[Editor's Note: This article focuses primarily on shopping. For more tips on lowering food cost, my e-book, The Penny-Pinching Hedonist: How to Live Like Royalty with a Peasant's Pocketbook, offers 10 pages of advice on dining out, and 30 pages on frugal gourmet cooking at home (as part of 280 pages, total, on all aspects of having fun cheaply). A huge bargain at $8.50.]
When trying to cut expenses, food is a great place to start because there are so many opportunities to save. One way to watch your savings pile up and be able to use it for a goal, such as a vacation, down payment on a home or paying off debt, is to put the cash you saved from any purchase into an envelope or a jar until you get enough to make a bank savings deposit. Make a strict rule to not use the money for anything else but your goal. Here are thirteeen easy ways to reduce your food budget that will help you achieve this:
1. If you don't want to stop going out to eat, check your local newspaper, the back of grocery receipts and junk mail flyers for restaurant coupons. A lot of restaurants offer "buy 1 meal get 1 free" on certain days of the week. If you want to cut back even more, cut back on the number of times you go out in a month or week.
2. Shop grocery outlets. Every major city has them. Ours is called *The Canned Food Warehouse*. Not every item in the store is a deal; you have to know normal food prices to compare, but when you do find a deal, it is usually a great one. You will find enough of these deals to make your trip worth it.
3. Be sure to comparison shop. Look at the sale tag on the item's shelf and see how much per pound, ounce or whatever the item is sold as. Compare that to the other products to determine which is the best deal.
4. Always check the weekly grocery ads for the good sales. If there is a really good deal on something, be sure to buy it in multiples. This will save you from paying full price later.
5. Use coupons for food products. I have found the best way to use them is combined with a sale. Most of the time, if you use a coupon without combining it with a sale, you will still be paying more than other brands, so be sure to watch for this.
6. Always use your leftovers. This saves a tremendous amount of money and time by extending your shopping trips. If you need ideas for using leftovers, check out *The Leftover Recipe E-book* that includes over 100 ideas and recipes for leftovers here: http://homemakersjournal.com/leftovers.htm
7. Grow as much produce as you can to eat fresh and/or preserve for later. To save as much money as possible, start plants from seed. This can really add up quick and you will know how your food was grown rather than wondering what chemicals may have been applied to the plants of the produce you purchase. If you purchase organic produce to relieve this worry, it can be quite expensive.
8. Stop buying junk food, sodas and prepared food. These are not only expensive, but unhealthy, therefore a waste of your hard-earned dollars.
9. Always shop with a grocery list and stick to it so you don't buy unnecessary or expensive items.
10. Never shop hungry! Have you ever gone grocery shopping hungry? I have and I wanted to buy everything in sight because everything looked delicious! I didn't buy everything in sight, but, I did increase our grocery bill that day! Also, because I was hungry, I didn't feel like shopping or making decisions so this added to the problem.
11. About Kids. It is good training for kids, if they are old enough, to comparison shop; I usually ask mine to go get the cheapest ketchup, or whatever is nearby so I can still see them, so they get hands-on experience (you'll need to supervise this in the beginning, then later you'll be able to trust they are making the right decisions). Kids have a tendency to ask for things in the store; the best way to handle this is to let them get something within a set price limit and keep this limit each time you go shopping. If your kids are younger, you may want to consider leaving them at home with a friend or relative; younger kids can tire and get difficult in the store spoiling your frugal efforts.
12. Shop at the store's off-peak hours when you will be less rushed and can make better decisions.
13. Check out the *Fantastic Frugal Grocery Tips* E-book to learn even more ways of reducing your food budget. Among the many frugal grocery tips, you'll learn about freeze and stock foods, saving in rural areas, how to make a price book and more! Click here for more information: http://homemakersjournal.com/frugalgrocerytips.htm
Apply these tips to your life and I guarantee you'll see results!
©, 2003, Monica Resinger
[Editor's Note: Reminder: Lots more food tips in The Penny-Pinching Hedonist: How to Live Like Royalty with a Peasant's Pocketbook.]
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