ways to save money on food

We all know a nutritious, well-balanced diet is essential to a healthy lifestyle. Yet when we’re constantly on the go between work and social gatherings, it can be tempting to go out for lunch or order takeout instead of preparing a home-cooked meal. Plus, who wants to cook dinner after a long day at work, anyway?

With the average American household spending $4,015 per year on groceries alone, food costs quickly accumulate. Fortunately, there are several small changes you can incorporate into your lifestyle to help you cut back on your food budget and save money. If you’re looking for ways to save money on food, try one of these ideas.

1. Cut Back on Takeout

While we all need to eat, that doesn’t mean we should be eating at a restaurant for lunch and dinner every day. Try swapping out a couple meals each week that you would normally eat out for, and eat a home-cooked meal instead. Remember, you don’t have to quit eating out cold turkey. Eliminating just one or two takeout meals a week could significantly decrease your food costs and put more money in your pocket.

2. Swap Out High-End Ingredients for Basic Ingredients

Shopping at high-end grocery stores or purchasing gourmet ingredients can be fun if you love to cook. However, cooking fancy meals every week with high-end ingredients can cost you a pretty penny.

The next time you head to the grocery store, consider purchasing generic store brand products instead of the name brands. In many cases, you’ll find the quality of the ingredient is similar, if not the same, as the name brand. Especially for essentials like spices, baking goods, and condiments, generic brands can easily be substituted for higher-end products.

3. Prep Your Meals

Dining out is a huge expense for many Americans. However, with a little planning, you can go to the grocery store on Sunday and plan your meals for the rest of the week.

While meal prepping can be a little intimidating in the beginning, it’s easy once you get the hang of it. First, pick a day where you will have a few hours to dedicate to preparing your meals for the week. Next, think of a couple of simple recipes you have prepared before and would feel comfortable doubling up if needed.

After picking a recipe or two, determine how many portions you’ll need for the week. If you’re making enough for lunch and dinner for the work week, then you will need to plan for 10 portions. Once you’re finished cooking, divide your meals into containers that you can transport to work and easily pop in the microwave. This way you have meals ready for the entire week and you don’t have to think about cooking.

4. Always Prepare a Grocery List

Grocery shopping can add up if you head to the store without a game plan. Especially if you’re shopping on an empty stomach, it can be tempting to throw every item into your cart that looks delicious. By having a list, you can divide and conquer the grocery store without buying too many extra items. As you make your list, don’t forget to check your cupboards to make sure you don’t already have the ingredients so you don’t buy extra at the store.

5. Cut Back on Juice, Soda, and Wine

Buying beverages can get pretty pricey. If you’re trying to save money on groceries, consider cutting out some of the special beverages you purchase during the week and save them for the weekend. Not only will you save money from not drinking during the week, but you’ll also cut some extra calories and even get better sleep.

Although some of these food budgeting habits may require small lifestyle changes, that doesn’t mean they can’t be accomplished. Slowly try integrating these habits into your lifestyle. Before you know it, you will start seeing the dollars saved add up in your bank account and even feel healthier, too!

What are some ways you save money on food? Share your ideas in the comments below!