Food is a need, yes, but does the money you spend on food take up a far larger part of your budget currently than you’d prefer?
Do you consistently feel like you spend too much time in the grocery store and leave, staring at your receipt, wondering what you could possibly have bought that added up to that cost?
My family of six, living in southern California, went from spending over $1,500 on our monthly grocery bill to just $233. I did it not by nixing food from my grocery list, but changing how much I was paying for it.
What comes to mind when we hear about ways to save on food are often coupons or money back apps like Checkout51 and Ibotta, but what I want to share is a tool that will go much further in cutting your household expenses.
Meal planning in reverse: my two steps
You’ve likely heard of meal planning, but have you heard of or practiced reverse meal planning? It involves two steps: one question and one phone call. The combination of this process saved my family over $1,000 per month.
One question that has the power to save you a lot on groceries is “What do we have for food to eat for this meal?” rather than “What am I in the mood for?” What I was in the mood for was costing me both time and money in the grocery store. What I had, meanwhile, meant I was using what I had in my pantry to the fullest extent.
Second step: call your local grocery stores. Ask what time of day they clearance their meat, produce and bakery items. If possible, shop at that time of day. I recommend shopping two times a week to get the most out of this.
Now, from what you’ve purchased on clearance combined with what you have available at home, in your pantry and freezer, you prepare your meals. MyFridgeFood.com and SuperCook.com as well as simply Googling for recipes can really help on the days that you have ingredients that you don’t immediately know a potential meal or recipe for.
Additional ways I’ve cut costs
Don’t waste leftovers: re-purpose them. Reinvent them into something even more delicious and unique the next night.
Packing meals for lunches and snacks during the work day can save $10 or more per day. And though most of us don’t have a lot of time to coupon, while, for example, you wait for your car’s oil to be changed, it might be worth perusing some coupon sites online.
There are often free food rewards for liking your local grocery stores on social media, too. For example, one store near me on Tuesdays posts a code word for a certain item. When you check out and say that secret code, you get the item for free. Recently, the free item was a $6.19 organic loaf of bread absolutely free when the secret code was said, no purchase necessary.
Often buying in bulk can greatly reduce costs as well. Just be sure you will use or be able to preserve the food in time before it spoils.
Buying in season can really decrease the cost of produce, as well.
What about those items that are impossible to find discounted?
Write to the manufacturers of the item you wish to buy and let them know what you love about the item. Consistently, the manufacturer will respond with their appreciation for your contact by sending you coupons or discounts for the item you originally wrote them about.
Food is such an intimate part of our daily routine, of our memories and of our traditions. The smell of certain food, the method of its preparation and the style of its display are all aspects worthy of being enjoyed, and now with the steps above, they can be had while keeping your monthly grocery bill in check.
Melanie Anderson is a mom of four, and the blogger behind Six on a Budget. She is a on mission to help people live a vibrant debt free life.
Feature Image: Twenty20