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How To Stretch Your Food Budget With Minimal Planning

If you’ve noticed your food budget spilling over every month, you’re not alone. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that groceries account for about 8% of a typical family’s monthly spending, putting groceries above health care (7%), entertainment (5%), and clothing (3%). Not to mention, annual grocery spending is up by $140 since 2011. These stats are relatively similar for single people as well.


This increase in costs is often a by-product of heightened demand for grain production, subsidized corn, wheat for biofuels, shipping premiums on foreign imports, and increased oil prices. Therefore, keeping our cabinets and refrigerators stocked has become a hardship on the average person’s budget.


Luckily, there are many strategies you can implement to stretch your food budget without compromising quality, quantity or, more importantly, time. These five cost-cutters yield the desired outcome with minimal planning.

1. Moderate your weekly meat intake


As high-protein diets get more popular in Western culture, the price of meat continues to escalate. To mitigate this trend, consider reducing your animal protein consumption to just a few times per week. Embracing the “Meatless Monday” mentality can improve the conditions of both your health and wallet.


On average, plant-based protein sources, like tofu, beans, or lentils, generate a median savings of $1.60 per pound when stacked against their chicken, pork, and beef competitors.

2. Download coupon codes and apps


With your mobile device, you can access an entire database of virtual coupons from nationwide retailers, including Grocery IQ, SnipSnap, and Ibotta. These tools offer reward points, price comparisons, sale notifications, discount codes, rebate promotions, and other features that save both time and money.

3. Shop around and compare prices


If you reside in an area with multiple grocery stores, take advantage of the choices to save money. A recent grocery analysis found that bacon and beer are least expensive at Aldi, while olive oil and Greek yogurt are most affordable at Trader Joe’s. Comparing prices and splitting your groceries among different stores ensures maximum savings because you’re not just settling for convenience.


When writing your grocery list, consider which items are more affordable at which stores, and then break your shopping trip into a few stops. Do this over the course of the weekend to make it less time-intensive.


4. Purchase items in bulk

Instead of buying individually packaged foods, save up to 89% just by scanning the bulk aisle at your local supermarket. Accumulating non-perishable grains, dried beans, raw nuts, spices, flour, and other pantry staples in large quantities is both practical and economical because you can stockpile them for extended periods.

In addition, bulk items are often fresher, healthier, and more natural than processed alternatives. Compare the price of a bag of rice to the bulk per pound cost and you’ll quickly see the financial benefit of buying in bulk.

5. Freeze your leftover ingredients


Wasted food directly translates into wasted money, so reduce the amount of rotten bananas, wilted spinach, moldy bread, or rancid chicken that goes from fridge to garbage by properly preserving your leftovers.


The most effective means of food preservation is your freezer because sub-zero temperatures impede bacterial growth. Just seal those leftovers in an airtight container or freezer-safe bag and you can store them for several months, or until the recommended expiration time.


Although grocery shopping has become an expensive endeavor, these simple and low-maintenance ideas can make the process more affordable in the long term. Feeding yourself and/or your household is a priority and a necessity. Don’t skimp on basic sustenance. Instead, become a smarter, more resourceful consumer.


Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than ten years and is currently a full-time blogger. She is also an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition specialist, and the owner of her own personal training business, Honest Body Fitness. She’s using her experience from writing, editing, and marketing to help people get healthy and learn to love what their bodies can do. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram for health articles, new workouts and more.

Tags: Budgeting, Spending

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