How Can You Save Money?

Food is really expensive these days. I’m old enough to remember when you could buy a box of cereal without a coupon for a $1.00. Last time I was in Kroger there were some cereals that were $5.99 a box. And that wasn’t for a healthier Kashi cereal. No, that was for Cinnamon Toast Crunch. (I didn’t buy it!)

I get asked about budgeting and eating healthy. It really can be a challenge to eat healthy and save money at the same time. It’s great to use coupons, but if you are like me, many of the coupons in the circulars are for foods we don’t eat. If you don’t eat much processed foods, coupons aren’t going to be a tremendous help to you.

With a family of nine, our food budget is high. Especially with a teenage boy and four little boys under him who are all growing quite nicely. Because we don’t eat a lot of boxed foods, I have to save money by using some strategies that work for me. 

Here are some strategies I’ve found that help me stay on budget.

Buy frozen veggies when on sale, but check to make sure there is no added sodium.

Buy meat when it’s on sale and freeze what you won’t use right away.

Look for “overripe” produce deals at your grocery store. Overripe bananas can be frozen!

Buy in bulk and properly store products like rice and grains.

Pack your lunches for the office and when you travel.

Don’t buy bottled water unless your water isn’t good to drink.

Eat meatless meals a couple times a week.

Make lentil and bean burgers and freeze them.

I don’t always stick with my budget, but I try. I’ve found that even though we spend quite a bit on food, I know that it could be worse. When I walk through the grocery store aisles and see the prices of “convenience” foods I know that it’s better and less expensive to make my own.

What’s your best money saving food tip?  Diane

33 thoughts on “How Can You Save Money?

  1. Marsial2010 says:

    1. I rarely throw out anything. I save even tiny bits of leftovers in little half-cup containers and combine a spoonful of this or that to create a lunch or snack.

    2. I never buy bottled water.

    3. I know prices and brands (including store brands – some store brand products are wonderful and way less expensive than brand names) — then I shop several stores (we are fortunate in that we have several supermarkets close to us). Sometimes I stop at several in one outing; other times, like today, I need two items that only one store has so I’m just going to run out to get those things.

    4. Despite fairly short growing season, I plant a few veggies each year — tomatoes, pickles, squash, radishes herbs (my tarragon plant is 20 years old — only herb that survives our harsh winters).

    5. My husband takes a packed lunch to work each day.

  2. Roxie says:

    I don’t necessarily pinch pennies, but I do like getting value for my money. I don’t buy processed or convenience foods, so as you say, coupons don’t do me much good.

    I am really good at not throwing anything out, so I guess that means that I am pretty good at planning, even if it’s now planning for one. I am a little different in that I don’t believe in keeping an enormous amount of money tied up in pantry inventory. A few basics is fine – I can always whip up an omelet or a “clean out the leftovers” soup.

    My biggest money saving tip is to pack my lunch to work every day. It saves me money and it saves my health. I can control what I eat and what’s in it. There is a young receptionist in my office who is newly single and in a tight for money and complaining about her weight, but yet she goes out for the $7 or $8 dollar lunch every day. It’s not my place to say anything, but there is a different way. Bringing my lunch to work is a cornerstone in my weight-maintenance efforts.

  3. Fran says:

    I buy frozen veggies most of the times because my husband doesn’t like all veggies and if frozen I can get out what I need. I never buy bottled water because the water here is good. I also buy meat when it’s on sale. Products that aren’t overdue soon I also buy when on sale. And I take my lunch to work but do buy a glass of milk and a salad at work.

    Best tip I have I think is buy what’s on sale (if you need it of course). I do my groceries at two stores now. One is a low budget store which has very good products but not everything I need. The rest I buy at a grocery store that’s a bit more expensive.

  4. Diane says:

    For me it is watch the sales fliers , plan a menu and a list according to those sales and then shop with a list. Do your own cutting, packaging and butchering, and never put all your eggs in one basket( shop for everything under one roof). We do our shopping at 5 different stores – in our area we have the option of almost 20 different chains and independents so pricing is very competitive ! I also buy the discounted produce- one of hour stores sells literally BOXES of overripe bananas, ,tomatoes, peppers and so forth for a dollar. With our small family , 25 lbs of overripe bananas is a serious commitment, but 25 lbs of overripe tomatoes can become a very manageable batch of marinara sauce for the freezer !

  5. Mbini says:

    Thanks for that tip about bananas. I saw cheaper ripe bananas only last weekend. But thought I cant buy too much as they will get spoiled. I will remember that. Especially for smoothies.

    It doesnt matter what I try, my groceries are just too expensive compared to my friends’ with similar size families. I can do better.

  6. Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman says:

    Anyone who says healthy eating is cheaper than eating junk is delusional. Eating healthy is expensive, but it’s something I make room for in my budget. I also buy frozen veggies to save. I don’t buy much meat, which is more expensive, and I use a Pur water filter instead of buying bottled water. But the thing that’s saved me the most is not buying lunch every day. I pack a lunch for me and my husband and we cut down so much on unnecessary eating out.

  7. Tara says:

    My best money saver is planning! By only buying what I need for the next week’s meals (after checking to see what’s on sale at my local stores), I save a ton of money. I rarely throw stuff out or waste food anymore. Plus, the planning means I no longer spend money on lunches, as I bring my own and it’s saving me time too.

  8. Shawnee says:

    I pretty much make all my own foods as well. A lot of organic or whole foods companies put coupons right on their website. There is a local dairy place “Horizon Organics” that always has coupons. Also, Cascadian Farms has a newsletter you can sign up for and does periodical coupons.

  9. Emergefit says:

    Diane, I first want to say that I appreciate this post, and the intentions behind it — I truly do, but today I will be playing the part of the contrarian:

    Food is where I like to spend my money — invest my money, and I encourage others to do so. I, like many Americans, am on a budget. I don’t earn a great deal of money, and times are tough all over. I have a daughter in college, and a small business to run. That said, investing in my body, even during lean economic times, for me, makes sense. I don’t look for ways to save — because the money spent on quality foods IS an investment.

    Example: I will scrimp and I will save in other areas of my life, to support my desire to eat grass-fed beef — because this is an area that I’m just not willing to compromise in.

    I will work a little harder, a little longer if need be that I don’t compromise at the grocery store or at the farmer’s market, and buy fresh, not frozen.

    My point in this rant? That while I agree that saving and cutting back is important in lean economic times, I would be willing to bet most people could cut back in other areas of their lives, that they can still invest in good fuel for their bodies.

    This is an area where it should feel good to spend a little more.

  10. Karen@WaistingTime says:

    I use coupons when I can and shop the weekly sales when they fit our likes. When I can, I get things at Costco if they are cheaper that way. And, I eat out wayyyyy less often so that saves tons:)

  11. Desert Agave says:

    The main way I save money is by not eating out. I used to eat out or eat take-out three to five times a week. Since cutting out that habit, the grocery bill has gone up, but I keep reminding myself that we’re still saving money if you look at the big picture.

  12. Jody - Fit at 52 says:

    Great advice Diane! I switched over to frozen veggies.. PLAIN! I buy a huge bag at Costco with great variety of veggies in it. I also look for the sales at my local Sprouts & when the chicken breasts go on sale for $1.99/pound, I BUY!!!! They have lots of good sales so I keep a watch. Costco also sells Fage yogurt now!!!

  13. Sharon says:

    I echo ALL of the above. To enable me to retire at 48 and travel with my husband on his breaks from teaching, I became the queen of saving in ways that worked for us.

    Here’s one I don’t think has been mentioned. In your favorite grocery store, know the times of day when items are marked down and also the specific places those items are placed. Mid-morning is the perfect time for me to grocery shop because I find bargains in EVERY department, but I’ve had to learn where they put them – some are thrown in shopping carts in out-of-the-way places, others are where you’d normally find them, just down on a lower shelf. Deli/bakery items are on rolling shelves around the corner from the deli.

    In the past month, I’ve gotten 10 boxes of cereal (shredded wheat, bran flakes, raisin bran, cheerios) for $.78 per box. Boxes were dented. Extra large containers of Dishwasher Detergent for $.99. Labels had changed on the product. Normal price – $3.89. Decaf coffee – $1.99 for 26 oz can. Normal SALE price – $4.99. Again, cans were dented.

    I am lucky to be able to shop at unusual times, but I’ve also seen these bargains at peek store times simply because people don’t realize they are there. BTW – I shop mostly at Kroger, but have seen them use this same concept at their affiliates all over the US.

  14. Hope says:

    I WISH I had some good tips! Eating healthy is expensive, and I probably spend about $25-30 a week on food for myself, including produce.

    What gets me is that is so much more expensive to eat healthy than it is to eat crap. What’s up with that?

  15. JourneyBeyondSurvival says:

    If we trade out our junk for healthy, it really does even out. I’ve done the math, and a six pack of soda or juice boxes does equal a pound of apples. Chips and a bag of carrots. If we look at it as trading up for an equivalent price, it’s actually a deal. The only time it tends not to be is when we hang on to our junk food.

  16. Stacy says:

    I am a bit of a foodie, so I like expensive food. However, I have found ways to save. I am lucky that I have a friend that raises Angus beef, so once a year we buy a 1/4 and that keeps us in hamburger and steaks. I have a friend who knows someone who knows someone that has a fishing boat in Alaska. Once a year we buy a haul of fresh caught salmon and halibut. I joined a CSA for the summer and intend to freeze some of that extra organic produce. I love fresh herbs, so I used what I have in my garden during the summer and freeze them to use during the winter. Eating healthy is more work than the high fat convenience food, but overall it doesn’t have to be more expensive. I would say it can be the same amount, though.

  17. Jess says:

    I shop mostly at ethnic food stores (Middle Eastern, Korean, Chinese, Indian, Thai) because the veggies, fruits and meats are so much cheaper.

    And at regular grocery stores, I go for the generic brands if I’m buying stuff like yogurt and milk. And then I buy things in bulk if I can, like from Costco or Food 4 Less. And then if I’m really searching for stuff, like organic cheese and what not, I go for Trader Joe’s and not Whole Foods.

    I definitely buy uncooked beans over cooked beans, cheaper that way. Things that I can make, I try to, since it’s usually cheaper 🙂

  18. Joy says:

    I’ve found that when I eat quality food I eat much less of it. I was worried earlier this year when DH and I both changed our eating habits that we would not be able to afford our new lifestyle. But our grocery bill hasn’t changed much- it’s even a little lower.
    I know a few area stores that sell dented can merchandise and it’s worth the drive to hit those once in awhile and save money that way.

  19. Pam says:

    Farmer’s Markets!

    I have been able to buy bulk produce and can or freeze things to use over the next year that have saved me tons of money, not to mention given me peace of mind that I knew exactly where it came from and had no additives.

  20. Cynthia (It All Changes) says:

    For me since I’m a vegetarian now I have started buying my beans in bulk and must making them up ahead of time to put in the freezer. I stay away from as much prepackaged stuff as I can.

    And over ripe bananas are great to freeze and taste like banana ice cream if you put them in the food processor or make a great ice pop is you skewer them before freezing.

  21. Sandi says:

    I buy some things in bulk, and also generic instead of brand name. I also try to only buy the produce that we will use. It is very easy to buy too much and then have it rot. I have learned to freeze what I can if I see that we will not use it before it goes bad.

  22. Tami says:

    Great post! I buy a lot of items at the warehouse stores and I shop at Super Walmart or Winco foods as they are the cheaper grocery stores in my area.

    If I plan out my weekly menu we have less food go to waste. I have a clear plan of what we need to buy and it is also easier to eat healthy with a plan in place.

  23. 'Drea says:

    Diane,

    Good tips. I love the one about freezing bananas.

    I have to admit, though, I tend to splurge on food since I’m *usually* modest with money in a lot of other departments.

  24. jenn says:

    Good tips. Eating healthy can be expensive. Buying whole foods is expensive enough but then when you add on organic, free range, raw, ect. it can be overwhelmingly expensive. At least for us. We get our produce from a CSA which is pretty cost effective considering the quality. I’ve found Trader Joe’s has better deals on most things than the big supermarkets. I also buy some items in bulk.

  25. Tish says:

    We used to go out for dinner 3 or 4 times a week. Now, it’s maybe twice a month. Mostly this was so that we could eat healthy food that was on our plan, but the savings are a definite added benefit!

  26. Babbalou says:

    I eat mostly fresh vegetables rather than frozen because I like them tossed with olive oil and roasted. I have a small garden but also buy a lot of my produce from the farmers’ market or at Costco even though we’re mostly a family of two these days. I buy three or four vegetables and then build my meals around what I’ve purchased so I don’t waste anything. Rather than a big tub of lettuce I buy fresh spinach for salads since I can blanch it and freeze the excess for soups, although right now I’m eating salad greens from my garden. I freeze most fruits when they’re on the verge of becoming over ripe – kiwis (peeled first), grapes, strawberries, plums or peaches (pitted), etc. Kiwis and grapes, like bananas, can be eaten staight from the freezer. The other fruits I use for smoothies or add to cottage cheese. I buy large tubs of plain yogurt at Costco (for the price of a much smaller tub at a regular store) and use it both plain and in cooking (in curries, pancakes, on baked potatoes or tortillas). I buy feta and goat cheese at Costco and freeze in portion sizes so I always have these favorites on hand. I also freeze cooked rice and tend to buy whole chickens rather than parts so I usually have chicken stock in my freezer. Once every two weeks I’ll make a batch of soup, using whatever vegetables I have around. I buy steak, pork chops and salmon at Costco and freeze into modest portion sizes. Once I’ve shopped I try to eat most of what I’ve bought (except the frozen cheese and meat) before I shop again so I don’t lose track of what’s in my freezer. I guess I mostly save money by not wasting, by not buying prepared or packaged food, by rarely eating out and by watching portion sizes, particularly of meat, when I cook. But I don’t resort to eating bad food to save money, in the long run it’s not worth it to me.

  27. BlessedMama says:

    Great tips! To save money, I only use cash – that limits my overspending. I shop at three stores: a bulk store, a discount store, and a mainstream store – in that order. That pretty much keeps me on budget.

  28. Cammy@TippyToeDiet says:

    I’m only shopping for one, so my needs and patterns are a little different. Buying in bulk doesn’t always work for me, depending on the shelf life of the item in question. (Lesson learned the hard way.)

    I use up a separate email account for receiving “healthier” brand newsletters and emails, which often include coupons. I just got a 3-for-2 coupon for Chobani yogurt yesterday!

    I’ve also discovered that Target has better prices than Kroger on some of the foods I buy regularly. My local salsa favorite (Pancho’s) is $0.50 cheaper and organic celery was $0.30 less. They even had bananas yesterday for $0.19/pound! I hadn’t thought of Target as a go-to grocer before. I haven’t checked their frozen veggie section yet, but I will this winter, I’m sure.

  29. Leah says:

    My best money saving tip is to plan ahead. When I have a menu and I plan what I’ll need for those meals I don’t buy extra stuff that’s not going to be used. I also make sure that if I don’t make a meal I planned for that I use it for the next week’s menu, then I use that stuff up before buying more.

    Also, I’ve noticed that buying fruits and veggies haven’t cost us more, because at the same time I’ve whittled down how much processed stuff I buy. It’s evening out and I’m grateful! 😉

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