Here are fifteen ways to eat great food for less money, for people who like good food but don’t want to spend all your money on it. You can eat delicious, healthy food but not break the bank. Got any other ideas? Let me know in the comments below!
1. Commit to making the majority of dinners at home
Look, I am also a fan of Grubhub and eating out, but the quickest way to save money on food is to make it yourself. It’s also healthier because you know and controls exactly what’s going into it. Finding a couple of food blogs I loved and cooking from them weekly was a game-changer.
2. Pack your own lunch
Similarly, taking your own lunch to work will save you big bucks. Let’s assume you spend $8 to $10 a day on work lunches – that’s $160 to $200 a month. If you make your own lunch at home, you can make an orzo salad for as little as $3.11 per serving or a glazed chicken meal for as little as $2.53 per serving. If you brought in your own lunch daily at $3 per serving, you would save $100 to $140 per month or $1200 to $1680 per year.
3. Eat food that’s in season
When you buy produce that’s in season, it’s cheaper and tastes better. Here’s a basic seasonal produce guide.
4. Shop the deals
Look at the store coupons, download the store app, get the Target newsletter – however you want to find the deals do it. Don’t buy any stuff you don’t need though just because it’s on sale. Make your grocery list first (#12 on this list) and then look for coupons. Pay attention in the store to the prices of different cuts of meat or produce and see if there’s a discount or offer you can take advantage of.
5. Don’t buy packaged foods
This one’s hard because it’s convenient to buy the prechopped veggies and if you’re in a rush then it might be worth it, but for a normal day – don’t get the prepackaged stuff.
6. Buy in bulk
Meat, spices, legumes, and much more are all cheaper if you buy in bulk. If you have freezer or cabinet space make use of it! Check with your local butcher to see if you can buy humanely raised meat in bulk (half a cow, half a pig, etc) and then compare it to the grocery store prices and you’ll see how much you’ll save. Check out the bulk section at your grocery store to see what’s available and plan to stock up there seasonally.
7. Look for recipes that give the $ amount per serving
Many great food blogs are now giving the price per serving. Budget Bytes does a great job of this.
8. Don’t waste food
American families throw out about 25% of the food and beverages they buy (source). About two-thirds of that is because of food spoilage. This is tough with produce (I’m looking at you, Avocados!) especially. Pay attention to what’s in your fridge and on your counter and plan to eat it before it goes bad.
9. Pay attention to farmer’s market deals
Farmer’s Markets have a bit of a bad rap in being too expensive. There are certainly high priced, high-quality goods at the Farmer’s Market. People have worked hard to make what they’re selling you – and they’ve most likely grown their goods in an ethical, sustainable way. Supporting that kind of process feels good. Pay attention to what’s in season and there’s plenty of (think tomatoes in August) and you’ll probably find a good deal on it. I typically find tomatoes, zucchini, herbs, cucumbers, stone fruit, and apples are cheaper at the Farmer’s Market.
10. Know which produce to buy organic
Knowing the Clean 15 & Dirty 15 can save you a lot of money. The Clean 15 is a list of produce that you don’t have to buy organic, because it has less pesticide residue. This list includes avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbages, onions, frozen sweet peas, papayas, asparagus, mangoes, eggplants, honeydews, kiwis, cantaloupes, cauliflower, and broccoli. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s site for more information.
The Dirty 15 is a list of produce that you should buy organic. In some cases, more than 80% of these fruits and vegetables test positive for significant pesticide residue. This list includes strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, potatoes, and sweet bell peppers.
11. Meal plan, meal plan, meal plan!
Make a plan for what you’re going to cook so you can shop with a list (see below) and so you can use items like garlic, herbs, etc that you have to buy a bunch of in several meals. Meal planning will help you actually stick to your goal of cooking at home.
12. Grocery shop with a list
This is essential to making sure you don’t overbuy or impulse buy. Write down the amount (in ounces, cups, whatever) that you need as well so you get exactly what you need. And, if it’s not on the list, don’t buy it – sorry delicious peanut butter cups in the checkout aisle – not today!
13. Grow your own
Even if you have only a tiny outdoor space or one sunny window, you can grow herbs. If you have more space, start basic with tomatoes, peppers, and zucchini (they all grow like mad). Planting, weeding, and harvesting a great workout as well!
14. Get a slow cooker
Become friends with a crockpot/slow cooker. They make delicious, succulent dinners while you’re at work or lovely, peanut butter oatmeal while you sleep. Slow cooker meals are usually cheap because they often have legumes (which are inexpensive!) that benefit from a long, slow cook.
15. Find a you-pick place near you
If there’s an orchard or farm near you that lets you come pick produce, it will likely be much cheaper than similar produce at the grocery store or farmer’s market. You can really save money on berries! It’s a fun day outside and if you pick too much you can always freeze your bounty to enjoy later.