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How to Save Money When Buying Food for Your Family

How to Save Money When Buying Food for Your Family

Feeding your family isn’t cheap. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates the average family of four spends $148 to $296 each week on groceries. That’s not including meals at restaurants or even coffee at work or snacks at school.

Click here for the How to Shop Smart for Your Family (Slideshow)

Aside from food, you’ve got to buy laundry detergent, clothing, toiletries like toothpaste and deodorant, and household items including dish soap and aluminum foil. The expenses add up fast!

With so many things to buy — most of which aren’t luxuries — you definitely want to save cash whenever possible. A lot of the ways we save are common sense, such as shopping when there’s a sale and stocking up.

Cutting coupons is still a good option, too. According to a survey by NCH Marketing Services, Inc. 315 billion coupons were distributed last year, with nearly 81 percent of consumers reporting they use coupons regularly.

Still, many savings tools seem like too much trouble, such as when you clip 50 coupons and then only redeem a few. Then there’s the idea of going store to store to buy a retailer’s sale items. How much of your time and gas is wasted driving around for a would-be deal?

For some shoppers, the savings strategies are worth the effort but others discount the deal-hunting as a hassle. So are coupons the answer? Buying in bulk? Price matching? To save the most money, you need to combine your efforts and commit to at least a few savings tactics, and there are a few tricks and techniques you may not have thought of.

Consider adding money-saving apps on your smartphone or tablet; shop dollar stores for deals and look for bargains on the Internet and social media sites. No matter how you save, pat yourself on the back for making an effort to save money. And when you get a great buy, tell a friend so you can share the savings!


Using manufacturer and store coupons together, known as stacking, can save a bundle. For example, combine a manufacturer coupon for $1.50 off two cereals with a store coupon for $1.00 off one box of cereal and you’ll be able to shave $2.50 off your breakfast bill.

Club Stores

Two gallons of milk at a time? Double loaves of bread? A huge jar of mayo? Buying in bulk is a big investment but it can be a good idea if your family eats the food before it expires. Share the membership with family member or friend to maximize the bargains. For example, shop with a friend to buy in bulk and then split the haul evenly, such as sharing a case of soup or dividing up a dozen bagels. Before you sign up for a membership, check each warehouse’s policies, such as membership dues, use of coupons, and return requirements.

"NEW" Four Ways to Save Money and Feed Your Family Tasty Meals

Use these four easy ways to save money while feeding your family meals that they will love.

Check out what is in your refrigerator, freezer, and cupboards. Save money by planning to use what you have on hand. Check out what is in your refrigerator, freezer, and cupboards. Save money by planning to use what you have on hand. Keep an ongoing list in your kitchen or on a free mobile app, and add items as you run out. Be sure to include foods like fruits, vegetables, and milk that your family eats every day.

Eat before you shop. Read the sales flyers which are usually released mid- Buy when foods are on sale. Use coupons but only for items that you know you&rsquoll use. Buy fruits and vegetables in all their forms &mdash fresh, frozen, and canned.

Put refrigerated and frozen items away right away. Learn the best places to store your groceries to prevent food waste. Divide large packages of meat and freeze in meal-sized portions. Store bananas, apples, and tomatoes by themselves, and store fruits and vegetables in different bins.

Why is junk food cheaper than healthy food?

Our family was eating a LOT of food, but we were wasting a lot of food. I needed to figure out a way to buy only what we needed and keep it within our budget. (wasting food = wasting money).

I knew that it was cheaper to buy junk food, but raising four kids on a healthy diet was more important to me than saving money.

My thought is that we would spend the same amount on a bag of chips as you would a carton of strawberries and both are gone in the same amount of time, so why not pick the healthier option? We go through a LOT of food… and I wanted that food to be healthy so that it would provide nourishment for our kids.

Step 2: Make a Loose Plan

Making a meal plan is key to staying on a weekly grocery budget, but you should remain flexible as you put it together. This is particularly true for figuring out how to use the ingredients that are on sale that week.

"Get comfortable with substituting ingredients in a recipe," Bri Bell, RD of Frugal Minimalist Kitchen, tells "For example, if the recipe calls for chicken breasts, but chicken thighs are on sale, swap it out! This works in almost all recipes."

A budget-friendly meal plan also ensures that you're using all of the ingredients you buy — rather than purchasing a head of cauliflower, using half of it and then letting the remainder languish in the crisper. It also allows a meal to pull double-duty by serving as dinner one night and as lunch the next day. Planning for leftovers also makes creating a meal plan easier because you don't need to look up as many recipes.

"Less is more," Stefanie Dove, RD, tells "We've all gone down the Pinterest rabbit hole at some point. Instead of selecting five recipes that require an extensive amount of preparation, start with two key recipes that you want to explore and build from those. This allows you to get comfortable with meal planning and preparation without becoming overwhelmed."

25+ Money-Saving Meals

Just because you’re cooking on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t make something special. From savory chicken thighs to crowd-pleasing meatless meals, these recipes will help you cook up good food, for less.

Related To:

Photo By: Armando Rafael Moutela ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved. 2014, Cooking Channel, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Black Bean Burger

When you want to save money, try a meatless meal. Ree replaces ground beef with black beans for a budget-friendly burger the whole family will love.

Minestrone Soup

Soup is a great way to eat better on a budget. In one steaming bowl of Ellie's minestrone, you'll get five kinds of vegetables, plus protein-packed kidney beans &mdash without breaking the bank.

Pork Carnitas

Melissa uses a slow cooker for this inexpensive, Tex-Mex-inspired dinner. Wrap the meat in tortillas and serve with salsa and guacamole.

Rice Bowls with Fried Eggs

We&rsquore willing to bet you&rsquove got rice in your pantry and eggs in your refrigerator right now, which means you&rsquore halfway to a hearty and satisfying meal!

Shakshuka with Chickpeas

Eggs and chickpeas work together to make a protein-packed meal that will keep you (and your wallet) full.

Chicken Teriyaki Dump Dinner

Toss everything you love about chicken teriyaki (including the rice) into a baking dish for a quick and delicious dinner that won&rsquot break the bank.

Tuscan Chicken Cutlets with White Beans

You only need a handful of ingredients to make this delicious and filling meal. Cannellini beans, flavored with a little bit of garlic and fresh herbs, round out the dish and keep it affordable.

Turkey Spaghetti

Using up leftovers can help keep your food budget on track. This recipe transforms extra turkey into a bubbling, cheesy pasta casserole (with just enough kick from pickled jalapenos).

Ginger Chicken Stir-Fry

If your pantry is stocked with Asian cooking staples like soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and sesame seeds then you&rsquoll be able to make this dish with just a few additional, inexpensive ingredients.

Grilled Flank Steak with Ginger Marinade

Grilled flank steak is a great option when it comes to feeding your family on a budget. Although flank is an inexpensive cut, the meat is lean and tender. Like skirt steak, it works well with a marinade.

Potato and Bacon Pizza

There&rsquos nothing better than a carb-on-carb dinner to keep you feeling full. This potato-topped pizza gets extra flavor from just a bit of bacon. Yum!

Vegetarian Enchiladas

These easy-to-make enchiladas are filled with budget-friendly beans. Serve with rice (which you&rsquove probably got stocked in your pantry already) on the side and dinner&rsquos done.

Mushroom Ramen

Pre-packaged Ramen noodles are the ultimate money-saving meal. But, rather than eating them as-is, we dress them up with some fresh mushrooms and a little bit of butter.

Broiled Lemon-Garlic Chicken

Bistro Egg Sandwiches

These simple bistro sandwiches feel far fancier than they are. You can make them with just a few ingredients &ndash most of which you probably have on hand.

Monster Meatballs

Sure, these giant meatballs call for two different types of ground meat &ndash but the recipe makes 8-10 servings so you&rsquoll be able to divide it in half and make two meals out of it.

Broccoli Chowder with Cheddar Toasts

Easy, cheesy and oh-so-satisfying, everyone will love this money-saving meal.

Smothered Pork Chops

Anyone who shops on a budget will tell you that pork chops are always on the list of things to buy. So, it&rsquos always a good idea to have another idea for how to prepare them.

Orange Roasted Chicken Thighs

Despite being less expensive than chicken breast, chicken thighs are every bit as delicious &ndash if not more! Plus, they stay nice and juicy as they cook. Win-win!

Spicy Arrabiata Penne

Instead of plain penne and red sauce, Valerie gives hers a spicy kick with red pepper flakes. This is one cost-conscious meal you&rsquore sure to make again and again.

Lentils with Fried Eggs

Vegetable Fried Rice with Bacon

Spaghetti Marinara

Making your own marinara from a can of crushed tomatoes will make this super-simple meal feel special.

Garlic-and-Greens Spaghetti

Roast Chicken with Rice and Salsa Verde

You don't need to sacrifice flavor while trying to save some cash. We've made a simple roast chicken meal that tastes anything but. Served with fresh salsa verde and satisfying rice and veggies, you won't be giving up anything while protecting your wallet.

31 Insanely Smart Ways To Save Money When You Cook

"I will buy the rotisserie chickens at Costco, pick off all the meat to make casseroles, shredded chicken sandwiches, chicken salad, etc. Then I use the leftover bones to make chicken stock. The rotisserie chickens from Costco are huge and $4.99. I love getting them!" —Lynn Huynh-Luke

"Find a way to use a large or inexpensive ingredient multiple ways through the week: a roast chicken for dinner, chicken salad for lunch, chicken stock/soup from the bones later in the week. A whole bird goes much farther than just pieces." —Shalynn Marie Cook

"I'm always baffled that people buy canned chicken broth and throw out the remains of rotisserie chickens. It only takes a few minutes the next day to throw the bones in a pot with a couple litres of water, some roughly chopped onion and garlic and seasonings and simmer it for an hour or so. Strain it and freeze it in 500 ml containers. The seasonings in the rotisserie chickens makes a much better broth than the store bought stuff and 2 litres of broth covers a good part of the cost of the chicken!" —Deanne Lamb Hancock

Learn how to make the greatest roast chicken of all time here.

2. Cook less meat, in general.

"Eat less meat — it can act as a condiment and take a smaller role. You can use a little bacon for flavor, make a bibimbap with little shreds of meat and tons of vegetables." —Scarlett Koller

"Eggs, peanut butter, and beans are fucking sweet protein. You don't need meat every day — I buy it for two meals a week." —Sarah Kerby

"I use beans as a filler when making meatloaf, tacos, etc. I'll use 3/4 ground beef or turkey and 1/4 beans. It saves on meat and is a good source of fiber." —Vickie Simpson

Crispy chickpeas, sweet potatoes, and kale make a delicious, easy, and cheap vegetarian dinner. You can get lots more recipes and ideas on BuzzFeed.

3. Cook dried beans instead of buying canned.

"Buy dried beans instead of canned — less sodium and CRAZY cheaper! They just take a little more prep, but you will save buckets." —Deborah Barbi

"Cooking bulk dry beans in a slow cooker saves me a ton a money. With black beans and chickpeas I can make a ton of dishes. I also freeze all my leftovers after they cool into portion sizes." —Jacquelin Richards

4. Learn to love eggs.

"Eggs. Learn to cook eggs…scrambled, omelets, fried, poached. They go well with veggies or fruit or just with a piece of toast. They taste great in sandwiches. A dozen of regular eggs is still less than $2. They have about 100 calories each and 6 grams of protein. If you're trying to lose weight and short on cash, eggs + steamy veggies = a great, cheap meal." —Katherine Grandstrand

"Breakfast for dinner! Eggs are cheap and you can bulk them up by adding anything from fresh veggies to cold cuts or left over roasted potatoes." —Carol Cutter Gonzales

Get the recipe for this delicious crispy rice bowl here.

5. Use your slow cooker.

"Cheaper meat cuts can still taste fan-freaking-tastic if cooked right. A crock pot does WONDERS for cubed steaks (chewy with gristle if not cooked long enough)." —Chassity Baker

"I throw leftover grilled pork tenderloin in the crockpot before work with BBQ sauce and have pulled pork the next night." —CarrieAnne Clemens

"You can eat oatmeal as a sweet or savory dish and if you put steel-cut oats in the crock-pot in the morning, they will be ready by the time you get home. Steel-cut oats bought in the bulk section of the grocery store where I live are 60 cents a pound." —Katyna Singleton

6. Buy big cuts or packages of meat and stretch it out over multiple meals.

"I learned how to break down whole chickens. Usually you can get whole chickens for less than a dollar a pound. It's way cheaper than precut chicken breast (for example) and the giblets and neck are great for stock." —kristenm32

"I buy chicken in family packs and package them individually with marinade to freeze & thaw as needed. Not only is the chicken more flavorful when you freeze it in marinade, I also save $3/LB." —Maddy Clark

"I have a large family. I use 5lbs of hamburger meat to make meals for 3 nights. First night is taco night, leftover meat is used the 2nd night for Chili and 3rd night is Chili-Mac or Frito Chili Pie." —Chelsie McKinney

For a night when you do want to splurge a little, learn how to cook a perfect steak.

7. Divide and freeze any meat you won't use within the week.

"I buy huge pieces of meat and cut them up in portions to use throughout the week, freezing what I won't be able to use right away. For example, rather than 5 individual packages of beef, I buy the largest pack of ground beef, or the largest London broil. I get the same amount of meat as the individual packs, but for about half the cost." —Erin Shusta Carter

"Invest in a vacuum sealer. They're not too expensive but can save hundreds (or more!) in food costs over the year just by allowing you to not throw out everything. Buy meat in bulk and freeze it, buy cheese in bulk and freeze it. you get the idea. Every time I go to Costco to get produce or meat, I break it out and seal up what I won't use within that week." —Kaitlin Kelly

8. Make big batches of whatever you cook and portion out the leftovers to fridge or freeze for later.

"Big batches of "multi-purpose" foods, such as pork shoulder cooked in the crock pot, can be the starting point for so many different meals. Chicken breasts, lentils and cheaper cuts of beef are also good candidates for this. If I make a 2 pound batch of any of these, I can freeze half for later use and eat the other half as my main ingredient for the week. This saves me from cooking a different protein each evening and potentially wasting leftovers. Serve over pasta or rice, make a quick pizza topped with pork, mix into a casserole or simply with tortilla, I never get bored for the week." —Leslie Streff

"Make a big batch of soup or stew and freeze it in manageable serving sizes. Whenever you feel like it, steam some rice, heat up the soup or stew, and pour it over the rice. If you want to get crazy, add fresh kale to the soup and cook until the kale is soft and/or add a fried egg on top. It's yummy, healthy, and cheap!" —Robert Trujillo

"When a 10-lb bag of onions goes on sale for $3.99 I caramelize 9 lbs of them! After they have cooled, I shape into patties (about the size of a hamburger) and put individually between pieces of parchment (about 5) then into freezer bags. I use them in omelets, quiche, on burgers and especially delicious tossed with pasta or mixed into mashed potatoes." —Jessie Deans

Tips to Create a Meal Plan

Here are some tips and strategies that I have found helpful when making meal plans.

1.Make Time to Plan. Carve out a time to make your weekly meal plan and grocery list. Because the meal planning leads to the grocery list, it makes sense to do this a day or two before you go shopping. I typically do my planning on the weekends, often while Sunday dinner is already being thawed or on it’s way. It’s a boost of confidence to jump right in knowing that the first slot is done. And, because Sunday dinners usually produce a lot of leftovers, Monday’s meal is often easy to fill in too! Chicken dinner Sunday, turns into Chicken Corn Chowder on Monday.

2.Take Inventory. Consider what’s in your fridge, freezer, pantry or garden. After you’ve slotted a few ideas based on what you already have, check local flyers for what’s on sale that can complement or add to what you already have.

3. Check Everyone’s Calendar. Identify hectic nights when everyone has to be somewhere else and sit-down meals are impossible. These days require foods that you or your family members can quickly reheat and eat on the road or at the kitchen counter. Consider freezer meals, soups, stews, prepared salads and wraps for these days. At our house soup, scrambled eggs or grilled cheese sandwiches with a handful of raw veggies are our go to meals on days like these.

4. Choose Seasonal Foods. Fresh, seasonal foods are tastier and more affordable. And, by eating what’s in season you’ll get plenty of variety in your meal plans. For example, did you know that January to March is citrus season a good time to add oranges and grapefruits to your meal plans.

5. Plan with Healthy Eating in Mind. If healthy eating is important to you, plan for it. Think about how you can include the following:

Eat More Fruits and Vegetables of All Colors

Eat More Whole Grains and High Fibre Foods

Choose a Variety of Lean Protein Sources

Reduce Sugar, Salt & Overly Processed Foods

Choose and Use Fats Wisely

6. Focus on “TnT” Recipes. Be realistic and rely on tried and true (TnT) recipes that you know your family loves and that are easy to prepare. Sure, it’s fun to look for and try new recipes, but don’t cram your week with new recipes that require extra time and ingredients you’re not familiar with. Try a new recipe now and then, but don’t overburden yourself.
7. Involve Your Family. Get the whole family to suggest meal ideas and to help with meal prep. If a particular meal is too tricky for young helpers, get them peeling carrots or grating cheese for a meal coming up later in the week. If nothing else, they can help set the table. If your kids are older, assign a night when they plan and make supper.
8. Consider Theme Nights. Use theme nights to help you come up with ideas for what to include in your meal plan. Here are some ideas we’ve used:

Meatless Monday – think beans, tofu, tempeh, eggs, etc
Try it Tuesday – try a new recipe or a new food item
Kid Friendly Wednesday – meals I know the kids will love (spaghetti, tortillas, hamburgers, homemade mac & cheese, etc.)
Quick & Easy Thursday – a take a meal from the freezer, breakfast for dinner, sandwiches, grilled cheese
Pizza Friday – homemade or take out – depends on the week!
Free for All Saturday – the day when everyone feeds themselves
Big Dinner Sunday – a traditional Sunday dinner with enough for left overs

9. Plan to Cook Once and Eat Twice. Think about which meals can be easily doubled to freeze for another week or which ones will make great leftovers for lunches or a second dinner. Since you’ve got all the ingredients and cooking utensils out already, this approach will save time and the number of dishes to be cleaned. For example, most soups, stews and casseroles can be easily doubled and frozen and extra mashed potatoes one day can be turned into shepherd’s pie or fried patties the following day. See What to Freeze and What Not to Freeze.

10. Keep & Reuse Your Meal Plans. Hold on to your meal plans so you can reuse them or at least reference them for inspiration in future weeks. If possible, jot a few notes on what worked, what didn’t work, which recipe you used and anything else noteworthy.

Do you make meal plans? What’s your favorite tip? I’d love to hear your thoughts, please leave a comment.

Sign up to get articles by Getty delivered to your inbox. You’ll get recipes, practical tips and great food information like this. Getty is a Professional Home Economist, speaker and writer putting good food on tables and agendas. She is the author of Manitoba’s best-selling Prairie Fruit Cookbook, Founder of Fruit Share, a mom and veggie gardener.

Surviving and Thriving on an Extremely Small Food Budget

Trent Hamm – Founder & Columnist Last Updated: September 27, 2019

When I first started writing for The Simple Dollar, the then-governor of Oregon, Ted Kulongoski, made a big splash by choosing to eat for a week on $3 a day. This was in response to Oregon’s “food stamp challenge,” which challenged citizens to do just that and discover how hard it was to actually survive on such a small amount of income for food.

I thought about that challenge myself and decided to see if I could do it. Back then, our family consisted of just me, my wife (who was pregnant at the time, though I don’t think I knew it yet), and our oldest child who was then a toddler.

Could we pull it off and still eat healthy? At the time, several years ago, I found that we could just make it, provided we were able to find fresh produce in season.

Let’s roll this forward to today, though. Today, we have five people living in our home. Could we actually survive well on an extremely small food budget?

The first question, obviously, is “what constitutes a small food budget?” You’ll get lots of answers to this question, of course, but I wanted to get an impartial answer. I started by finding out what SNAP benefits were available for a family of five. This quick guide to SNAP eligibility and benefits, and it turns out that for a family of five, the average SNAP benefits added up to $556 a month.

Let’s put that into context. Over the course of 30 days, I’d have to feed five people 90 meals each, which adds up to 450 meals. That breaks down to a cost of about $1.25 per person per meal.

For comparison’s sake, this amounts to a single person living off of about $26 for a week for food.

So, let’s use that as a threshold. Let’s say you’re moving into an apartment for the first time in your life and you need to survive on about $1.25 per meal going forward. Let’s also assume that you have a stove and a microwave and a handful of basic pots and pans to cook with, along with a few plates and bowls to eat out of. (If you don’t have those things, head down to your local Goodwill, where you should be able to find all of those things except the stove for pennies.)

How can you and your family survive on $1.25 per person per meal?

It’s worth noting right off the bat that it’s easy to find enough really unhealthy foods to meet a person’s basic caloric needs for under $1.25 a meal. One could live on a steady diet of ramen noodles and have enough calories with which to live and spend far less than $1.25 a meal, for example. The only problem here is that a really unhealthy diet adds long term medical costs into the equation. A diet consisting of ramen noodles is likely to result in weight gain and hypertension along with some serious malnutrition. It’s not a functional and healthy long-term diet.

So, here’s the real question we’re asking here: how can you and your family eat healthy meals and thrive on $1.25 per person per meal?

Here’s what I would do in this exact situation.

Supplement the foods you can buy with a food pantry. If a person is in a position where they’re trying to survive on $1.25 per person per meal, it’s likely that they’re eligible for the benefits of a food bank or food pantry. My first step would be to identify where the local food pantry was, stop by during operating hours, and see what I need to do to get food regularly.

At our local food pantry, you’re allowed to get a bag upon your first visit, but in future visits, you have to provide proof of annual income (a tax form works, or some other proof – they can guide you as to what works) and proof of residence (a bill works) in order to keep getting food. In other areas, there are even fewer requirements.

Remember, if you are eligible to get food from the food pantry, you should you are the reason the food is there. People want to help you get through this tough time and get back on your feet as fast as possible. Let them help!

Figure out whether you’re eligible for SNAP and sign up if you are. The easiest place to go to find out about this is to visit BenefitsCheckUp, which will help you identify, with a few basic questions, which programs you’re eligible for. Just choose the “Food and Nutrition” option when it asks you what kinds of benefits you’re looking for.

If you’re eligible, SNAP benefits typically come in the form of a debit card that you can use for groceries, enabling you to buy a certain amount per month. If you qualify for full benefits, this should provide you the $1.25 per meal (roughly) that’s discussed above.

Again, as I said earlier, if you are eligible to get benefits from SNAP, you should you are the reason this program is there. People want to help you get through this tough time and get back on your feet as fast as possible. Let them help!

Of course, knowing about these programs is great, but how do you actually use $1.25 a meal to put food on the table?

Start with what I call the “big eight.” There are eight very inexpensive staple foods that are what I consider to be the backbone of an inexpensive diet.

First, eggs. You can find them for as little as .50 a dozen depending on where you live, though prices vary a lot. An egg has eighty calories in it and is a protein and nutrition winner. Make a dozen scrambled eggs and you have a main course for three or four people for .50.

Second, dry rice. It’s incredibly easy to cook rice. You just put some in a pan with a lid, add some water, and let it simmer for a while. You need to get the proportions right, but you can easily look that up online based on the type of rice you buy. Dried rice is dirt cheap at the store, accompanies practically anything, and is incredibly easy to cook.

Third, dry beans. You can almost carbon copy everything I said about rice. Even better, there are lots of very different varieties of beans, from the tiny lentil to the large chickpea. Buy them dried, let them soak in water overnight, then boil them up and you’ll have the backbone of many amazing meals.

Fourth, on-sale fresh produce. Many, many grocery stores use fresh fruits and vegetables as loss leaders to get customers into the store. Just go into the fruits and vegetables section of your preferred grocery store and pick up whatever’s on sale. Take it home. Figure out how to prepare it. Try it.

Fifth, whole chickens. This is where you get your money’s worth when it comes to a chicken. Just cook the whole thing in a pot and enjoy it for dinner, saving the broth it’s cooking in for later use in a soup. Eat all the meat, then make more broth with the remaining bones. Use that broth with cheap vegetables and cheap rice and cheap beans to make an amazing soup. You can get so much mileage out of a whole chicken!

Sixth, ground turkey. This is a healthy and cheap substitute for ground beef, as you can use it as a substitute in almost any recipe that calls for ground beef. While this is likely the most expensive thing on the list here, it’s still quite cheap and it covers one of the big staples of many American diets in a low cost and healthy way.

Seventh, pasta and tomato sauce. Pasta paired with tomato sauce or diced tomatoes is a great simple meal that almost anyone can make, and it feeds a family quite well and usually provides leftovers. You can get a box of spaghetti, a can of tomato sauce, and a can of diced tomatoes for $4 and it’ll feed a family of five easily.

But how do you make it taste good? That leads us to the next item.

Finally, bulk spices. Alone, all of these options would be bland. Find a store in your area that sells cheap bulk spices (start by checking out ethnic grocers) and get a variety of things to use. Think of dishes you’ve loved, look up how they’re spiced, and then buy those spices. Keep them sealed up so they stay fresh for a long time. Don’t buy those overpriced little jars at the grocery store.

Learn how to cook the “big eight” in a variety of ways. The items above are on this list because they’re inexpensive and very flexible. You can prepare them in a lot of ways. You can spice them in a lot of ways. You can mix and match them in nearly countless ways. The trick is knowing how to do it, and that takes practice and time in the kitchen.

So, the next step here is to simply cook a lot of meals at home focusing on these eight ingredients. Learn how to prepare seasoned rice and vegetables. Learn how to make killer rice and beans. Learn how to make egg drop soup. Learn how to make killer pasta with ground turkey meatballs. Learn how to make hard-boiled eggs for quick breakfasts. It goes on and on and on.

You’ll gain a lot of skills this way and really learn how to use what’s in your kitchen. Cracking eggs and cutting up chicken will become second nature to you. Cooking rice and cooking beans will feel like a nearly automatic task.

When you reach that point, preparing foods at home will begin to feel simpler than going out. Trust me – that’s where I’m at these days. I’d far rather make a bunch of pasta and some steamed vegetables than take my family out to dinner. I’d honestly do it that way if I were single, as I could stow away a bunch of meals in the fridge.

Pick up a few basic helpful tools from the dollar store or Goodwill. At the beginning of this article, I made the assumption that you would likely have only very basic stuff in your kitchen – a stove, a microwave, a couple pots and pans, a knife, plates, bowls, and silverware. There are three other tools that really come in handy when it comes to preparing food at home, and you can get all of them at many Goodwill stores or off of Craigslist for just a few bucks, or at your local dollar store. These are going to save you money, because they save you so much time that they take away the incentive to buy more expensive convenience foods.

A slow cooker enables you to fill it with food in the morning, turn it on low, and come home in the evening to a prepared meal. It works really well for some things – it can make a mean slow cooker lasagna, for example, or soups and stews, or a roast. It doesn’t make everything well. You can find one at most Goodwills or general secondhand stores for just a few bucks. You might want to stop by the library and pick up a book on slow cookers and slow cooker recipes to get started.

A rice cooker is just something I find convenient if you have a lot of meals involving rice. You just put the rice in, put the water in, close the lid, touch a button, and wait twenty minutes and you have perfect rice. It makes rice almost impossible to mess up rice becomes something so simple that it barely requires any thought at all. Again, you can often find these at secondhand stores for just a few bucks. You may need to find the manual online, which shouldn’t be too hard.

Reusable containers enable you to save leftovers in the fridge after a meal. Smaller containers make it easy to subdivide leftovers into individual meal-sized containers that are perfect for reheating for lunch the next day or for a quick dinner down the road. You can pop most individual meals in the freezer for later thawing and reheating, too. You can find such container quite cheaply at the dollar store, though those tend to warp after a while. Make sure they’re freezer safe before popping them in the freezer and microwave safe before microwaving them!

Figure out which store in your area is the discount grocer and use that grocery store for as much as possible. Another valuable step in keeping the cost of food low is to make sure that you’re buying your food from the store that offers the lowest prices in the area. Some grocers charge higher prices than others and do this by having fancier displays, more open space, and a better location other grocers charge lower prices, but might have narrower aisles and less attention paid to displays and product selection.

Check out the stores in your area and judge them by their regular prices on staples. Stick with the store that has inexpensive rice and beans and pasta and milk and whole chickens – the kinds of low cost staples that you need to center your diet around if you’re trying to stay healthy and keep costs super low.

Use that grocery store flyer! Make sure that, each and every week, you’re checking out the flyer from that preferred grocery store. The store flyer lists sales that the store has that week, which, if you’re using a discount grocer, means pretty low prices. Use that information.

You can use it to get discounted fruits and vegetables (remember, I mentioned these as a staple earlier). You can use it to identify other ingredients that are exceptionally cheap this week. Remember these. They’re important. Keep reading.

Check other flyers, and use their loss leaders if the deal is good. Don’t just stop with the flyer of your primary grocer, either. If other grocers are convenient to you, check out their flyers, too, and look for loss leaders – items that are exceptionally cheap and intended to attract customers. It may be worth a stop at that store just to pick up the loss leader.

Plan your meals in advance of going to the grocery store, and make a list off of that meal plan. So, you have a bunch of cheap staples that you use to base your meals on. You know a bunch of very inexpensive items that are on sale this week. Maybe you have some odds and ends from the food pantry to boot. What can you do with those things to make meals for the week? That’s the big challenge of eating so cheaply.

Start thinking about how those items fit together. Can you cook some of the fresh vegetables with rice? Can they be turned into a soup? What kinds of neat things can you do with those items that are on sale that’s a bit unusual for you? What on-sale items pair well with the spices you have?

If you’re struggling, type some ingredients into Google or into All Recipes and see what turns up. You might find some interesting combinations that you hadn’t thought of.

As you come up with those meals, start slotting them in throughout the upcoming week. Slot in slow cooker meals or easy meals on nights when you know you’ll be busy in the evening. Slot in meals with a bit more prep work on other nights where you’ll have more time. If you can, plan on doing some of the prep work for later meals on the weekends or on particularly open evenings, so you can just grab some already-sliced peppers (for example) later on when you need them.

Once you’ve figured out meals that cover all of your needs, make a grocery list. Write down everything that you think you might need to make those meals, keeping in mind to not write down the things you already have. If you’re not sure, write it down and check later – you can always cross it off.

Then, when you run off to the store, you actually won’t be there very long. You’ll just be grabbing stuff off your list instead of wandering about (as you would do without a list). Because of that, you’re also less likely to put unplanned items in the cart, which will save you money – the fewer spontaneous items that wind up in your cart, the easier it is to meet that $1.25 per person per meal goal.

Even with all of this information before you, being able to survive and thrive on a very small food budget boils down to one thing: stepping back and being thoughtful about every dime you spend on food. That’s really what all of this is about. It’s about a transition from just grabbing food at the grocery store or the fast food joint or the takeout place to considering where your dollars go in terms of food. It’s about a transition to thinking about your food purchases when you’re outside the heat of the moment – planning ahead, thinking about recipes, choosing healthy and low cost ingredients, setting yourself up to succeed in your kitchen. That’s the key.

You can survive and thrive on a very low food budget. You can feed your family well with surprisingly little. It just requires you to step back and think about things a little and it requires a willingness to do a bit of planning and become a little more proficient in the kitchen.

Getting Started Grocery Shopping on A Budget

The first thing you can do to save money shopping for groceries is to create a budget. Indeed, you’ll save money grocery shopping when you create a food plan. The plan is what you’ll eat every breakfast, lunch, and dinner throughout the week.

When you go food shopping without a plan, you are likely to pick up things that won’t get used. Or worse, thrown away. For this to work, it’s important to have everything you need to create meals for the week, in advance.

A food plan will reduce the costs while also reducing the amount of food going to waste. Once you’ve started, planning your meals will feel like second nature. And, you won’t have to worry about deciding what you are cooking throughout the week!

Or, you might have some broccoli leftover that won’t get used. You could add the broccoli and combine with seasoning, a potato or two, some of your homemade breadcrumbs. And, be sure to add some cheddar cheese for lovely (and healthy) broccoli tots. All it takes is a bit of creativity, and you can make delicious recipes without buying anything new. Indeed, a casserole is a great way to stretch the food budget once in a while.

Reduce The Amount of Individual Products You Buy

When you go grocery shopping, you can stick to your budget and save money by reducing the number of individual products you buy. Now, this can mean a few different things. Firstly, purchase items in bulk or packs of multiples because they are usually cheaper than the individual or small packets. Rather than buying four individual tins of baked beans for $1.50, purchase a pack of four cans for $5, saving you a buck. While it may not sound like a lot, imagine if you saved that dollar on every item in while grocery shopping, and invested it?

Also, look for products that offer multiple things in one product rather than shopping separately. For example, buy multivitamins rather than five different individual vitamins. Or, buy mixed frozen summer berries instead of fresh strawberries, blueberries and blackberries. And, get all-in-one washing tablets rather than detergent and softener separately. Spend some time looking at what the shop has to offer, and you’ll be able to easily cut unnecessary.

Consider No Name Products

While it may be tempting to shop for branded foods, you won’t save much money doing so. Supermarket brand (no name) products offer fantastic quality and are usually much cheaper than the branded version. There have been plenty of blind taste tests involving supermarkets like Aldi. For example, people get asked to taste two products. The results show that people love the supermarkets’ brand.

Don’t be afraid to give it a try. Store brand products are almost always half the price of the branded version. Indeed, it’s an easy way to cut your food costs in half immediately, making your grocery shopping on a budget easy to do! You won’t have to compromise on quality while you are also saving money that you can use to pay down debt!

When you look at your receipt after grocery shopping, the budget killing items will likely be meat. You don’t need to cut meat out altogether, but aiming to eat 3-4 healthy, vegetarian evening meals a week will reduce your shop’s cost. In the UK at Asda, two chicken breasts will set you back $4.75, while a large packet of meat-free chicken-style bites cost just $1.75. Not only will you save money, but cutting back will ensure you are doing your bit for the environment, too.

Head To The Reduced Section

The best way to enjoy the foods you love at a discounted price is to head to the supermarket’s reduced section. You will find some fantastic deals on delicious and more ‘luxury’ foods still in excellent condition. The packaging usually recommends eating the product on the same day that it’s bought. Or, perhaps the day after. But, don’t forget, you can freeze them the day you buy them.

Cook in Bulk and Freeze Leftovers

As discussed previously, grocery shopping in bulk is usually a cheaper, budget friendly option. If you’re buying ingredients for chili, for example, consider buying in bulk. A large pack of ground beef and sauce will cost less, per meal, than buying smaller portions. You can then buy freezable tubs, fill them with your meals, and label them with the contents and date before freezing.

As a millennial, your life is probably busy. So it’s essential to have meals stacked away in the freezer ready for days when you are short of time. As you continue to cook in bulk, week after week, you’ll build up various meals. This way, you aren’t stuck with the same meal every time. Just one tip, make sure you have plenty of freezer space before you start bulk cooking!

Opt for Frozen Fruit and Vegetables

Another fantastic way to get better value for money is by buying frozen fruit and vegetables. You can buy frozen mango and berries for smoothies or crumbles. Or, frozen butternut squash and peppers for a delicious soup. And, don’t forget lovely garden peas to go in pasta dishes, salads, or pies. The best part is aside from saving money grocery shopping, less food will go to waste.

Grocery Shopping on a Budget FAQ

Sam’s club is a grocery store that sells items in bulk, direct to the consumer. Consumers save by buying multiples of the same item.

Canadians can save money on groceries by meal planning, and only buy what they need. If the consumer has a larger family, a store that sells in bulk, such as Costco, may be a better choice to save money.

The best way for consumers to save money on groceries is to start by planning meals, one week in advance. Consumers can then buy the ingredients for the week, cook their meals, perhaps on a weekend, and consume the food in the coming days.

Prepping and Cooking on a Budget

8. Make your own nut butters. Vegetarians on a budget will know that almond butter is pretty expensive when store bought. With a food processor you can easily make your own for a much lower price. Just buy the nuts, add some maple syrup, water and there you go. See our peanut butter recipe for example – also much healthier than the store bought stuff!

9. Cook your own beans. You can get around four cans of beans out of a bag of dry beans saving you some serious money. The downside is you have to take your time prepping them. Once you’ve made a batch of beans or chickpeas, freeze and label them in small to medium sized containers. FYI: these are probably the best instructions on how to prep beans.

10. Plan your meals. To reduce time, stress and effort it clearly makes sense to know what meals you’ll have for the week. By doing that, usually going once a week to the grocery store wil be enough. No quick jump to the 7-11 anymore. More greens in your pocket.

11. Prep your veg and grains. This one takes the same line as the tips before. Just cook some more rice and refrigerate it then you can quickly put a recipe together in the hour of need. You could even pre-slice some veggies as well. Check out our “ How to Make a Buddha Bowl ” post for some inspiration. The idea behind it? Once you know you have food waiting for you at home you’ll be less tempted to eat out or order a takeaway. Money saved.

12. Always make extra. This has two benefits. First, if you have leftovers you can take them to work instead of going out to buy lunch. Second, often times ingredients like a bunch of herbs, bean sprouts or an opened pack of tofu go bad quickly. Using it up right away and freezing the leftovers is a nice way to eliminate food waste. Like killing two big birds with one stone – even though we vegetarians would never do that.

13. Know your pantry and fridge. If you know what you have at home, you won’t buy double once in the grocery store. Simple. Plus, you can let your creativity flow by making some “eat before bad” meals. Surely you’ll find ingredients that are about to go bad. Use them for your next meal. Less food waste, more money in your pocket, happy vegetarian.

14. Don’t follow recipes exactly. Some recipes call for chia seeds, cashew nuts, almond milk, some goji berries, maple syrup, cardamom powder and puff you just spent your entire salary on a breakfast (a tasty one though). Some recipes call for expensive ingredients, but often times they are not crucial, especially when it comes to garnish and spices. Feel free to leave them out or substitute.

15. Grow your own herbs. This is a tricky one. Usually the store bought basil plants and alike won’t survive past a couple of days, because they’re not produced to survive. But with daylight, proper soil, herbs from the gardening store and patience, you’ll be able to avoid buying expensive fresh herbs from the grocery store so soon.

Alrighty, these are already a ton of tips on how to cut your grocery bill. Do you have any money saving tips you’d like to share? Just write them into the comment section.

And last but not least, many people in countries from the western world spend around 15% of their monthly income on food ( see here ). That is almost nothing compared to what people pay in most developing countries.

In other words we spend quite a lot of our cash on luxury (netflix, latest sneakers, smartphones, fancy cars, etc.). Our health should be important enough for us to invest into good quality food. Plus your meals will taste better too!

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