Food can easily be one of your biggest monthly expenses. In fact, Americans spend an estimated 8.6% of their budget on food (5% of which is derived from grocery bills), according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
While more expensive options include eating out or getting take-out, even cooking at home can be expensive, depending on the ingredients you choose to buy. It can be even more costly if you are focused on eating healthy and organic options instead of the less healthy, cheaper options at the grocery store. But just think of all the different ways you could spend the money if you successfully cut your food bill. Read on for ideas on how to cut your food bill each month.
Save Money by Working With Others
One way you can save money on food is by working with others to reduce your food bill. You can set up a food exchange where you trade off nights to cook with friends. This scheduling gives you the chance to socialize, plus you'll save money since it's cheaper to buy and cook one meal for a larger crowd each week than to cook several smaller meals for yourself.
Another option is to buy items in bulk through a local food co-op, farmers' market, or big-box store. Worth noting: some farmer's markets have a section where they sell wholesale to restaurants, but you have to make larger minimum purchases. Additionally, co-ops often require membership. But going in as a group on either of these can save you money, as well.
Try Saving on Your Lunches
Cutting eating out at lunch can easily save you more than $50 a week, which adds up to more than $200 a month. You can use several lunch savings ideas to help you cut costs.
Try eating leftovers, packing your lunches at the beginning of the week, or doing a lunch exchange at work. All of these ideas can help reduce your food bill. Additionally, it gives you more control over the food that you eat and gives you the option of making—and eating—healthier meals.
Cook More at Home
If you can stop eating out, you can slash your food bill significantly. In fact, a 2015 study found that millennials spend roughly 45% of their food budget eating out, a more than 10% increase from 2010.
So try cooking your dinners at home each night, at least during the week. If you're pressed for time in the evenings, try working slow cooker meals into your weekly dinner repertoire.
Make-ahead freezer meals are another frugal option. As a bonus, there are many slow cookers or freezer meals that aren't unhealthy or starchy. You can do your cooking for the week over the weekend or make double when you know the meal will freeze well.
Take the Time to Plan
Menu planning is another key to help you cut your monthly food bill. It helps you create—and stick to—an established list when shopping and can cut back on the number of unnecessary trips to the grocery store. A weekly dinner menu lets you plan so that you can have easy-to-prepare meals on your busiest days of the week.
If you do not have time to plan a menu, there are several menu-planning services where you get weekly menus. Most services have several different options you can use. You can check out eMeals, The Fresh20, Saving Dinner, and The Scramble.
If you have food you love to cook but need help to assemble your grocery list and menu plan, you may want to look into Plan to Eat. This app allows you to plan your menu with your recipes, then puts together the grocery list for you.
Coupons, Sales and Store Brands
Couponing and comparison shopping are other great strategies for decreasing your food bill and paying less for those items you already buy. You can do so by shopping around—pun intended—for the cheapest grocery store. Some stores charge significantly less for the food when compared to others in the area.
You can also use coupons to save money on your groceries. It helps to plan your menu around the sales offered by your store, especially when it comes to the more expensive ingredients of a meal, like meat.
And don't be afraid to try store brands to see if they will work well for you. With some items, the quality is not discernible. But, with others, you may want to spend the extra money. You can also consider using a warehouse club to save money by buying in bulk.