We all want to save money on food, right? I’ve been experimenting with our food budget lately and have discovered a few tips that have been saving us a decent amount of money each month. We are a family of five – my husband, myself and our three little girls (ages 5, 4 and 1). You would think little ones would be easy to feed but my goodness – my kids are all very picky (aren’t they all?) and go through snacks like there’s no tomorrow.
I’ve also always wondered if what we spend on food is “normal” compared to other families. While doing some research, I came across this chart that details monthly grocery budgets based on family size. As a family of five, we could be spending anywhere from $621 to $1660 according to the chart. And yup – we fall exactly in that range. Our total food spending each month (this includes groceries, restaurants, coffee shops, and some household supplies) ranges from $1,100 to $1,500. Whether we seem to eat out often or spend the entire month cooking at home, we always seem to fall right in that range.
Prior to wanting to save money on food, we spent closer to $1,800 per month. Since cutting back, we haven’t sacrificed one bit on quality and, since I’m more aware, dare I say we’ve been eating better?
Here are 12 ways to save money on food without sacrificing quality.
Use the Ibotta app
I recently discovered Ibotta and am kicking myself for not knowing about this sooner. Ibotta is SO EASY to use. Simply open the app before shopping and select your store (Target, Walmart, all major grocery stores, and more). Quickly search through the sale items on the app and select what you’re going to buy. Then, go shopping. When you get home, scan your receipt into the app and get cash back! I usually get $3-$5 back for every single shopping trip. This money adds up quick and can be transferred directly to your PayPal account. Sign up here and get $10 for FREE!
Make a shopping list
Obviously, shopping without a list is dangerous. I’ve done this many of times and end up with way too many snacks and not enough meals. Always, always shop with a list! And if you don’t feel like making a dinner plan, get easy things so you can make BLTs, grilled cheese, spaghetti, sausage sauteed with veggies, or even breakfast for dinner!
Shop as often as you want
Say what? That’s right – grocery shopping doesn’t just have to happen once a week. I know “experts” say it’s best to prepare for the entire week ahead and do one major shopping trip. If that works for you, then by all means do that! But, don’t feel like you “have to” in order to save money. I did an experiment a few months back and meal-planned for the entire week and only went shopping once (we still ate out once a week, too). The results? Spent the exact same amount as I do when I shop more often.
I actually prefer to go to the store every two to three days. Since I’m a stay-at-home mom, I do have this luxury. Your situation will vary. By going multiple times per week, I can buy what we need just for a few days, cook what my husband and I are in the mood for, and pick up items we ran out of.
Eat what you have
Before grocery shopping, take a hard look at your pantry, fridge and freezer. What meals can you make out of those items? If you have 2-3 meals, consider putting off shopping a few days. And, make sure to use up all those kid snacks!!
You absolutely do not have to cook new meals five times a week. If you find recipes you and your family love, you can absolutely cook them every single week. We are a very consistent family. We eat generally the same items for breakfast and lunch, weekday dinners are always simple and healthy, and on weekends we may try a new recipe or two. If you know what foods your family likes, you can stock up when those items go on sale.
Bake all your treats from scratch
Again, I have the luxury of doing this since I stay home. However, baking really doesn’t take that long (I know, it sure seems like it does though!!) and it really saves a TON of money on snacks and desserts! I almost always have all the necessary ingredients on hand to whip up something delicious. Each week, I usually make a batch of cookies or no-bake energy bites and some healthy muffins for the kids. I’ve also been making this amazing chocolate sheet cake for dessert a few times per month (I divide the recipe in half!).
Just yesterday at the store I saw Entenmann’s blueberry muffins on sale for half off, making them $2.25 for five packs of five muffins each. My girls LOVE those, but knowing I could make them at home without buying a single ingredient, I passed. They’ll appreciate coming home from school today to fresh-baked blueberry muffins!
Make delicious coffee at home
I am a total Starbucks addict, but it’s really a big waste of money when you think about it. Yes, if it brings you joy to your day and you can afford it, then by all means go get it! But, if you’re looking to save money on food then cutting out Starbucks or your daily coffee out is a great place to start. My biggest tip for eliminating Starbucks (if you’re an addict like me), is to make sure your coffee at home is REALLY GOOD! I buy Starbucks Pike Place beans or Seattle’s Best Coffee, depending on which is on sale. For creamer, I use Silk Soy Sweet Cream creamer and then add one Sweet n’ Low, served over ice of course. It really is quite delicious and saves $3.50 a day!
Make smoothies at home
Who here loves a good smoothie?! We recently made the mistake of hitting up our local smoothie shop for an afternoon treat. You guys, our total for THREE small smoothies was $25 (!!!). Never again guys, never again. I’ve always loved making smoothies at home, but this rather expensive adventure out just confirmed I will never again be buying a smoothie on the go. My absolute favorite smoothie recipe is one banana, almond milk, almond butter, ice and a TON of spinach. My kids love this one, too! You can change it up by using juice instead of milk, kale instead of spinach, and adding in other fresh fruits such as blueberries, strawberries or raspberries.
Skip the sit-down restaurants
By “sit down” I mean fancy restaurants that require a tip. We love going out to eat but try to limit it to once a week. To us, “going out” could be sandwiches from Jimmy John’s, burgers at our favorite local burger joint, Pei Wei, or some other easy restaurant where you order at the counter and they bring you your food. Not only is this way easier with kids than going to a nice restaurant, it’s also a lot less expensive. For our family of five, we almost always spend less than $25 when dining out.
Split meals at restaurants
And when you do go out to a nice restaurant, split a meal with your husband or your child! This is a really easy way to shave $5-$10 off the total cost of the meal. And with portion sizes nowadays, you’ll still be leaving the restaurant with a full belly.
Cook in bulk for the week
If you work full-time, spend Sunday afternoon cooking your lunches in bulk and dividing into Tupperware containers. Not only will this save a TON on lunches, it will also help you eat healthier foods throughout the week! I usually make this amazing meal once or twice a week to have on hand for lunches, a snack, or a quick dinner. My kids and husband love it, too! We also love to grill chicken in batches to have on hand for salads, snacks for the kids, or to heat up for dinner served with a side of veggies.
Shop bulk snacks
We have a Costco membership and stock up on snack items that are on sale. Regular purchases include Cliff Zbars (my kids love these for breakfast and/or with their lunch!), Nutrigrain bars (we paid $9 for a box of 36), Nature Valley Oat n’ Honey granola bars, Sun Chips, popcorn, applesauce and more. Yes, my kids usually get the same 3-4 items in their lunch every day (paired with fresh fruit), but they’re happy with it and it saves us money.
What are your tips for saving money at the grocery store while still eating delicious food?! Please share in the comments!