25 Tips For Living On A Food Budget

By Zach Buchenau

Last Updated: July 1, 2021

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When it comes to living on a food budget, planning is absolutely key.

Knowing what you need to buy and deciding where to buy it is half of the battle. But there are also many other handy tips and tricks that you can utilize to save money on your weekly food shop.

In fact, we’re excited to share 25 tips with you that will help you spend within your food budget.

Let’s get started!

25 simple tips for living on a food budget | Be The Budget

1. Create A Weekly Meal Plan

Before you head to the grocery store, spend half an hour putting together a weekly meal plan for you and your family.

Include all meals, snacks, treats, and drinks on your plan, and make sure you consider quantities. Oh, and don’t forget to account for leftovers. After all, if you can turn one meal into two or three, you can save a lot of money.

When your plan is complete, you’re then able to work out what to add to your shopping list. 

2. Plan Your Meals Around Local Sales

Every grocery store runs special offers and promotions.

And if you notice that specific item like chicken is on sale, plan your weekly meals around this main ingredient.

This is a particularly good strategy for expensive grocery items like meat and fish, or if you want to enjoy exclusive food from a particular part of the world.

3. Shop At Multiple Grocery Stores

Although it might be convenient to shop at the store closest to home, if you mix things up and go to various stores, you can take advantage of more discounts and special offers.

Consider going to a couple of stores every week and compare the prices before you go.

Even if you spend a couple extra minutes pricing out your shopping list at multiple stores can save you $10-$20 per week.

4. Get A Wholesale Store Membership

Wholesale memberships at stores like Sam’s Club are an excellent way to saving money on bulk items. What’s more, they often run incredible sales, which can help reduce your food spending that much more.

Oh, and on another note, most wholesale clubs also offer discounted rates on gas for you vehicle. So, whenever you hit the store, make sure to fill up your tank.

You’d be amazed how much less expensive gas can be at a wholesale club.  

5. Plan Your Meals With Fewer Ingredients

Plain and simple, the fewer ingredients you have to buy, the less you’ll likely spend at the store. So, when you’re planning your weekly meals, look for recipes with fewer ingredients.

Sometimes, this can actually make your meal taste a little better. And honestly, it’s kind of fun to put your own spin on a recipe.

To top it all off, the fewer ingredients you have to use, the easier meals tend to be to cook.

6. Cook Meals That Leave You With Leftovers

As I mentioned before, if you’re living on a food budget, do your best to plan meals that will leave you with leftovers.

Not only is this a great way to save money, but it will also save you time throughout the week.

I mean, if you can cook one dinner that leaves you with three days worth of lunches, that’s hard to beat.

7. Use Curb-Side Pickup

Instead of visiting the grocery store and looking up and down the aisles, you could do your shopping online and opt for curb-side pickup.

You’re much less likely to act on impulse when you shop online than if you were in-store.

Seriously, food is a lot less tempting when you’re sitting in front of a laptop placing your order!

8. Sign Up For Grocery Memberships/Loyalty Programs

Most grocery stores have their own membership or loyalty program that you can sign up for.

While you might think it’s a hassle to sign up for every store you visit, they send exclusive discounts and even money-back specials to their members.

To save you from having to carry around individual cards, you could download an app like Stocard that stores all of the loyalty cards on an app on your phone.

9. Download Your Local Grocery Store App

Continuing on from the previous point, many big grocery stores actually have their own apps that customers can download.

You can normally access exclusive promotions and significant discounts when using their app, so it could be worth downloading it on your smartphone, particularly for the stores you visit regularly. 

10. Use Cashback Apps. 

Cashback apps like Rakuten are a great way to save a little bit of money on your food bill.

Rakuten gives customers cashback for shopping at more than 2,500 stores.

This is particularly beneficial if you shop for groceries online, because they have a browser extension that makes the whole cashback process simple as can be.

To top it all off, new customers get a cash welcome bonus, and you receive your cashback payments every three months.

11. Take Advantage Of Couponing Websites/Apps

When you’re sticking to a budget, it’s worth checking out couponing apps and websites like Honey, Coupons.com, and Savings.com, to look for great grocery store deals and promotions.

You’d be amazed at how many deals you can find. They can be anything from free fuel vouchers to money-back offers when you spend over a certain amount.

Honestly, if you’re living on a tight food budget, these kinds of apps and websites will become your best friend.

12. Earn Rewards With Grocery Apps

If you don’t want to sign up for individual grocery store apps, consider joining a rewards program like Fetch.

For every receipt you scan, you receive points from Fetch, which you can later turn into promotions and cash.

You get bonus points for scanning an item that is currently being promoted, so be sure to check out the app for updates before you go shopping. 

13. Plan Your Budget With Your Spouse

When you’re budgeting for your weekly food shop, it’s important that you’re on the same page as your spouse.

You should sit down together to develop your weekly meal plans and think about the meals you would like to prepare at home. You should agree on how much you want to spend, and also delegate shopping and cooking responsibilities accordingly.

As with just about everything in marriage, the more you align your desires and expectations, the more likely you will be to stay within budget.

14. Don’t Buy Everything In Bulk

Stores like Costco and Sam’s Club lead you to believe that buying everything in bulk will save you money in the long run. And while it’s true for items like toilet paper, there’s really no need to buy 5 gallons of mayonnaise! Gross.

While the per-unit price might be better, but if you’re not going to use them before they go bad, you’re really just wasting money.

To put it simply, only buy bulk items that you know you’re going to use. 

25 Awesome Tips For Living On A Tight Food Budget | Be The Budget

15. Pay With Cash

Paying with cash is an excellent budgeting tip, regardless of what you’re buying.

After all, when you pay with cash, you are forced to stay within a certain limit. Unlike paying on a debit card, which makes it easier to blow past your food budget, when you run out of cash, you have to stop shopping.

If you struggle to stay on budget, this is a sure-fire way to get your food spending under control.

Just make sure to leave your debit or credit cards at home. Otherwise, you might be tempted to spend beyond the cash you brought to the store—which would defeat the whole purpose.

16. Log Expenses Into Your Budget Daily

An important part of budgeting is keeping up to date with your expenses. Whether that means logging your expenses into a spreadsheet, hand-written budget printable, or a budgeting app, just do your best to log your spending on a daily basis.

If you leave it until the end of the week or month, you won’t be able to track your progress within your budget, and thus, you could easily overspend.

17. Buy Food That’s In-Season

When you’re considering which fruits and vegetables to buy, plan your recipes with ingredients that are currently in season.

Since out-of-season produce typically costs more money, this is a great way to reduce your food spending.

From a cooking standpoint, this is probably better anyway because your ingredients will likely be much fresher.

18. Eat Before You Go Grocery Shopping

Going grocery shopping on an empty stomach is an absolute no-no.

If you’re hungry when you’re walking up and down the aisles, it will be hard to stave off the impulses. If you’re like me, you’ll get to the check-out line and realize that your cart is full of goodies that weren’t on your list, and thus, aren’t good for your food budget.

In fact, the best time to go grocery shopping is after a big meal. That way, you don’t have to listen to your stomach beg for food as you work your way around the store!

19. Stick To Your Grocery List

Even if you think something in the store is remarkably good value for money, if it’s not on your list, don’t pick it up.

Sporadically adding bits and pieces to your cart that you didn’t plan for is a great way to blow your budget.

In fact, harkening back to our earlier tip, if you struggle to stick to your grocery list while shopping in-store, consider shopping online instead. 

20. Don’t Wait Until You’re Out Of Groceries To Go Shopping

Unless you’re going on vacation or moving to a new house, it’s helpful to keep your pantry and refrigerator reasonably well-stocked.

I mean, there’s nothing like a “we’re-completely-out-of-food” grocery run to make you buy things you probably shouldn’t.

So, when you’re planning your weekly meals, it’s a good idea to top-off on any staple items that are running low in your pantry.

21. Cook Every Meal At Home

When you’re living on a food budget, avoid eating out at all costs.

Preparing your meals at home is almost always a fraction of the price they would cost if you were to order at a restaurant.

Now, if you want to treat yourself and dine out occasionally, that’s absolutely fine. Just make sure you include it in the budget and plan the rest of your weekly meals accordingly. 

22. Avoid Your Spending Triggers

If you’re living on a tight food budget, it’s important to know your spending triggers.

For example, you might be triggered by an empty stomach or perhaps by passing your favorite pizza shop on the way home from work.

Whatever your triggers, make sure you’re aware of them and try not to let them influence your spending habits.

If you let your triggers take control, you will end up with a cart full of items, or a bag of Chick-Fil-A, you never accounted for in your budget!

23. Grow Your Own Vegetables

If you have some outdoor space at home, consider growing your own vegetables.

Having a yearly harvest of fruits and vegetables can save you lots of money at the store. Beyond that, tending to your own vegetable garden is also a rewarding activity in and of itself.

Think about the climate where you live and have a look online at which types of vegetables grow well at different times of the year. 

Then, grab a shovel, some soil, and some seeds and get planting!

24. Freeze Food You Know You Won’t Eat

If you’ve bought certain ingredients in bulk or made a large pot of stew, set some aside and freeze what you know you won’t eat.

This saves it from going bad and extends your food’s shelf life by several months. Not to mention, it can make your future meal planning significantly easier if you have a stockpile of frozen meals just waiting to be reheated.

25. Mix It Up

When you’re living on a tight food budget, it’s easy to get stuck in a food rut.

By mixing up your meals and trying new things, you might find a new, cheap meal that you love.

On some nights of the week, think about exchanging meat for vegetables or one of your favorite American meals for a meal from a different culture.

You’ll be amazed at what you might enjoy when you try new things!

Final Thoughts

As we come to the end of this post, we hope you can see that living on a food budget doesn’t have to be difficult.

In fact, there are so many things you can do to make food budgeting a little more manageable. Whether you choose to shop on a full stomach, plan every meal with your spouse, or maximize your leftovers, the more you prepare, the better off your food budget will be!

Zach Buchenau

About The Author:

Zach Buchenau is a self-proclaimed personal finance nerd. When he isn't writing about budgeting, getting out of debt, making extra money, and living a frugal life, you can find him building furniture, fly fishing, or developing websites. He is the co-founder of BeTheBudget, and Chipotle's most loyal customer.

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