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Americans spend a great deal of their hard-earned money on food. Each year, they spend an average of $7,700 per year on groceries and dining out; for urban consumers, food is now their biggest expense other than housing. If you have a large family, managing how much you spend on food and groceries is important; if you’re not careful on those trips to grocery stores or restaurants, you can put yourself into a financial bind. To get your monthly food bill under control, heed these six awesome tips for saving big on your family food costs.
1. Plan Ahead
One of the best ways to save money on food is to plan your meals in advance. List what you’re going to eat for dinner each day of a given week; then, determine the ingredients you’ll need to prepare those meals. Planned meals will make it easier to determine exactly what you need to buy at the grocery store each week, and removing that guesswork will keep you from buying items that you don’t need. Besides it being more cost-effective, you may be able to prepare several of the main course meals at the same time during the week and then reheat them later, which will save you time, as well.
2. Make a Grocery List
Once you have your meals planned, make a grocery list. Besides the ingredients for your main meals, determine all the other things you’ll need from your trip to the grocery store, including quantities. Having a grocery list – and adhering to it while in the supermarket – will keep you focused while shopping. You’ll be less likely to make impulse purchases if you grow accustomed to sticking to your list, which will save you significantly on family food costs over the long term. Additionally, if you shop with a list, you won’t forget important grocery items, which will save you the time you’d otherwise waste returning to the grocery store to purchase something you didn’t buy the first time around.
3. Clip Coupons and Hunt Bargains
If you’ve avoiding clipping coupons up to this point, you’re missing great savings. Start clipping coupons out of your Sunday newspaper if you still receive one, or from the printed booklets that you can find at most stores. You may be able to find them in the store aisles themselves, too. In many cases, you can cut 5-10% off your weekly grocery bill by taking time to gather coupons on the items you’re already planning to buy. Similarly, taking a little extra time to find sales – either in newspapers, online announcements, or by shopping around at various stores before you buy your groceries – can save you money in the checkout line.
4. Embrace Technology
If you want to save money on food, then put your computer and mobile devices to work for you. There are some great apps out there that can help you get organized and save money on groceries. Apps such as Ibotta, for instance, can help you earn rebates for the food you purchase. Apps such as AnyList make it easy to compile and share your family’s grocery shopping list. Additionally, popular apps such as Groupon can save you money when you decide to order takeout food or go to your favorite restaurant. Finally, you can also put your laptop or desktop computer to work, as well as your printer, as you search for and print online coupons. Coupon websites and apps are easy to use, free, and can help you save money on your grocery bill each month.
5. Pack a Brown Bag Lunch
If you go to restaurants or cafeterias each day for lunch at work, then you’re likely spending quite a bit each day on food, along with whatever travel back and forth to a restaurant costs you in gas. One of the simplest and most effective ways to cut your food costs is to forego dining out at lunch and pack a brown bag each morning. Bringing your own lunch to work can save you considerably each week on food. Doing so consistently can cut over $1,000 off your annual food bill. So, if you’ve been driving to a different restaurant each day for lunch, pack that brown bag each morning instead, and start racking up the savings.
6. Get the Most Out of Your Leftovers
If you want to save on your food costs each month, you need to get the most out of the food you buy. One of the best ways to do this is by learning how to put your leftovers to good use. While some foods are simply good heated up in a microwave on the second day, such as pizza or pasta, other leftovers can be transformed into a new and delicious meal altogether. For example, you can use the bones from today’s baked chicken to prepare a delicious chicken broth, and use any of the leftover meat for chicken soup. Similarly, leftover veggies can be used to prepare a delicious stock, which can be used for soups or delicious stews. Overall, getting two meals out of the same food item is one of the best ways to eat well while saving big on your grocery bill.
No matter how you slice it, food is expensive and will always be a major part of your monthly expenses. However, if you’re deliberate and plan ahead, you can pay less for the food that you’re buying each month and make it last longer, too. Take the tips offered here into consideration, and start saving big on your family food costs today.