13 Easy Ways to Cut Food Expenses to Save Money

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Are you having a tough time keeping your food budget in check? Or maybe you realize the damage your high grocery bills do to your household budget?  

And now, perhaps you are looking for ways to save money on groceries so you can spend less on food and put your money to work for you elsewhere.

You came to the right place! I will give you some tips to help you spend less money on food and cut those food expenses way back.

Food expenses can totally bust your budget if you aren’t careful.

I was wondering how much the average family of four actually spends per month on groceries, so I checked out the U.S. Department of Agriculture website.

In 2018, a household consisting of two parents and two children spent an average of $644 a month on the thrifty side and $1287 a month on the liberal side. What a range!

Let’s get your household on the lower end of this range using money-saving strategies.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links.  If you click and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.  You can read my full disclosure here.  

13 Easy Ways to Cut Food Expenses

Here is a list of simple ways you can cut your food costs so you can start spending less on your grocery bills right away.

#1 Cook at Home

I know this is a no-brainer. But I have to mention this, even though it’s pretty much a given when you are trying to cut your food costs. Eating at restaurants and getting takeout is crazy expensive.

We cook about 99% of our meals at home, and I believe this is the number one way we keep our food expenses down. It was rough at first. But over time, we started to enjoy cooking at home and trying new recipes.

When you make a delicious meal at home, try to estimate what you think the same meal would have cost you if you ordered it at a restaurant. If you start to think about the amount of money you are saving, it will help you stay motivated to stick to your meal plan and continue to eat at home.

Related Post:

How to Stop Eating Out to Save Money

#2 Meal Plan

When people find out that I meal plan for a month at a time, they want to know how that’s possible. But it’s actually not that difficult to do.

I use a monthly planner similar to this one for my meal planning. Then I take inventory of what we have on hand in the pantry and freezer.

After that, you fill in the days. Once you get some rotation, like having fish on Monday, chicken on Tuesday, pasta on Wednesday, etc., it doesn’t take that long to fill in the blanks.

I usually try to plan simple meals during the week when we are busy with school, sports, work, etc., and more involved meals for Saturdays and Sundays when I know we will have the time to cook.

If you would like to start meal planning and need a simple meal planning system to get organized, you can download my Meal Planning Guide here. It includes everything you need to create your own meal-planning binder.

Here is a preview of my Meal Planning Guide:

Free Meal Planning Guide

If you would like to read more on meal planning, here are some of my other posts on the topic:

#3 Try $5 Meal Plan

If you absolutely hate meal planning or you have tried it and you can’t seem to figure out a system that works for you, you should take a look at $5 Meal Plan.

$5 Meal Plan is a meal plan service that sends you weekly meal plans right to your inbox and the grocery list for the meal plan already done for you!  

All you have to do is check off the things you already have and head to the grocery store to get the rest.

Most of the meals work out to be around $2 per person.  And it’s only $5 a month!  

So if you would like to check it out, they have a free 14-day trial you can sign up for here.  

Then you can see for yourself how much money and time it can save you!

#4 Integrate Leftover Meals Into Your Meal Plan

Another way to cut food expenses is to integrate leftover meals into your meal plan. This goes hand in hand with creating your meal plan.

Usually, around once every two weeks, I plan a meal that makes enough to feed my family of four a second meal. You could strive for once every week if you really want to save money.

So, for example, we might have chili and corn muffins for one meal. Then later in the week, we will use the leftover chili for chili tater-tot casserole.

By making enough to feed your family a second meal during the week, you are essentially cutting the cost of your meal in half.

Another easy way to integrate leftovers into your meal planning is to make enough food to freeze half of it to use the following month. These types of meals you make ahead and freeze for the future are called freezer meals.

Cooking large batches and freezing the food into family-sized portions is a great way to help eat at home during those busy weeknights when you don’t think you will have time to cook.

Just pull the meal out the night before to thaw in the fridge, and all you have to do is heat it up when you get home from work.

Related Posts:

How to Reuse Leftover Food to Avoid Waste

#5 Plan One Meatless Meal Per Week

Buying meat can really explode your grocery bill. By planning for one meatless meal per week, you can really save a lot of money on your groceries.

There are some awesome vegetarian and meatless recipes out there on the internet, and I love allrecipes.com to find something new.

There are so many healthy alternatives to meat. My favorite lately has been quinoa.

Other meatless meal ideas are cheese ravioli, bean and rice burritos, breakfast for dinner, and black bean soup with cheese quesadillas.

#6 Shop Every 2 Weeks

I don’t know about you, but whenever I step foot in a grocery store, I want to throw extra things in the cart.

If I go shopping when I’m hungry, forget about it! There goes my food budget. So the least amount of times I walk into a store, the better.

If you are like this too, then you should try doing your grocery shopping every other week. It takes some time and planning. However, once you get into the routine, you most likely will not want to go back to shopping every week.

Here are a few little tips and tricks I have for you that will help you not forget anything since you will only be going to the store every two weeks.

My first trick is to list everything you normally buy at the store every week. Type it up so you can easily print it out or make copies when you need more.

You will hang that list on the fridge (or keep it handy elsewhere) and circle things that you are running low on as you see them.

If you go to the grocery store (as opposed to shopping online), you can even put your list of items in order by how the store is laid out. Then as you are walking through the store, you can just pick everything up in order on your list.

Sounds good, right?

Before you go to the store, you can get your meal plan out and circle all the other things you will need for your two weeks of meals.

So everything you will need for your planned breakfasts, lunches, and dinners will be circled on your list.

Also, you may want to leave space on your list for write-ins. In the event you have something different and new planned for dinner, you’ll want a spot to add the ingredients that you will need to your list.

This is what we did for the longest time when we shopped at a regular grocery store, and it really helped us remember everything. Having the list accessible is key because you want to circle things right away if you notice you are running low on them.

Also, if we had a coupon for an item, we would write a “C” next to the item to remind us to check to see if the store brand is cheaper than the name brand with the coupon.

Seriously though, shopping every two weeks will help you cut your food expenses. You should give it a try.

#7 Use Grocery Pick Up

As I said, I tend to throw stuff in my cart if I am in the store. So it’s even better for my budget not to step foot in a grocery store at all. The temptation is real!

We have been using grocery pick-up at Walmart for a while now. I love it, and I’m pretty sure my husband does, too, since he was stuck doing the grocery shopping much of the time.

We do all of our shopping from the comfort of our couch through the Walmart app. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s easy to add extra things you don’t really need to your cart. That does take some willpower.

But when you do your shopping through an app, like the Walmart Grocery Pickup app, you can add and subtract things from your cart so that you can stay within your budget.

It’s so much easier to keep track of your grocery bill when you shop online because you see the total right in front of you.

Plus, now you can use the free cash-back app, Ibotta in conjunction with Walmart Grocery Pickup.

The best part is, Ibotta has some coupons that allow you to choose any brand you want, so you can even choose Walmart’s store brands for some major savings.

If you do not have Ibotta yet, you should get it. It’s a cashback app that is totally free to download and use. New users can get up to $20 in welcome bonuses by using my link!

You can sign up here if you want to get cashback on your groceries.

If you would like to read more about Walmart Grocery Pickup, you can read my review here. You can also check here if the Walmart near you has Grocery Pickup.

#8 Shop at Discount Stores

After we stopped shopping at a regular grocery store and cutting coupons, before we started using Walmart’s grocery pickup, we would do most of our shopping at Aldis. A friend of mine at work would talk about how much she loved Aldis and how much money she saved.

Then I decided to hit up Aldis to check out their snacks for our beach vacation a few years ago. I was skeptical of the quality of their products, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Plus, they have an awesome money-back guarantee if you really don’t like one of their products.

A Lidl store also just opened near us, and I’ve been heading there if we forgot something we needed for our meal plan or if Walmart was sold out of something.

You can really save a lot of money to cut food expenses when you shop at discount grocery stores.

#9 Use Loyalty Cards

If you want to (or have to) continue shopping at a regular grocery store, don’t forget your bonus/loyalty card.

Using a grocery store’s loyalty bonus card is a must to save money. If you forget your card, don’t forget to ask the cashier if they have one they could scan.

Usually, they will do that so you can still take advantage of their sale prices and discounts even if you don’t have your card with you.

#10 Watch for Sales to Stock Your Pantry or Freezer

If you have extra room in your freezer, a separate freezer, or some extra shelves to store some nonperishables, stocking up on items when they are on sale will really save you money and help you cut food expenses.

For example, we buy 10 pounds of ground beef when it’s at a rock-bottom price (we have a small chest freezer for storage). If you are willing to go to a couple of different stores to get the lowest price on staples for your pantry, it will save you quite a bit of money.

#11 Buy in Bulk

Many times you’ll pay a lower price when you buy items in bulk. Sometimes joining a membership club like Sam’s Club, Costco, or BJ’s can help you to save money to stay within your grocery budget.

That being said, it’s important to check unit prices to make sure you are actually getting the lowest price on the item.

Occasionally, I have found better deals on things if they are on sale at another store (not in bulk) than buying the same thing in bulk. So make sure you do some research before buying.

#12 Use Coupons

This is another obvious way to cut food expenses that I want to talk about. I used to use coupons. When we got the Sunday paper, I would do my best to keep up with cutting them out and filing them in our coupon binder system.

I used to look for coupons on websites that you could download and print.

Coupons are best used in conjunction with store sales in order to save the most money. Unfortunately, I really never got that good at couponing, and it became too time-consuming for me, especially after having kids.

So I no longer cut coupons for groceries.

But I do clip coupons for toiletries that I buy regularly, like eye drops, toothpaste, shampoo, lotions, etc. I find that those coupons are best used for toiletries at stores like Target or Walmart, where the prices are already the lowest you can find.

I would not recommend buying toiletries at the grocery store unless they are on sale for at least as low as the regular price you can buy them for at a Walmart or Target.  Just check prices on the apps to compare before you buy.

As I mentioned earlier in the post, we do use the Ibotta app for getting cash back on groceries. It’s really easy to use. All you have to do is open the app, choose the offers you want, and go shopping!

Then you will have to take a picture of your receipt and upload it directly on the app. Ibotta reviews your receipt to confirm your purchases, and you get your cashback!

#13 Plan and Budget for Eating Out at Restaurants

Everyone needs to treat themselves once in a while. So leave room in your food budget for eating out or getting some takeout, whether it be once a week, once every two weeks, or once a month.

Figure out what works best for your budget and family, and enjoy yourself!

Just don’t forget to take advantage of restaurant coupons you may get in the mail, gift cards you receive, or daily specials that restaurants may offer.

You work so hard during the month to save extra money. It’s ok to splurge once in a while. You deserve it!

I would love to hear everyone else’s tips for cutting food costs. Please leave me your best tips in the comments section and let me know what you think of mine.

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