to effectively plan your grocery shopping trips. Mark the days when you will eat out and what meals you will cook at home.
Once you’ve decided what you’ll be eating, take inventory of what you have at home and what you need to buy for those menu items. Menu items you don’t have will automatically be added to your shopping list.
Professional advice: Leave “free choice of food” for one or two days. Here you can eat leftovers, try a new recipe or order food. This will allow you some flexibility in meal planning and increase the likelihood that you will continue to plan meals.
Always take a shopping list
When you take on a shopping list, you are less likely to make impulse purchases and forget about this must-have ingredient.
Your shopping list, perfectly linked to your meal plan, will help you stay focused and save time. Also, if you often forget to use those $6 berries you bought, this can help reduce food waste.
For best results, take your shopping list and promise to stick to it.
Grab a calculator (or open a calculator app) when you go grocery shopping in person
Once you know your monthly food budget, you need to do everything you can to stay within that budget. No matter how much you do mental calculations, it is likely that you will reach the cash register only to have your eyes widen at the final amount. You either swallow your tongue and tell yourself you’ll figure it out later, or you take something out of the trash.
The best way to find out how much your grocery shopping will cost is to calculate the total quantity of your items yourself. You can do this as you progress or, if the items have price stickers, at the end of your shopping trip before queuing at the checkout.
Enroll in Product Reward and Membership Programs
Most grocery stores have loyalty programs that you can sign up for and use for free. Others have membership access with significantly lower prices on some items. Each program is unique, but it can let you access special discounts, get coupons to help you save on some of your favorite meals, or earn points to use as cash at the store later.
Advice: Read the fine print before you subscribe to anything! Make sure there are no hidden costs. If there is a membership fee, make sure the savings on items that regularly appear on your list are worth the expense.
Order products online
The COVID pandemic has made ordering groceries online more popular than ever, but many people have returned to in-person shopping as they adapt to the “new normal”.
However, you may want to consider buying groceries online to save money. Buying groceries online can help you:
- Compare product and store prices
- See your subtotal
- Prevent over-purchasing or forgetting items. You can check your pantry while placing items in the virtual shopping cart.
- Save time and money on the transportation you would use to get to and from the grocery store.
- Easily remove items you no longer need in your cart and adjust amounts to fit your budget.
- Set up recurring deliveries of essentials. This is useful if you have several of the same items that you buy weekly or biweekly.
- Buy items that are often out of stock in the store
Please note that most grocery stores charge extra for delivery. For many people, the amount of money and time they save by shopping online instead of going to the store justifies the extra expense.
Eat seasonal local foods
Eating locally produced and in-season food is generally cheaper than eating imported and out-of-season food. This is because, as a rule, if local farmers can meet the demand for products, most of the transport costs are reduced. However, if food needs to be imported from other parts of the country and the world to meet demand, prices rise.
For example, one study found that cantaloupe costs 36% less during the peak season than in the off-season.
Another plus: Buying local produce supports your local economy.
AFPA has an article about the benefits of eating local, seasonal produce here. We also have create a shopping guide for the season.
Consider frozen fruits and vegetables
Did you know that frozen fruits and vegetables contain almost the same nutrients as fresh fruits and vegetables? In fact, frozen fruits and vegetables often have more nutrients than fresh foods because freezing them at their peak of freshness preserves the nutrients, and storing them on a shelf or in the refrigerator can cause foods to lose nutrients over time.
Another big reason to consider frozen foods is that they take care of your wallet. Frozen foods tend to be much cheaper per pound. Since you can only use what you need, this also helps prevent food waste.
Frozen foods are not suitable for all meals, but they should definitely be kept on hand for convenience, budget, and nutrition.
When you eat out, be aware of the portion size
Some restaurants are famous for their huge portions. This is not necessarily a bad thing if you think economically.
If you know that a restaurant tends to serve portions that you can rarely eat on your own, plan half of your meal (or what you don’t eat) home to eat next time. If you don’t like leftovers, find a friend who’s willing to share your meal (and split the bill!)
Choose to dine out rather than dine out
If you enjoy eating out, consider having dinner dates instead. Dinner options tend to be significantly more expensive than lunch options. Sandwiches, flatbreads, soups, and lunch buffets can be your ticket to eating well on a budget while on the go.
To learn more about how to save money on eating out, see Penny keeperWeb site.
Eat plant foods
Going on a plant-based diet is not your automatic ticket to saving on your grocery bill at the end of the month. However, if you are a conscientious plant-based shopper, you can save significant amounts of money. BUT recent poll showed that plant-based consumers save an average of $23 per week on groceries. Considering family size and local prices, that’s about $100 a month!
The reason is simple: Plant-based protein-rich foods such as beans, lentils, chickpeas, and tofu are significantly cheaper than chicken, pork, beef, and fish. The difference is even greater if you buy dried legumes and pulses.than canned food those.
Rising costs of living may force us to pay attention to how much the food we eat costs.
While there is nothing people can do about inflation, they can make smart choices at restaurants, at home, and at grocery stores that will help them continue to eat well while keeping their budget in mind.
In this article, we’ve come up with twelve proven tips to help you save money on food without sacrificing nutrition, joy, or taste.