There are so many ways to save money, but I find one of the easiest areas is food. There is no need to starve, in fact we live incredibly healthy on 50€ (substitute your currency here) a week without feeling deprived at all. Of course you could simply eat less (something I definitely don’t believe in), or go vegetarian (if you haven’t already), or you could try these three easy tips that don’t impact at all on what you eat, but will save you money.
3 Easy Tips to Save Money
1. Don’t stock up
Buy what you need for this week only, and buy after something runs out, not before. Other than condiments and herbs/spices, buying items that will sit in your kitchen or fridge beyond the week is dead money, not saved money. Money that could go towards your debt or dream. And the more you fill your fridge, cupboards and shelves with dead stock, the more likely you will forget about items as they get shuffled to the back. Ideally, what you want is to be able to see every item on your shelves, particularly in your refrigerator.
The only time to break this rule is if you are living somewhere where the nearest shop is hours away, then keeping enough food for 2 weeks as a just in case, against snow storms say, may be necessary. You should only ever have in your freezer enough to give you half a week more, 1 week at most, additional, back up/emergency food supply. (Or course, this excludes if you have bought half a cow or moose that will take you through most of the year and needs to be stored frozen.)
2. Don’t succumb to promos or bigger sizes
Yes, 2 for 3 is supposedly saving you money, but you end up spending more money to get it on the day, and it will simply sit in your cupboard until used. Ditto for larger or bulk items. Spending more money on the day is not saving money. As said above, anything sitting and not being used regularly, or eaten that week, is wasted money. Spend to your budget for just that week, without buying promotions or large items, and you will find you are able to afford more good food. To clarify, as this is an important concept: You need olive oil. There is a promotion on for 3 bottles for the price of 2. A single bottle costs say for ease, a fiver (we’ll talk in $ for this exercise). So for $10 you can get the 3. However, the single bottle is $5 out of say your $50 weekly budget, the 3 bottles are $10 out of your $50. You have lost $5 to dead stock on your shelf that could have bought you an entire dinners fixings, or a better quality olive oil. Now, go buy the smaller one and you have even more money for some other tasty treat. I can guarantee you that by buying only the one, within you budget, you will save money.
However, what I will say in favor of promotions is if something is reduced. You do save money then, but only if in substitution for something on your list, not additional. In example, fish is on sale this week, buy it instead of the beef or chicken that was planned.
3. Do Plan Meals
Speaking of planning, I do make a meal plan for the week (though I occasionally chop and change the days and some ingredients), but I make my plans after I do my shopping. This may seem strange, but I find that if I make a meal plan before then it doesn’t give me the same flexibility over pricing. By shopping based on a budget, with the intent of planning and buying enough food to cover a week. (I always use a Shopping List to help me stick to my budget.) I then find recipes based on what I have bought (ah, the internet is a wondrous thing).
So how do I plan based on not knowing what I will cook? By thinking 4 meat dishes (if one is not a vegetarian) 2 vegetarian meals and 1 left over night, or throw together what is left in the fridge/freezer night, it means looking for enough foods to cover this outline. Keeping to this formula, I then look for the best value for my money that covers these areas. If I find a particularly tasty piece of meat that costs a bit more I may adjust to 3 veggie dishes and 3 meat dishes for the week. It’s about flexibility in the planning, and by not having already decided my meals, I actually have more flexibility.
Of note, vegetarian dishes are generally always cheaper than meat dishes, so if you really have a tight budget or wish to save even more money, consider eating only veggie dishes or limiting your meat intake substantially. If you are already a vegetarian, lucky you!
You may be thinking, but what about lunch and breakfast? Lunch for us is always left overs from the night or 2 nights before. So when I buy meat or veg, I try to buy the most I can afford, and then we keep a bit for our lunches the next day. We personally keep breakfast very simple as we are very early risers. (Butter coffee, but that’s another story.) Breakfast could be left overs, depending on how much you cooked. or make something that morning, say an egg sandwich. A yogurt with some fruit or nuts. We think cereals are over priced and generally you are starting your day on a sugar high. Savory will give you more energy in the morning than sweet. But if you go that route, think about making your own muesli. It’s cheaper and healthier. Again, it is just about planning, possibly re-thinking what you might normally have, maybe swapping your daily meals around (strange concept, but fun to try), keeping at least 1 meal light, and how much time you wish to give to preparation, and at what time of day.
There’s no excuse for eating badly, no matter how time poor you are. It is honestly, simply planning. And raiding the refrigerator for leftovers otherwise.