The following is a post from staff writer Crystal at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff, where she writes about finding the balance between paying your bills, saving for your future, and budgeting for the fun stuff along the way.
A little more than a year ago, my husband and I realized we were spending $600 or more a month on food. There are only two of us, so frankly, we kind of bugged out.
Here are the ways we’ve been able to cut back to $400 or less on food most months:
1. Cut Back on Restaurants
Our biggest food expenses were restaurants and fast food. Each visit to a restaurant with wait staff ran us $15 to $30 a pop. My husband always bought the meals at fast food places, which hit us for another $6-$8 each time. Altogether we were spending more than $300 a month on eating out. In January 2010, we decided to cut back from 6-8 visits to restaurants each week for lunch and dinner to no more than two times per week total. That immediately saved us $150 or more every month.
2. Pack a Lunch
Since we weren’t grabbing lunch from restaurants anymore, we started packing our own. The key to brown bagging your lunch every day is to keep yourself interested and to avoid spending a ton to do that. My husband and I started enjoying our leftovers, making great sandwiches, and finding inexpensive and tasty frozen meals. My husband cannot get enough of Lean Cuisine Panini’s and we can stock up on them for less than $1.80 each when they go on special at Kroger or Wal-Mart.
3. Embrace Grocery Specials
When I see boneless, skinless chicken breasts on sell for less than $2 a pound, I stock up our deep freezer. I also get excited when I can find yummy steak for less than $2.75 a pound. And yes, it may be unhealthy, but I also buy at least 5 Digiornos any time I can find them for less than $5 each since their Three Meat Rising Crust pizza is our absolute favorite and makes for a fun Friday evening. I’d suggest taking a good look at all your staples and stocking up when they go on special.
4. Buy Specific Things in Bulk
We have a Sam’s Club membership but have learned which items are a good deal. Buying 10 pounds of oranges when you are only going to eat 2 pounds is probably a bad idea. But being able to buy our favorite cereals and frozen vegetables at a 30%-40% discount by simply buying more has saved us at least $50 a month.
5. Value Menus
When we do grab fast food, we now take advantage of the value menus. It cut our bills from $6-$8 per meal to less than $3-$4 every time. That really adds up. By pretty much giving up large sizes of everything and sampling items like yogurt parfaits and side salads, we’ve cut back on our calorie intake too.
I am not as excellent at couponing as a ton of people I’ve met while blogging, but I do cut out the ones that pertain to our normal purchases. I may only be saving $10-$15 a month, but that is $120-$180 a year that I can spend or save elsewhere.
Readers, What has helped you save money on food?