Toward the end of December, or the beginning of January, many people make household budget adjustments. They often vow to lower their spending and save money throughout the coming year. However, to do that effectively, you should scrutinize last year’s spending and reign in anything that got out of control.
One area I always look at when reducing my budget is food spending. It seems like it always gets higher from Thanksgiving all the way through until Christmas. Fortunately, I’ve found that there are ways to lower your food budget every month.
1. Use What You Have
This way to lower your food budget sounds elementary. But, that doesn’t mean it’s always practiced. After all, when you get in a time crunch, you probably cook whatever is easy or fast. To really save money, though, you should use what you have before buying more at the grocery store.
So, go through your refrigerator, cupboards, and freezer. Make a list of what’s there and what’s needed to make meals. Then shop accordingly.
2. Stick to the List
If you truly want to lower your food budget every month, stick to the list when shopping. Of course, there will be times when you must buy something you forgot to add to the list. That’s only natural.
Nevertheless, you may be tempted to buy other items from end caps and other displays. Don’t fall for this ploy. Stores often put expensive things front and center so they are directly in your line of sight. This is done on purpose to get you to spend more.
Instead, create your list and order it by location in the store, if you’re familiar with the layout. You’ll shop faster and spend less money on impulse buys.
3. Look for Filling Foods
Another way to spend less on groceries is to pay attention to what you buy. For example, look for filling foods like dried beans, lentils, potatoes, rice, and other staples to cook with.
At the same time, stay away from convenience foods, alcohol, soda, desserts, and junk foods. These things are unnecessary and often unhealthy, especially when you’re trying to get fit.
4. Substitute Store Brand Foods
Substitute store brand foods to lower your food budget. Although my family swears they can tell the difference with certain foods, they don’t always know. I use store brand products in recipes to save money without sacrificing taste.
5. Watch Expiration Dates
Using what you have on hand at home helps you eliminate food waste due to expiration. But to lower your food budget consistently, month after month, you have to watch expiration dates when shopping too.
Fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, meat, and bread need to be looked over carefully. Many canned and packaged foods have longer shelf lives, but they should still be closely examined before purchase. That way you don’t throw away money on bad food.
Still, the passing of a “sell by” or “use by” date doesn’t guarantee you must throw out the item. Caution is advised, but you may be able to eat some such foods safely and without harm.
6. Buy in Bulk
Depending on what you are buying it may not make sense to buy in bulk. But if it’s something you use a lot of, it buying in bulk can lower your food budget.
The store you shop from the most probably carries certain things in larger quantities to save you money. In addition, joining a warehouse club can also save you money if you shop often enough. Just be wary of overbuying and throwing out expired food.
7. Split a Bulk Purchase with a Friend
To save more at a warehouse club and lower your food budget, split a bulk purchase with a friend. When my daughter lived closer, we used to do this to save money. It allowed us to get food for a lower price without worrying that it would expire and get tossed out.
As you can see, there are lots of ways to lower your food budget every month this year. Try a few of these ideas to keep your food costs under control and your finances on track.
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What do you do to lower your food budget when it gets out of control?