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How To Trim Costs Off Your Food Budget

Updated on November 10, 2012


Groceries are a big part of our monthly expenditure and let’s face it, there are some surefire ways that we can all cut back on food bills and have more money to spend. 

A lot of the tips and techniques for saving money on your food budget are timeless and reiterated by many.....but can we ever hear them enough times?

Probably not because I know my one weakness that blows apart our budget sometimes is buying groceries. 

There are some common pitfalls and some things that maybe we just forget about from time to time.  Let’s review so they’ll be fresh in our minds!



Before you go shopping the next time, make a comprehensive, all inclusive list of every single thing in your cupboards, refrigerator, pantry and freezers.  List everything.....and while you’re there, check the expiration dates.  Write down any that are coming up soon, toss out things that are expired.

Now that you have the list, sit down and plan 1 week’s or 2 weeks’ worth of meals....breakfast to lunch to dinner.  Try and make your meal plan around the ingredients you have on hand right now and try and be as frugal as you can be about adding new items.  Do this until you have used up what you have in your fridge and freezer and cupboards, and then start from scratch.......but use up what you have on hand with as few additions as possible!

Write an itemized grocery list for what you need this time.  Next, organize it by store.  Vow that you won’t buy anything that isn’t on the list!

Leave off non-grocery items like paper towels and toilet paper.  Unless you know for a fact that a grocery store has the absolute bottom price for these non-grocery items, you’d do better to purchase toiletries, household cleaners, and paper products at another store such as the Dollar Store, Costco where you can buy in bulk, or other discount stores.  You’ll generally always pay more for these products at the grocery store.

Gather any and all coupons or rebates you have and organize them in an envelope before you leave for the store.  Look in newspapers, magazines, on line and on products.  Don’t forget rewards coupons or circulars that offer special deals.  Take them with you to remind you. Keep them in the car so you'll know that you have them when you need them!

Price compare for the items that you need on your current list.  Which store is the better deal?  Make sure your list is organized so that you’ll make one loop through the stores and one trip in total to multiple stores. 



Just like the old adage about not going to bed mad….don’t go shopping when you’re hungry.  You’ll buy things you don’t need and you’ll be mad at yourself later.

If your kids are making your food budget go through the roof with foods that are processed and expensive, leave them home!  If they’re responsible and are helping you to coupon or helping you to save money by checking prices, enlist their support and use them to help.

Shop the perimeter of the store.  Most of the things that you "should" buy will be on the outside aisles of the store….like meats, produce, dairy products, breads.  The middle of the store is where most of the "evil", money-sucking items are lurking.....ready for you to grab them off the shelf and put them in the cart! 

Those high ticket, non-nutritional items like snack foods, frozen foods like pizza and ice cream, soda, and everything processed under the sun.  Try and avoid the center aisles of the store except for necessities like canned goods or baking supplies, cereals or condiments.  However, the cereal aisle can be a money pit as well if you get talked into buying certain cereals.



  • Don’t buy anything processed – you only spend more money and you get about zilch nutritional value
  • Prepare meals in larger quantities. Have twice during the week or freeze for another meal or two
  • Buy fresh if you can and if in season – frozen or canned if not – fruits and vegetables
  • Buy meat in bulk and freeze in separate packages (for instance from Costco)
  • Do it yourself when it comes to chopping up chickens or making stewing beef. Cut it up yourself and save money per pound. If you have a meat grinder, grind your own ground beef, chicken or turkey. Again the savings are in your pocket when you do-it-yourself
  • Do not buy chopped anything, prewashed anything, or microwaveable anything. You are paying for convenience when you can do it yourself and save money
  • Buy in bulk as much as possible to save money. Divide up with neighbors, friends, family, freeze, or store in appropriate containers. You will save money!
  • Try nonfat milk for recipes, powdered buttermilk, etc. You don’t need to use heavy cream, milk, etc. for most recipes.
  • Go vegetarian once or twice per week. Make a meatless chili or tacos using pinto beans or black beans. You’ll be better for it health wise and your budget will also be leaner
  • Use a dehydrator to make your own onion powder or garlic powder. Use it to dry herbs, vegetables and fruits to have on hand or add to dishes year round. You can even make your own jerky. The cost of a dehydrator is minimal and the savings can be enormous
  • Plant your own herb garden inside or outside and save big bucks on many varieties of herbs....even herbs for tea like peppermint
  • Make your own lunch meat from pork shoulders, whole chickens, tougher cuts of roasts, or turkey. Slice paper-thin and use for lunches. Buy a piece of frozen tuna at Trader Joe’s, grill it and use it to make tuna salad. Lunch meat is another processed food and you are paying for someone to prepare it for you. It’s also loaded with chemicals and additives
  • Pack your own lunches – skip chips and crackers and put in fresh fruit or salad. Add a cup of yogurt or an energy bar instead of pies, cakes, and cookies
  • Bake your own cookies, muffins, breads and treats. You’ll save money and you’ll be eating things that you actually know the ingredients of! Many muffins, cookies, breads, etc. freeze like a dream and you can thaw out what portion you need for lunches or snacks
  • Buy more vegetable and fruit snacks – like real fruits and vegetables! Chop them up and have them at the ready to replace expensive bags of nutritionless chips and snack foods. You’ll save a bundle!
  • Replace pop and soda, tea and coffee with water! You’d be surprised how it helps with appetite control, complexion and your overall health – if you don’t like cold water, drink hot water instead
  • Evaluate want versus need. Do not buy simply because you want it. Ask yourself if you truly need it before buying
  • Think generic and buy generic. Look at upper shelves and lower shelves for generic products that are often hidden from the main line of sight – the middle shelves. Never buy a name brand if there is a generic equivalent that’s cheaper
  • Check the day-old section of your supermarkets. You can get fantastic deals on breads, cakes, cookies and more
  • Stop by bakery outlets to get the same kinds of deals at enormous savings. Use some, freeze some
  • Leave vending machines behind – anywhere. Make your motto bring your own. You’ll save money and you’ll be healthier in the long run
  • Do u-pick in season and stock up. Stock up and freeze or can things like fruits and vegetables. Make your own jams and jellies
  • Learn to make your own sauces from scratch. They cost a fraction of the cost of prepared sauces and are more nutritious because they don’t have additives and sky high sodium levels
  • Try some on-line grocery shopping and see if you save money that way. Usually buying in bulk will save you money but beware of any fees for joining or shipping fees
  • Check out coupon websites like, and Even email or write to manufacturers of products you buy all the time and ask if they have coupons or rebates – it never hurts to ask
  • Invest in a chest freezer and stock up. Make meals ahead, buy items when on sale such as meats or chicken and keep a running list to be sure you use it all up in a timely fashion
  • Quit eating out! Prepare more meals at home and concentrate on quality instead of quantity. You can’t go wrong and you will save money!

In short, there are many and various techniques people use to trim their food budget when they get serious. 

It takes time and it takes devotion but you can save literally hundreds of dollars by using some of the above tips.

If you have more tips you employ to keep your food budget in line, please share them with us here in the space provided below. 

We can all use tips on how to save money on our food budget from time to time to keep us all on spot to save money!


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