Food is one of the most important aspects of our lives, with the quality and quantity of what we eat is incredibly influential in terms of our physical health and mental well-being. Because you eat food every day as a force of habit, it can be easy to lose track of how much money you have spent on it, and it can actually represent a significant portion of your weekly budget when you add everything together.
If you’re looking for a way to keep some extra cash in your pocket, then re-examining your eating habits and identifying places you can save money is a great place to start. The following are 5 strategies you can use to save money on food.
1. Create a budget to identify savings
The first thing you should do (if you haven’t already) is to list your weekly food expenditure so you can see exactly what you’re spending the most money on and whether or not you can find a cheaper alternative. For example, if you realize that you’re spending $60 a week on work lunches and snacks, then you can create a plan to bring lunch from home and eliminate that expenditure.
A budget will also allow you to optimize your grocery shopping so that you know exactly what to buy and how much of it you need to last the week. Having a plan in your head of what you are going to purchase will also help you avoid impulse buying things you don’t really need.
Bonus tip: Don’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach, as you will be more likely to think with your stomach and buy food items you would have otherwise walked past.
2. Cook more at home
One of the best ways to save money on food is to simply eliminate your spending on takeaway or frozen meals by cooking healthy meals for yourself. This obviously requires a commitment of time and effort from you, but the amount of money that you save by cooking with raw ingredients will make it well worth it.
If the reason you don’t cook very much is that you find it too tiring or difficult after work, then there are solutions out there for you. For example, you could subscribe to a service that delivers fresh ingredients to your front door, allowing you to easily prepare balanced meals such as Bengal chicken curry, mushroom risotto, and a variety of other healthy recipes without having to worry about planning.
Another trick to make cooking at home a little easier for you is to involve other people and make it a social activity. Cooking is a great way to bond with the ones you love – just make sure you take extra care if you are getting any children to help you.
3. Prepare food in bulk
If you really want to stretch your dollar when it comes to your weekly food expenditure, then preparing large batches of a meal you can reheat in the microwave is an impactful extra step. The principle of this strategy is simple – deliberately cook more than you can eat in one sitting so that your ‘leftovers’ can go in the fridge and be taken in a microwave-safe tub (or other food storage container) to work or be enjoyed for dinner throughout the rest of the week.
A slow cooker or ‘crockpot’ is an excellent kitchen appliance to have if you want to prepare large batches of food easily. With a slow cooker, you can set the ingredients to cook over the time you’re at work, so you’ll have hot food waiting for you when you get home.
When you begin to cook bigger batches of food and embrace the cost-effectiveness of taking leftovers to work as your lunch, you will quickly notice your savings increase. Not every meal needs to be unique or look neat on a plate – eating bowls of nutritionally dense food that you’ve prepared in bulk is a much more financially sustainable norm to adopt.
4. Grow your own produce
There’s no better way to save money on food than to cultivate it yourself – but this is not always realistic or convenient for most people. The extent to which you become self-sufficient is entirely up to you and what you’re prepared to invest your time and energy.
For example, most people can find the time to manage a small herb garden, allowing them to save money they would have otherwise spent buying things like parsley and sage. Some people even go as far as to build a chicken coop in their backyard so that they have access to their own fresh eggs.
Growing and eating your own fresh produce is also going to provide you with a healthier diet, since you won’t need to rely on the same amount of preservatives to keep the produce fresh in transport between farm and grocery store. However, be prepared for a lot of trial and error, as you will need to account for the climate conditions and soil to grow most vegetables successfully (for example, tomatoes are notoriously hard to grow for newbies).
5. Eat better, snack less
When it comes to food, quality is superior to quantity, and it is much better to eat 2 or 3 large, healthy meals than to snack on junk food throughout the day. A lot of us are guilty of relying on snacks for a short but certain energy boost when we are in a slump at work, but they are normally crammed full of sugar and have little nutritional value.
Instead of wasting money on these snacks, simply eat larger and more nutritious meals (especially for breakfast) so that your body has adequate energy stores to burn throughout the day. The reason you feel the urge to snack at work is that you haven’t gotten adequate fuel – make sure you nail breakfast and you won’t find yourself spending nearly as much money on energy drinks and chocolate bars to get through the day.
There you have it, 5 ways you can start saving money on food. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide what food shortcuts are worth spending money and, what you feel like you can make up for with a little extra effort.