When I started tracking my expenses back in August ’18, I realised that I was spending a lot of money on food. Way more than necessary. If I wanted to save money, this was a category in which I could make a significant difference. Now it’s a few months later and I’m happy to share my favourite 5 easy ways to save money on food.
Saving money on food
Especially when you start making changes to the way you get your food, you realise that big improvements are in the small adjustments. These ways to save money on food won’t make a huge impact in one day, but all together they can save you few hundred bucks – each month! So here we go.
1. Stop ordering food
Yes, I know. You work hard, you have more than enough on your mind. Once it’s time to relax, you don’t want to worry about grocery shopping and spending 30 minutes in the kitchen. It is so much easier to just order food and get it delivered to your doorstep ready to eat. Or maybe you’re not even done working yet and instead of spending your time on preparing food, it will be more efficient if you order something and keep working.
I’ve used all the excuses and they have cost me more than €60 some months. That has probably been 3 or 4 meals, which I can cook for €3 each. You do the math how much you could save on this.
2. Stop buying quick coffees & lunches
I love meeting with friends in a cute coffee place or going for long lunches. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the coffees and lunches that don’t add any value to your life and that you won’t even remember next week. A quick stop at Starbucks on your way to a client meeting. A fast salad from the deli at the corner for lunch. I had months where I easily spent €60 or €70 on this. Now I allow myself €15 per month for this category, but often I don’t even get to that anymore. Instead, I buy good coffee for at home and bring lunch to work, saving about €50 per month.
3. Start meal planning
Now that you stop ordering food and need to bring lunch to work, there is a new challenge: not overspending at the supermarket. Something I only recently started doing is meal planning. About once a week I sit down, decide on the meals I will eat each day for lunch and dinner, and I make my grocery list accordingly. Often I cook two servings while I live alone, so the leftovers make a great lunch the next day or I freeze them in and eat them the following week.
Meal planning is beneficial in various ways. First of all, it makes #1 and #2 a lot easier to stick to. When you already have all the ingredients, you may as well eat them. (Also, nobody said you’re not allowed to plan in a frozen pizza or other pre-made food, as long as it comes from the supermarket!) Second, whenever you go to the supermarket, you often buy more than you were planning on. That’s why it often gets really expensive if you go grocery shopping every day. With meal planning, you can cut your grocery trips to once a week or even once every two weeks. And finally, when you plan out your meals and make a good grocery list, focus just on what’s on your list and don’t even go into the others isles. No more impulse shopping!
4. Give the cheap brands a try
I grew up in a home where we only went to the most well-known supermarket and all the food was branded. But going to cheaper stores like Aldi and Lidl can save you so much money! Especially Lidl has great quality wines and cleaning products, which are usually quite expensive. If the budget grocery store is far away, just go once a month and buy products like that for the whole month, so that you only need to buy your fresh products at more expensive supermarkets.
In my case, the Lidl is actually at walking distance, but they don’t have every single thing that I need. I know it’s a bit extreme, but since I started meal planning, I go to the Lidl, buy what I can, and then make another trip to the huge store outside the city and buy the rest.
But even at those stores, you can still save money. I made the agreement with myself that I have to try the budget brand / private label in each product category. Only if it’s really disappointing, I’m allowed to buy the A brand next time. So far, the only product I continue buying the expensive brand is coffee. The store brand is just not tasty. But hey, I’m not buying Starbucks anymore!
5. Use a budget
It’s not the most fun thing to do, but why not set a budget on your food spendings? When you’ve cooked some more expensive recipes at the start of the month, that just means you’ll have to find cheaper options later. Challenge yourself and set your budget just a bit below what you feel is reasonable. You will see that if you want, you can actually quite easily stick to it!
What are your favourite ways to save money on food? Share your tips in the comments!