How much do you spend on food costs in a week? The U. S. Department of Agriculture estimates that a “thrifty” food plan for a family of four costs an average of $146 a week. A “low cost” food plan averages at $191 a week, a “moderate cost” plan at $239 a week, and a “liberal plan” at $289 a week.
If you’re feeding your family using a “moderate cost” plan, you’re spending $956 a month just on food.
Would you have guessed that you’re spending that much?
If you’re struggling with debt
If you’re trying to save money on your food costs, especially if you’ve got some debts to pay off, you’ve probably read lots of tips about cutting back through eliminating your cable bill, finding ways to reduce your insurance premium, buying a programmable thermostat, etc.
But what these budgeting tips rarely tackle are food costs. And yet, the cost of food takes a big chunk out of your monthly budget.
Fortunately, there are lots of creative ways to save money on food.
1. Get rid of those food delivery apps
At the end of a busy, hectic day, the idea of having a meal delivered can seem very tempting. But if you truly want to save money on food, delete Seamless, GrubHub, Blue Apron, HelloFresh and any other meal delivery app you have on your smart phone. Using these services may save you some time and effort, but they also cost a lot. For example, three meals for two people from HelloFresh costs $69 a week. And if you’re feeding four people, the cost goes to $129 a week. That’s a whole lot of money for convenience.
2. Pick up take-out orders
If there are days when you just have to get some take-out, don’t have it delivered. Order in advance and then pick it up on the way home. Getting food delivered costs anywhere from $2 to $5, plus the requisite tip. Picking up take-out yourself could save as much as $10 to $15 a week.
3. Get involved with Community Supported Agriculture
If you’re not familiar with Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA’s, they’re a great option for saving money on food. Joining one will get you fresh produce straight from the farm. CSAs work when you pay a lump sum at the start of the season directly to the grower, which then gets you a weekly dose of whatever produce is fresh. The cost of getting food from the CSA often costs significantly less than other places, even a farmer’s market store, because you’re dealing directly with the farmer. And you’ll have really fresh vegetables without spending an arm and a leg.
(Video about CSAs will go here)
4. Calculate what it costs you to eat out each month
If you’re not tracking your spending, you really need to start. That’s the only way to know where your money went so you can find ways to spend less. Write down your expenses for 30 days and then tally up how much you spent eating out. Our guess is that you’ll find you ate out a lot more often than you thought. This is an area where you should be able to cut your spending – and maybe dramatically.
5. Go grocery shopping once a week
If you do a week’s worth of meal planning, create a shopping list, and then hit your favorite supermarket once a week, you’ll be much less likely to stop for some take-out on the way home. Make sure your list includes staples like macaroni and cheese so you can whip up something fast instead of ordering Chinese.
If you keep foods like pasta, rice and beans around at all times you’ll always have what you need to whip up a quick meal. These items don’t cost very much and never go bad, so you can keep them around forever.
7. Think about tomorrow’s lunch when you’re making dinner
Making sausage-stuffed manicotti topped with béchamel sauce for tonight’s dinner? Don’t make just enough for one family meal. Double up your recipe so that you’ll have yummy leftovers you can take to work during the coming week. This alone could save you much as $60 a month.
8. Learn to love leftovers to reduce food costs
Eating the same thing two nights in a row can be pretty boring. But if you save your leftovers from several meals, you can repurpose them in a way that will make your family happy and help reduce your food costs. For example, if you have some leftover rice, some cooked chicken, and half a head of broccoli, you could turn this into fried rice the next day. Finding interesting ways to combine leftovers will make you a better cook, plus you’ll spend less money eating out.
9. Get some Tupperware
Whether you’ll be taking meals to work or just saving leftovers at home, you need some good, practical containers. Tupperware is more expensive than those plastic containers available at your supermarket, they’ll keep your food fresher. Since Tupperware can last for several years, think of this as a small investment that will save you money down the line.
10. Don’t forget you have a freezer
If you’re single and cooking for one, you could make a large meal on Sunday and then eat the same thing six times. But that would be seriously boring. Instead of putting half the meal in a leftover container and sticking it in the refrigerator, put it in the freezer instead. That way you’ll have a nice, homemade dinner waiting on those nights when you feel you don’t have enough energy leftover to just fry an egg.
11. Go out for brunch instead of dinner
If your family has to go out for a meal, make it brunch instead of dinner. Dinners are not only more expensive, but they also require bigger tips. Brunch at one of your favorite restaurants could cost half as much as a dinner but would still taste great and give you a nice break from cooking.
If you’d like more tips for cutting your food costs, here are 10 simple ones.