Trying to stick to a food budget, but don’t know where to start? You might think that to make a food budget takes considerable time and a ton of calculations. But all it requires is a little planning and creativity before you hit the grocery store. The next time you’re making a food budget for the week or even month, keep these seven tips in mind for sticking to it.
1. Plan Ahead
Are you the kind of person that haphazardly goes to the grocery store and buys whatever looks good? This is perhaps one of the worst habits to have if your goal is to stick to a food budget. Impulsive buying definitely can lead to overspending. Instead, plan out the foods you want/need to buy and how much they approximately cost. It’s as simple as making a list before you head out the door.
2. Use the Same Ingredient in Multiple Dishes
Avoid wasting food (and money) but using the same ingredients in multiple dishes. Don’t think you need to make the same food night after night! Green beans, for instance, can easily be thrown into a soup one night, sautéed in the oven the next, and steamed lightly for a summer salad the night after that. Instead of making the same boring dishes over and over again, don’t be afraid to get creative with your ingredients.
3. Buy in Bulk and Freeze
When you see an item on sale, feel free to buy it in bulk. Items like cereal, rice, pasta, beans, and other non-perishable starches are great to buy in bulk. For certain items like chicken, beef, and other meats you can buy them in bulk and freeze unused portions for up to one month! Take advantage of sales and how they can help your food budget.
4. Go with Sale Items
A great way to plan your meals is to focus them around sale items. For instance, if chicken, carrots, rice, and broccoli are on sale that week, you can easily add a little soy sauce for a hearty and healthy stir fry. Conversely, you can swap the soy sauce for pesto and cook a play on pesto risotto primavera. Aligning your weekly menu with what’s on sale will absolutely contribute to a realistic food budget.
5. Get Creative with Leftovers
Not sure what to do with the chicken you made last night? Instead of throwing it away and wasting money, don’t be afraid to get creative with your leftovers. You can easily take many leftovers and make new soups, stews, and casseroles to name a few. I personally love taking baked chicken breasts from the previous night’s meal and making different types of chicken salad with it!
6. Learn to Love Spices
When you’re on a strict food budget, you tend to eat the same foods over and over again, but you can avoid monotony with the world of spices! Different spice profiles allow you to go from Italian to Latin to Asian all with a few bottles and jars from your pantry. Investing in a few spices might seem costly at first, but they last for months and will surely perk up your cooking.
7. See What You Can do without
One final way to stick to a realistic food budget is to examine your list/plan after it’s been written and see what you could do without. For instance, do you really need sour cream AND cream cheese? Is there a way you could tweak your recipes so that you can make all of your food with one item? You don’t need to cut your list in half, but even eliminating one or two items is a great start!
Making and sticking to a realistic food budget isn’t extra stress and scrutiny—it’s a way to save your hard earned money! What are some of your strategic ways to saving money on food?