How To Save Money On Food - Tips and Ideas

Money Saving Ideas
Money Saving Ideas | Source

Money Saving Ideas

If you’re like most people, you can certainly use some saving money tips. Like most Americans, you’re probably feeling the financial crunch of the present economy, and maybe your month is lasting longer than your paycheck. You’re probably looking for help with some money saving ideas. One way you can help reduce the household budget is to save money on groceries. For most families, food takes a significant bite out of the financial pie, but food is something you absolutely have to purchase – there’s simply no way around it. You can skip a month on your power bill or even or your mortgage payment in case of financial emergencies, but you can’t do that with food. For the last couple of years, I’ve been using a lot of money saving ideas, especially on food. That was one of the few areas of our household budget that wasn't set in stone, so to speak. You might be surprised to discover just how much money you can save with a little shopping and food storage savvy. Below are some tips you might find useful for how to save money on food.


How to Save Money on Groceries
How to Save Money on Groceries | Source

How to Save Money on Groceries

If you want to learn how to save money on groceries, there are lots of strategies you can use. One is to change the foods your family eats on a regular basis. Getting your family to re-think their food choices will go a long way in the battle to help save money on groceries. It might be that your family members have their favorite foods and their favorite brands and don’t like change. Maybe they haven’t tried different options! Sometimes brand names matter, and sometimes they don’t. For example, when it comes to ketchup, I strongly prefer Heinz instead of some bargain brand – UNLESS I’m using the ketchup to make something like cocktail sauce or barbecue sauce. In that case, I find that the store-brand ketchup works just as well, and if I’m making a big batch of sauce, I can save significantly.

You don't have to have meat at every meal, either. Once a week or so, we have eggs for dinner. Eggs are cheap, versatile, and high in protein. Use them to make fritattas, omelets, or casseroles. Of course, they're great just fried, scrambled, or boiled, too. Fish like tilapia are usually much cheaper than most meats, especially when you purchase a large bag on sale. Tilapia is a mild-tasting fish that adapts well to many recipes.

You can also learn how to save money on groceries by changing the amounts of some of the foods you normally buy. Cut down on some of the more expensive foods and partially substitute them with less expensive choices. For example, if you’re making chili, use less ground beef and more beans. For meatloaf, use less beef and more fillers like oatmeal. Not only will you save money on groceries, you’ll also reduce the amount of cholesterol and saturated fat in your diet, so your heart will thank you.

I realize that convenience foods are, well…convenient, but you almost always pay extra for that convenience. Cut down on the amount of convenience foods you buy.

I have a definite strategy I use to save money on groceries. Some people make out their weekly menus and then look for bargain deals on the ingredients. I usually do the opposite. I check all the sales papers to find out what’s on sale and plan my menus accordingly. Then I search for grocery coupons for the items I want to buy. I make a list, and I pretty much stick to it. Of course, if I happen upon an unadvertised bargain, I take advantage of it.

Grocery Coupons

It always amazes me that more people don’t take advantage of grocery coupons. They’re totally free, and all you have to do is cut them out with a pair of scissors. How hard can that be? You can find lots of grocery coupons in newspapers, especially the Sunday editions. Sometimes you can find them in magazines, too, and you can always find them online. In fact, some stores provide grocery coupons in their weekly circulars, which are usually right inside the store’s entryways. If you haven’t already studied the weekly sales, grab a circular as you go into the store.

Although grocery coupons can be great money saving ideas, don’t get “coupon happy.” In other words, don’t buy something just because you have a discount coupon for the item. If it’s something your family isn’t going to actually eat, you’re wasting your money. Also, many coupons are often for name-brand products that might be significantly more expensive than the store brands, so you might not save money with the coupon. Let’s say you have a coupon for Mt. Olympus canned tuna. The coupon is for fifty cents off for each 5-ounce can. The regular price is $1.69 per can, but the store-brand tuna is $1 for the same size can. Even with the coupon, you’d still be paying more for the name brand.

To really stretch your grocery coupons to the max, look for stores that double coupons. I warn you – in some parts of the country, such stores can be hard to find. In our community, for example, we don’t have any supermarkets that double coupons, but we do have a dollar store that doubles coupons one day a week, and the store carries a lot of canned goods, dry goods, beverages, and snacks. Sometimes the best saving money tips can be found “outside the box.”

Most canned foods have a long shelf life.
Most canned foods have a long shelf life. | Source

Buy in Bulk

Do you ever buy in bulk? Buying in bulk can be some great money saving tips for families. Actually, we just started doing this after I retired from my teaching job. We didn’t have anywhere to store large quantities of food, but we made a place. We turned a closet into a pantry. If you have the storage space, buy canned fruits, canned vegetables, canned meats, and dry goods in bulk whenever you find a good deal. Be sure to keep the canned goods in a cool, dry place – never over a heat source like the stove or oven. How long will canned goods last on the shelf? Canned fruits and tomato products will keep for 18 months. Most canned meats and canned vegetables will keep safely for 2 years.

If you want to buy bulk food, do your homework before heading to the store. Make sure you’re going to use up all the foods before they go bad. Be realistic about the amount of storage space you have, too. Sometimes it’s tempting to “load up” on food when it’s on sale, even when you know you don’t have room for it. I think some consumers get “caught up” in the excitement when they find great discounts and buy in bulk. I actually know someone like this. He buys huge quantities of canned foods when he finds bargains. Every few months, however, he ends up giving much of it away

Cheap Meat
Cheap Meat | Source

Cheap Meat

Cheap meat – does it exist? Another place to really cut your food bill is in the meat department. My family is pretty carnivorous, so I’m always looking for cheap meat. Meats compromise the largest part of our food bill, so if I can make even some moderate cuts, I can really see a big difference in our food budget.

Oftentimes, cheap meat is just as good as more expensive meat, especially if it’s prepared correctly. It’s almost always just as nutritional, too. Some consumers are fairly clueless when it comes to foods they eat. For example, they might buy lean ground beef instead of regular ground beef. They know it’s more expensive, but they figure they’re not having to pay for fat. That’s true – they’re not paying for fat. They’re paying for water! Instead of buying lean or extra lean ground beef, buy regular. Brown and crumble it in a skillet, drain it in a colander, and then run hot water over it.

Eat a lot of chicken? Thighs are just as nutritional as breasts, and they’re about half the price. When compared to boneless skinless breasts, thighs are usually only ¼ the price! If you have family members who like thighs and some who like drumsticks, buy a large bag of leg quarters and separate each quarter at the joint. Place a meal’s worth in baggies and place in the freezer.

Cheap Steaks
Cheap Steaks | Source

Cheap Steaks

Cheap Steaks – is that an oxymoron? No, it’s not. If you’re careful with your choices, with your preparation and cooking techniques, and with your shopping strategies, you can find cheap steaks that are tasty – even on the grill. When you have a craving for grilled steak, buy sirloin instead of T-bone or ribeye. If you properly tenderize and marinate, the cheaper cuts will be great on the grill, and since sirloin is lower in fat, it will also be healthier.

Does your family like filet mignon? Who doesn’t, right? But have you priced it lately? Try chuck eye steaks instead. Have them cut thick, marinate them overnight with some red wine and meat tenderizer, and wrap them with bacon and grill. They’re delicious, and they’re a fraction of the cost of filets.

Another way to get cheap steaks, or at least cheaper steaks, is to shop for beef steaks on Sunday nights or Monday mornings. I learned this trick from a friend, and it often works like a charm. Some stores put out lots of steaks for the weekends, guessing that people will buy them for cookouts and barbecues. Of course, the store has no way to tell exactly what the demand will be, so they sometimes over figure. When that happens, the steaks will often be offered for reduced prices once the weekend has passed.

Cheap steaks isn’t just about beef, either. Ever cook pork steaks? They’re a good substitute for pork chops, and they’re much cheaper. The cheapest way to get pork steaks is usually to buy a whole pork shoulder or Boston butt and have it sliced. Before cooking the steaks, trim off most of the fat. The pork steaks can then be battered and fried, grilled, or oven-barbecued.

Buy a whole ham and have it sliced for free.
Buy a whole ham and have it sliced for free. | Source

Bulk Meat

Bulk meat is usually a good bit cheaper per pound than meat sold in smaller packages. Okay, so it might not be as convenient, but you can’t have everything! We buy a lot of bulk meat, and in fact, I sometimes think it’s more convenient for me. Sometimes I can’t find packs of meat in exactly the size I need, so with buying in bulk, I can divide the bulk meat into the exact amounts I know we’ll eat. Sometimes I purchase a whole ham and have it sliced into individual "steaks." I then wrap the slices and freeze them.

One thing you have to watch for with bulk meat, however, is whether it was previously frozen. Thawed meats that were frozen previously shouldn’t be re-frozen, for safety reasons. If the meat was previously frozen, it usually says so on the package label. You might want to ask the butcher to be sure.

If you find a big package of bulk meat that was previously frozen, you might still want to buy it. You won’t be able to repackage and refreeze the raw meat, but you can always cook the meat and freeze it safely that way. This works great for ground beef. I sometimes cook and crumble a big batch of ground beef at one time and then freeze the cooked beef in individual freezer bags. When I want to make chili, tacos, beef soup, or spaghetti sauce, the cooked ground beef is super handy to use since I don’t have to brown it before adding to recipes. You can do the same thing with chicken parts that were previously frozen. Keep out enough to make a couple of meals, then boil the rest and debone it. Put it in the freezer in small bags. This is a great shortcut to making chicken and dumplings, chicken and dressing, chicken and rice, chicken soup, chicken salad, and casseroles.

Here’s another option to buying bulk meat that was previously frozen: Share it with a friend. Let’s say you find a great deal on ground beef, but it was previously frozen. What’s the expiration date on the package? If you divide the beef with a friend, and if you make a couple of recipes requiring ground beef before the expiration date has passed, you’ve made a good decision on your purchase.

Wholesale Meat
Wholesale Meat | Source

Wholesale Meat

If you want to really save money on groceries, you might want to consider buying wholesale meat. There are a couple of ways to go about this. If you have a local meat packing plant, check there. They often sell wholesale meat to the public, although it’s usually in large quantities. For example, we used to buy boxes of whole chickens, and there were thirty dressed chickens in each box. I placed each chicken in a heavy freezer bag and stuck them in the freezer. Some of the birds I left whole, some I cut up into fryer pieces, some I cut into quarters, and some I split down the middle.

You might also consider buying wholesale meat from a local producer who raises cattle or pigs. When we had a farm, sometimes people would buy a live animal from us and have it taken to the slaughterhouse for processing. I have friends and relatives who do this, as a matter of fact. This creates really wholesale meat. You’re completely cutting out the middle man by not involving the supermarket at all. Once you buy the live animal, you make arrangements with the farmer/rancher to deliver it to the packing plant. You’ll meet with one of their employees to tell them how you want the meat cut and wrapped.

A whole steer provides a lot of meat! You might not have room to store it all. Get together with some like-minded friends or family members who are also wishing to obtain wholesale meat. Share the cost of purchasing the steer and the cost of processing it. Divide the meat fairly once it’s packaged. By the way, you can tell the plant how many pounds of different beef cuts you want in each package, so evenly dividing the meat shouldn’t be a big problem. You can do some trading here, too. If your family doesn’t eat a lot of ground beef, you might want to trade some of your burger for other cuts.

Food Storage Containers - free with recycling!
Food Storage Containers - free with recycling! | Source

Food Storage

Food storage is extremely important. You want your foods to have a long shelf or freezer life, and you certainly want it to be safe to eat. I’ve already suggested buying in bulk in order to save money on groceries. First, you’ll need to understand some of the basics of safe food storage. If you’re buying meat in bulk, just freeze meal-size portions in good quality freezer bags. Remove as much air from the bags as possible. How long will items last in the freezer, in the fridge, or in the pantry? Here’s a helpful guide for food storage:

Food Storage Table

Food
Where to Store
How Long
bacon
freeze
1 month
beef roasts
freezer
9 months
beef steaks
freezer
9 months
breads
freezer
3 months
brown rice
freezer
1 year
butter
freezer
6 months
canned fruits
cool, dry place
18 months
canned tomatoes
cool, dry place
18 months
canned vegetables
cool, dry place
2 years
chicken or turkey pieces
freezer
9 months
commercially frozen vegetables
freezer
1 year
cooked shellfish
freezer
3 months
dried beans
sealed, in a cool, dry place
8 years
dried milk
sealed, in a cool, dry place
12 years
eggs (raw)
whisked with salt, freezer
1 year
fatty fish
freezer
2 months
fish sticks
freezer
18 months
flour
freezer
1 year
flour
refrigerator
6 months
fresh herbs
frozen in water
6 months
ground beef
freezer
4 months
hard cheeses
freezer
6 months
hot dogs
freezer
2 months
hot peppers
in vinegar, in refrigerator
6 months
juices
freezer
8 months
lean fish
freezer
6 months
lunch meats
freezer
2 months
meal (cornmeal)
freezer
18 months
meal (cornmeal)
refrigerator
12 months
milk
freezer
3 months
onions
in panty hose - cool, dry, dark place
3 months
pasta
cool, dry place
7 years
pork chops
freezer
6 months
pork roasts
freezer
9 months
salt
cool, dry place
indefinitely
sausage
freezer
2 months
sugar
cool, dry place
indefinitely
white rice
sealed containers, cool place
5+ years
whole chicken
freezer
1 year
whole turkey
freezer
1 year

Think of all the cash you could save with adequate food storage! You’ll save money on gas, too, because you won’t be making as many trips to the store. And, of course, you’ll save time, which is sometimes a very valuable commodity. If you don’t have a freezer, buy one. You can usually find used freezers for around $100. If you take advantages of sales and buying in bulk, a freezer would pay for itself in no time.

A great money saving idea is to buy turkeys after Christmas, when they go on sale. Since a whole turkey will keep for a year in the freezer, you’ll already have your turkey for the next Thanksgiving. Another idea is to split the turkeys in half and freeze each half separately. You could cook a half turkey on a Saturday and eat leftovers on Sunday.

Okay, I can’t leave the food storage topic without mentioning flour and cornmeal. We use a lot of both here in the South, and we often find weevils in both products, too, even when we’ve had them for a short time. The best solution for this problem is to store them chilled. I keep cornmeal in the fridge, and I keep flour in the freezer. I’d keep my flour in the freezer, regardless of the bugs. It makes the best biscuits that way!

Turn leftover meat into BBQ sandwiches.
Turn leftover meat into BBQ sandwiches. | Source

Money Saving Tips for Families

If you cook for several people at the time, you might like these money saving tips for families. You probably have leftovers pretty often. Too many people discard their leftovers. This is a huge waste of money. You could be saving on groceries by saving your leftovers! I save bits of everything to use in soups and stews. How long will leftovers keep in the freezer?

Chili will keep for up to 6 months, as will stews and soups. Cooked meats and cooked casseroles containing meat will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months. Fried chicken will last for 4 months in the deep freeze, and pizza will keep for up to 2 months.

When I have leftover chicken or meat, I take it off the bone and freeze it. I use it later in tacos, stews, soups, fajitas, casseroles, chili, or salad. Sometimes I chop the leftover meat up, freeze it, and thaw it out and add barbecue sauce to it. Then I heat it in the microwave and serve it on buns.

When I cook a ham, I use every scrap of leftover meat and fat. I dice the lean meat and freeze it to add to soups, casseroles, salads, quiches, and scrambled eggs. I save the fat in the freezer to season vegetables. I even save the big ham bone. It makes great stock for soups.


Restaurant Deals
Restaurant Deals | Source

Restaurant Deals

If you can find good restaurant deals, it can sometimes be cheaper to dine out than it is to cook at home. I’m including carryout and fast food here, too, by the way. I’ll give you an example: one of our local pizzerias offers a medium pepperoni pizza for just $5. It’s large enough to feed me and the old man, and we usually have enough left over for his lunch the next day. All that for five bucks! There’s no way that I could make a pizza that cheap at home. Actually, I can think of very few meals I could make at home for that price – three meals for $5.

Restaurant deals can also be good money saving tips for families. Our local elementary schools are always sending home restaurant coupons home with the grandkids, and we often take advantage of them. My grandson brought home two restaurant coupons last week that offered a discount on an adult buffet, along with a free kid’s buffet with each adult meal. The catch was that only one coupon could be used per check. No problem! Hubby and I took two of the grandsons out to eat with the restaurant coupons, and we just paid separately. Hubby got his meal at a reduced rate, and the grandkid with him ate free. Since we were on separate checks, I got to do the same thing.

Other sources for restaurant deals and restaurant coupons are newspapers and the internet. We also get them in the mail pretty regularly. In fact, last month I got a free gift card in the mail from Ruby Tuesday – not a discount card, but a gift card. I was only too happy to use it! You can often find restaurant coupons and freebies on the websites of national chains, too. These might include free drinks, free appetizers, free desserts, or printable coupons for special restaurant deals. In most cases, all you have to do to get these restaurant coupons is to join a club and provide your email address.

Saving Money Tips

Saving money tips are everywhere, if you take the time to look. To save money on groceries, you’ll first need to change the way you think about foods. Once you get started with money saving tips, you’ll find that it’s pretty addictive, and it’s actually fun and enjoyable. I sort of see it as a challenging game, where I’m pitted against the evil financial monster. Once I learned how to save money on groceries, I found that some money had been freed up for other uses. Do we ever splurge? Of course! Sometimes we might have expensive steaks, center-cut chops, baby back ribs, or crab legs. But we don’t do so on a regular basis. Because we've learned how to save money on food and do so most of the time, we can afford the occasional splurge. Try some of these strategies yourself. You might want to ease into it gradually, however, by making a few small changes first. After you experience some successes, you’ll probably get serious about more saving money tips.

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Comments 31 comments

breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 6 years ago

I love lists like this. Thanks for the great advice!


viryabo profile image

viryabo 6 years ago

Fantastic tips habee.

I always keep leftovers and find good use for them in making other delicious dishes.

My left over chicken for salads and chicken soup

My leftover meats for stirfrying with vegetables or peppersoup

My fish for fish soups, salads or fish omelettes.

Thanks for sharing.

Cheers


sheila b. profile image

sheila b. 6 years ago

These were good, and practical, suggestions. Another thing about buying turkeys on sale - they can be cut up and frozen.


Sandyspider profile image

Sandyspider 6 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

I tend to keep things longer then the required time. I haven't died yet. Nice job.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

I have definitely been looking to cut back on the grocery bill--I've recently started cutting coupons for the first time ever. I have started buying in bulk, and I will use your list for ideas. Thanks!

Mike


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

You're welcome, Bpop!


Mandy 6 years ago

Thank you for the helpful guide. I like it and will surly use it. Also, you can save money by purchasing produce by the box or bushel from your local farmers market and freeze your buys for later use.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

viryabo, you sound like me! I hate to waste food when there are so many hungry people and animals in the world.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

True, Sheila, but Johnny usually smokes or fries ours whole. Thanks for reading!

Sandy, so do I! I just didn't want to offer questionable advice. lol

Mike, I'm glad you found the tips useful!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Hi, Mandy! I think that's a great idea! You should do that and share with your aged mother! lol


Mandy 6 years ago

I certainly will! What should I do to blackberries before freezing them?


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Mandy, if you want to dry freeze them, pick out the bad berries, wash them, and drain them in a colander lined with paper towels. When they're dry, spread the berries on a cookie sheet in the freezer until frozen, then place them in bags. Or you can place clean berries in a freezer bag or container and cover with a syrup - half sugar and half water. Blackberries will keep 9 or 10 months in the freezer.

I have an easy blackberry cobbler recipe on Hubpages if you're interested!


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

Thank you for these wonderful tips.


crazybeanrider profile image

crazybeanrider 6 years ago from Washington MI

I really liked these tips. I especially liked how long tings can be kept in the freezer. Very helpful.


DynamicS profile image

DynamicS 6 years ago from Toronto, Canada

habee, thanks for the great tips. These days, we all need to be creative to make our budget stretch further. What is your tip to keep hard cheese for 6 months? Do you freeze it? My son likes cheese and sometimes there are great deals on cheese but I'm afraid that it'll go bad.

Thanks for your advise.


Mandy 6 years ago

Thanks, and I love your blackberry cobbler.


msannec profile image

msannec 6 years ago from Mississippi (The Delta)

Thanks for the great hub. I'm always looking for different ways to save on groceries, especially with three kids in the house.


nancy_30 profile image

nancy_30 6 years ago from Georgia

Thank you for these really great tips.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

You're welcome, HH!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Crazy, I'm glad it helped!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Dynamic, if the cheese is sealed in its original plastic wrapper, leave it the wrapper and add a layer of foil. Place it in the freezer.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Mandy, when ya makin' us a cobbler?? I like vanilla ice cream on mine! hint hint


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Anne, I reared 3 kids, too, so I know where you're coming from!


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Thanks, Nancy! Glad you liked them!


Jennifer profile image

Jennifer 6 years ago

Great tips! Thanks.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Thanks, Jennifer! I appreciate your stopping by!


Emmanuel Pro Svc profile image

Emmanuel Pro Svc 5 years ago

Hi I like your tips. Maybe you can help me i am a new blogger and i don't have any ideia how to increase traffic in my blog. Can you help me? Blessings...


habee profile image

habee 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Everyone says backlinking is very important for traffic, but I don't do a lot of it.


john000 profile image

john000 2 years ago from Superior, Arizona

Great info on saving money on food. This is an interesting aside - in the last couple years, guess what type of stocks have appreciated very fast, especially the last few months - you got it, food stocks! Voted up, et al.


missmarsh profile image

missmarsh 2 years ago from USA

Great suggestions for saving money on food! Thanks for the helpful tips! I need to try some of these!


aesta1 profile image

aesta1 24 months ago from Ontario, Canada

One of the cheapest healthy dish we enjoy is the bean salad. It is easy to prepare as well.

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