We’re trying to get out of debt and catch up on bills so we’ve been trimming our budget. Hard. Add on the fact that my 11 year old needs a root canal and back to school shopping has to happen… And it’s tight. Very right. So I’ve been searching how to stretch your food budget so I can save money.
Updated for 2022: With the supply chain issues and inflation going up, food prices are either raising or set to rise very soon. It’s now more important than ever to stretch every dollar of your food budget. Use these tips to make the most of your grocery store visits and still eat healthy.
Tips to Stretch Your Food Budget and Save Money on Groceries
No matter what your food budget currently is or how many mouths there are to feed you can usually find ways to slash. The food budget is also one of the first places people go because it’s a variable expense – something you actually have some control over.
But it’s haaaard.
I like to eat. (Spoilers: I’m overweight). I also enjoy having nice things like berries and Greek yogurt with granola. Or baked brie. Or the good coffee.
I’m also pretty good at baking and cooking and we make almost everything from scratch in our house. Oreos are a rare treat and they actively prefer homemade pizza.
Stretch your food budget by meal planning
Meal planning is probably the best, and easiest way to stretch your food budget. It’s also, in my opinion, the hardest one. That’s because it’s sooo time consuming and annoying to plan every. single. one. of your meals every day, week, month… You get the idea.
But having a plan in place for your meals is like having a plan in place for your money – without it you’ll end up guessing and overspending.
Ever gone to the grocery store and just bought what looked good? Or picked up half the things you needed for a meal? How about buying too much in bulk that you can’t eat? Me too. A lot.
Thanks Costco samples.
Meal planning will mean you waste less and you buy less expensive impulse purchases.
Cook from scratch
Ever heard the expression “why go out for burgers when you have steaks at home?”. Well it’s true, especially when it comes to eating out. You can buy a whole box of burgers for the cost of one McDonald’s meal. Or if you want something even more delicious, you can make your own homemade burgers.
But there’s a tonne of ways to cook at home to save money. Store bought muffins are ridiculously expensive and super cheap to make, for example. I also make use of my leftovers with things like soup – often these leftovers would have gone uneaten otherwise. Soup that costs $2 a can be made for much, much less from scratch. Plus it’s better for you.
Use local farmers
There’s so many ways that I’ve done this through the years. I was subscribed to a local farming co op that provided me with fresh fruit and veggies all summer long. It was way cheaper, healthier, and tastier than buying from the store. Plus at the end we all pitched in to harvest and got to take home buckets, literally, of tomatoes, squash, and potatoes.
Sometimes you can also get much cheaper produce from upick type places. As a bonus, you also get a great family experience and it doubles as an activity to do with the kids.
Now my family grows our own veggies in the summer and I have a raspberry patch but I still look to local farmers for certain things. My potatoes come in a 50lb bag for $15 and I buy my eggs from local farmers for $2.50 a dozen. Here in Manitoba these are good prices.
Make meals strategically
We try and keep our costs for breakfast and lunch down whenever possible and then splurge a few nights a week on a nicer dinner.
Chicken and pork are cheaper than beef where I live, so we those proteins more often than beef. When we do cook, we also plan leftovers to make multiple meals and stretch our money.
Plan around what’s on sale
Usually when sitting down to do my meal plan I take a look at the flyers where I’m shopping. If I see a good deal I’m going to incorporate those things into my meal plan. I also frequent my local grocery store that often has great deals on meat.
You can keep things exciting by serving the same on-sale foods in different ways – like BBQ chicken legs one day and breaded another, or using ground beef in tacos and Shepard’s pie, and so on.
If it doesn’t break the budget too bad I will stock up when I see sale prices for things I use all the time. BBQ sauce, which we love, goes on sale sometimes for 50 cents. It’s easy to store so I don’t mind buying a few.
Cut Back on Meat
Meat isn’t even that good for you when eaten too often. It can be nice to have, and definitely part of your balanced diet, but a huge slab of meat shouldn’t be an everyday dinner staple.
First of all, you can replace meat with other proteins. Eggs are cheap, readily available, and super nutritious. Don’t just eat them for breakfast! Other great meat-substitutes are beans, lentils, and mushrooms. Plus they’re all a lot cheaper!
You’ll be a lot healthier if you start replacing some of your meat servings with extra veggies.
You might also like: How to Dial Back Your Spending
Use coupons and cash back smartly
I’m always hesitant to recommend coupons because I know from personal experience and many anecdotes that they can cause you to buy things you don’t need because “it’s a good deal”. I also got a $5 off coupon in the mail for the allergy meds we buy anyway, so in that case it was an amazing deal.
If you’re going to use coupons be careful to only use the ones on products you’d buy anyway. Make your list then look for coupons. Not the other way around.
As for cash back, same thing. I use the Checkout 51 app to sometimes get cash back but I only look to see if things on my list are on there after I make it.
Another great way to use cash back is with a credit card – if you pay it down right away. The best are the ones that give you cash back or points that you can use on groceries.
This is my least favourite (obviously) but most useful tip for saving money on groceries. I recently gave up Diet Pepsi and it’s saved us a fair bit of money off our bills. Sometimes you can eat worse cuts of meat or cheaper alternatives. Or go meatless.
It’s going to be challenging sometimes but you can totally save money on your grocery bill by making some smart changes and sacrifices.
How do you stretch your food budget?