Besides your rent or mortgage, food is probably one of the biggest expense categories in your budget. The USDA estimates that the average family of four (with two young children) will spend between $725-$1112 for a month of food.
If you have two older children this goes up to a range of $858-$1301 for a month of food. If your food budget is that high, you can save money on groceries without having to use coupons.
You can check out the chart here: USDA Cost of Food. The lower numbers I gave are based on the low-cost meal plan, and the high end of the range is based on a liberal-cost meal plan.
For my family, I should be spending over $700 a month on groceries, and that’s based on the low-cost plan. Before I implemented the tips in this post, my costs did fall in that range.
What do I really spend now? My grocery bill runs between $400-450 a month, but my total includes diapers, personal care products, pet care, and paper items. I’d estimate the actual food portion to be around $300-350 a month for my family of 4.
My grocery bill is 30% less than the low-cost meal plan estimates.
Not only do I spend less than average on groceries, but I do it without coupons! Some people are great at matching up coupons to deals and saving big on their grocery bills. I gave up couponing when I realized I was lucky if I saved $5 on a grocery trip. I wasn’t seeing enough savings for the amount of time I was spending clipping coupons.
There are plenty of other ways to save on your food expenses. Start with one or two money saving ideas on the list and work your way to including as many tips as possible to see the biggest savings on your grocery bill.
Note: This post includes affiliate links.
Shop less often
If you are used to going to the store every day or every few days to pick up some groceries, stretch it out to a week. If you are used to shopping every week, try shopping every two weeks.
Not only will you save time by shopping less often, but you will find you will save money on your total bill. Less shopping trips is less chances for impulse buys. Less shopping trips means you have to plan better as well which will save you money.
I used to go grocery shopping every week, and I’d spend $125 or sometimes even $150 a week for groceries at Wal-mart. A few months ago, I started going every two weeks instead.
It does take more time to make sure I have enough meals and food on the list for two weeks worth. I end up spending about $175 every two weeks and and saving $100 a month or more that what I was spending before.
I do have to stop in for milk, bread, and occasionally meat on a non-shopping week, but it beats a couple hours in Wal-mart!
Plan your meals to cut food costs
Figure out what meals you want to make and all the ingredients you need to make them. By planning ahead, you’ll avoid mid-week stops to the grocery store that can add to your grocery expense. If you are new to meal planning, check out this post explaining the meal planning process.
Prepare the exact amount your family eats
If your family will eat three chicken breasts or pork chops, don’t buy the package of four. You can also buy a larger package and split it into the serving sizes your family will eat.
If you cook larger meals than your family will eat, then eat the leftovers as a way to avoid waste. Meals that we know we won’t eat leftovers, we make in the exact amount we eat. Food that we know we will eat as leftovers, we may make in a larger batch.
Leftovers are great to liven up lunches instead of the same old sandwiches. We also will have a “fend for yourself” night for dinner. The leftovers from the last few days are split up and everyone has something that was in the fridge.
Cook in bulk
Food that I know will freeze (and defrost) well, I will make a big batch of. Sometimes I make a double batch of a meal and freeze the second portion, such as stuffed shells. Other items I make big batches of include taco meat and sloppy joes. I divide the batch into the portions for one meal (without leftovers).
Watch for sales
If you don’t coupon, you should at least watch the sales. I do the majority of my shopping at Walmart, but do look at the chain grocery store ads for anything that’s a great deal. Usually I just look for meat deals or something I know we use frequently.
When you find a deal on what you normally buy, take advantage and stock up. For example, when chicken is buy one get one, I buy several packs and prep freezer meals. Another time, our favorite soup was .99 a can instead of the typical $1.80-$2.00 a can so I bought enough that lasted us for several weeks.
Prepare freezer meals
By learning how to prepare freezer meals, you can take advantage of sales. I don’t go crazy with the freezer meals, but I do stock my freezer when I find a good meat sale.
If you are new to freezer cooking, I highly recommend these books: Don’t Panic – Dinner’s in the Freezer and The Everything Freezer Meals Cookbook. They both have instructions on what freezes well, plenty of tips for freezer cooking, and great recipes. I’ve made several recipes from each book and use them frequently as my references when I’m not sure how to prepare something for freezing.
Buy produce in season
Buy whatever produce is in season for the best prices. When there is not anything priced well, we go with bananas since they are always affordable.
I also try to buy fruit that can be portioned in sizes my family eats. The younger kids don’t usually eat a whole apple so we only eat these at home when they can be cut and shared instead of packed in a lunch. A whole cantaloupe gets cut up and will be divided throughout the week. One $2 cantaloupe will last us several days.
Skip convenience packaging
Instead of buying chips, cookies, and other snacks in the convenient lunch size packages, buy a full size package. Convenience packs can be double (or more!) the cost to a comparable full-size package.
The same pricing difference is true with other convenience foods. Buying a head of lettuce will be less than the prepackaged stuff and you’ll get more too. Any time something is divided or prepped for you, you will see an increase in price.
Buy store brand
Most store brand products are comparable to their name brand counterparts in taste and quality. Many store brand items are 20% less than the name brand products.
If you don’t like the store brand item, you can go back to your name brand item next time. I only have a few grocery products that I will only buy name brand.
Save Money by Buying in Bulk
For items that you use frequently, consider buying the larger package. Only buy in bulk if you will be able to use all of the product before it will spoil.
Beware-not all larger packages are a better deal. Some stores will put the price per ounce right next to the price on the shelf so it is easy to compare which is the better buy.
Shop at home
When making your grocery list, first look and see what you already have in the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer. What meals can you make with what you already have? Or, what can you pick up to make what you already have into a meal?
Cut your food costs!
You can save money on groceries even without coupons! By implementing these tips, I’ve been able to cut my grocery budget by a third.
Start with one or two of these tips and see how much you can stretch your grocery budget.