Frugal Living Tips to Help You Cut Your Family Food Budget and Save Money
Maybe you’re trying to run your home on one income.
Maybe you’re trying to pay off debt.
Whatever your reason for trying to cut your food bill, you might have realised that it’s easier said than done!
Sure you can make a few tweaks to save a some pennies, cents or pesos.
But if you’re looking to make some cut-throat savings on grocery shopping, you need a serious plan.
So here is a step-by-step action plan to guide you through everything you need to do to slash that food budget.
And there’s even a handy workbook to hold your hand through it all.
Are you ready to cut, slash and carve that food budget in half?
How to Cut Your Food Budget in Half - Some Pre-Work
Before we dive into the cutting and slashing, there is a bit of pre-work for you to do. It is of course totally optional, but I pinky-swear promise that these steps will set you up for success.
Have a no spend week (starting now!)
Finish off those leftovers. Get creative with whatever’s left in your pantry, freezer and fridge. You probably have more food waiting to be eaten than you realise.
OK, so you might not last an actual week. But see how far you get.
Decide a monthly food budget
And withdraw that amount from your bank account. Put it in a separate envelope, wallet, or purse.
Print the workbook
Click here to download the Cut Your Grocery Budget Challenge Workbook - no email sign up required.
Share your intention with your family.
You’re not in this alone, mama. So get the family on board, too.
But do consider how you ‘sell’ this to your family. Don’t tell them that we’re ‘cutting the food budget and, yes, it’s going to be horrible but we just gotta get through this’.
How about talking about it as a family challenge? Use positive and cheerful words, even if you’re not quite feeling it yourself.
Here’s The One ‘Totally-Annoying-But-Crucial-As-Oxygen’ Task to Help You Cut Your Food Budget
There are tons of tips and tricks to help you save money - and we’ll cover some of my favorite later.
But in order to make the most savings, you need to get comfortable with working out how much each meal you cook costs.
Yes, it’s faffy AF.
Yes, you’ll hate every second of working out how much that bit of carrot you plan to use actually costs (or maybe not, if you’re a details kinda gal!)
But working out how much each meal you cook costs is the key to saving money on groceries.
Because when you’re cutting the food budget, there are essentially 3 ways to save money:
Change the meals you already eat so that they cost less.
Eat cheaper meals.
Do a combination of both.
(No, it’s not rocket science.)
We’re going to look at more ways to do these things throughout the post.
8 Eye-Popping Questions to Help You Work Out Where The Heck Your Food Budget Is Currently Going
Don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers to these questions.
Just make your best guess based on what you can remember or work out. We just need to establish where we’re starting from so we can track progress.
1 | How much do you currently spend weekly and monthly on food?
Go through your receipts, your bank statements and add it all up. Don’t forget to include take out food for lunches or eating out.
2 | What grocery items do you buy every week or every month without fail?
These are the things like milk, bread, cheese, laundry detergent, toothpaste that you buy regularly. These are the things we need to save on regularly so it’s good to have a list of them.
If possible, write down how much you currently spend on them. You might be able to see the prices online at your usual store.
3 | How much do you spend on snack foods?
Those addictive-as-Crack share packs, fizzy drinks and chocolates are pretty pricey! Work out what you’re paying weekly for them.
And then have a lie down - this bit can be pretty shocking!!
4 | How much do you spend on non-food items?
Toiletries, laundry detergent, cleaning products, add it all up. We’ll be making some savings here later.
5 | What’s your food budget?
If you’re not used to budgeting, you might actually have to work out what you can spend on food.
But to save time, you could take your current food spend and cut it in half. Or take off 10%. Or whatever you like, just to get you started.
And how much should we even be spending on groceries?
6 | What’s your cost per meal allowance?
Here’s where shit gets serious, mama.
Take your food budget and work out how much money you have to spend per meal. I wouldn’t bother working it out per head, but you could if that helps.
You might want to allocate more money to dinners, and keep breakfast super cheap. But that’s up to you.
7 | What do your top 5 meals currently cost?
We all tend to cook and eat the same meals on rotation.
So let’s work out how much they’re costing.
Start by working out the cost of your top 5 family favorite meals. You should be able to find your usual store’s prices online and you can use the space in the workbook to make notes.
8 | Do the meals you’re cooking and eating most regularly fit into your new food budget?
If your family’s favorite meals don’t currently fit into your budget you have two options:
There’s a space in the workbook to make notes on how you can cut the price of your family favorites.
Download the workbook and this helpful hero will do all the heavy lifting for you. Sadly, he can’t carry your groceries to your car for you. Sorry.
The Best Way to Start Saving Money on Groceries - Meal Planning (And Yes, I Know You Don’t Want to Hear This)
Sorry, if you hate meal planning. (And most of us do, right?)
But this step is crucial. Like, disconnect-the-pump-before driving-your-car-away crucial.
Meal planning is the best way to make the most of your food budget.
Here are 3 different ways to meal plan to save money
Meal plan before you shop
This is the traditional plan before you shop method. But to save money, don’t forget to work out the cost per meal before you buy - even if it’s just a rough estimate.
Reverse Meal Planning
This is where you go to the shops, buy what you can afford and then decide what meals to cook. And it makes perfect sense. But only if you’re clever in the kitchen and have time to browse for recipes and inspiration. Otherwise it might be a big fat waste of time.
Try a meal planning app
This is worth a shot if you REALLY hate meal planning.
And even if you just use an app in the short term, it might help you get started with meal planning to save money.
Here are some other meal planning apps to check out.
ACTION STEP: Pick one meal planning method and give it a whirl this week.
If you don’t currently meal plan, you could check out my 10-day meal planning challenge. It’s perfect for moms with no time and no energy. (So, ALL moms, then, right?)
Kitchen Skills To Help You Save Money on Groceries - Because Our Grandmothers Had This Shit On Point
If the meals you love aren’t quite in your budget, don’t give up yet, mama!
There is one thing you can do to save money on groceries.
And that’s learning some new skills. Don’t worry, I’m not going to ask you to raise chickens or slaughter a cow - unless you want to!!
But here are some savvy AF kitchen skills to help you save as much as you can on groceries.
1. Meal planning
Sorry (not sorry).
This one had to be first. And remember if you’re meal planning to save money, you need to work out how much each meal costs. (#RepeatingMyselfForever)
2. Make your own pizza base
Take out and even store bought pizza can blow the budget.
(But living without pizza ain’t living - at least in my passata-stained book.)
So have a go at making your own pizza base.
This is a great activity for kids to ‘help’ with and I promise making your own dough will make you feel like the most amazing mom ever - feel free to throw the dough around your head like those Italiano pizza makers do!!
3. Joint a Raw Chicken or Carve a Roast Chicken
(AKA Autopsy Your Own Chicken)
(AKA I’m Wearing Gloves For This One!)
Because it’s usually cheaper to buy a whole bird than buy the ready cut chicken breasts and thighs etc.
4. Make your own stock
The bonus of jointing a whole chicken is that you get to make your own stock.
I know boiling up bones on your stove might make you feel like a witch. But I promise it’s worth it.
5. Make your own bread
Yeah, this shit is getting real now, mama.
6. Get Canning
Canning is a real old school way to preserve food.
But you do need to be careful (botulism, anyone?)
So are you ‘Canning Curious’?
You’ll feel like a paranoid doomsday prepper, but in a really good way.
7. Make the most of your freezer
If you’re not already making the most of your freezer, now’s a good time to learn.
Make sure you know about how long food can be frozen for, how to thaw safely, how to prepare food to last longer in the freezer.
8. Use leftovers
It’s seriously criminal how much food we throw away. Such a waste of money! So make friends with leftovers and get ready to save a fortune.
9. Organizing Your Food Inventory
Good organizing habits will save you money.
And an organized food inventory is a great place to start.
10. Grow your own food
Don’t freak out!
But growing a few lettuces over Summer and planting a bag of potatoes for Winter will save you money.
At the very least try growing your own herbs. This will definitely save you money. Especially if you freeze your herby surplus.
11. Make your own yogurt
This one's for me because I’m a total yogurt fiend!! I could eat it several times a day, every day.
But quality yogurt can be pricey and there’s a lot of plastic involved too - which I’m trying to cut down on.
If you feel the same, keep your eyes open for a cheap yogurt maker and get ready to say a Greek Yogurt-flavored ‘hello’ to saving money. There isn’t much skill involved just a couple of steps to follow to make oodles of yogurt.
12. Make your own salad dressing, meat rubs, curry sauces and pasta sauces
Whatever jars of sauces, rubs and dressings you buy, it’s time to make your own. Or at least have a go.
This step alone will save you a heap of cash and improve your health - jars of sauce can include lots of salt and sugar.
13. Try DIY cleaning and skin care
But it’s not just food we can save on.
Making your own cleaning products and skin care products can be a real money saver.
Don’t forget to pin for later!
ACTION STEP: Think again about the top 5 meals your family eats most often and see if you can save money on these meals by learning some new skills. Make a note in your workbook on page.
Wallet-Clenching Tips to Help You Save Money on Groceries: At the Supermarket
By now you’ve got your money saving strategy nailed.
So let’s look at some of my favorite grocery shopping tactics that can save you money - or at least stop you blowing the kids’ college fund on food.
Make a list and stick to it
Sounds simple, until you remember that supermarkets have spent millions working out how to get us to spend more money. Resist the urge and stick to the list. And yes, doing your grocery shopping online shopping can make sticking to the list easier.
Calculate the cost of your shopping as you go
Don’t wait until you get to the cashier to find out how much your spent. Whip out your calculator app on your phone. Or bring an actual calculator. #OldSchool
Don’t go food shopping if you’re feeling hungry, tired, that-time-of-the month-y or in a crazy hurry.
You’re likely to ditch the list and load up on goodies. Just don’t do it.
Pay with cash
Don’t even take cards with you. This tip works brilliantly with tip #2 above.
Try some tough love
Withdraw your food money at the start of the month - and promise to spend no more. If you run out of money, tough luck.
Be a bargain hunter
Find out what times supermarkets near you discount food and be there ready to grab the stuff you need.
Shop high and low
Check out the shelves at the top and bottom.
Supermarkets seem to be sneaky and put the stuff they want us to buy at eye level. Find better deals by checking the price per weight.
Shop down a brand
An oldie but goodie. If you’re buying the premium brands, give the supermarket brands a try. You probably won’t be able to tell the difference.
Get cashback - but only buy what you intended to buy anyway
There are lots of apps that can save you money on groceries - and get you cashback. If you’re using a cashback credit card, don’t forget to pay off the required amounts. Otherwise that baby is going to cost you money.
Change where you shop
Check out other supermarkets, farmers markets and ethnic food markets. Shop around. Be a grocery whore, is what I’m saying, y’all!
Check expiration dates
Dig to the back to get the freshest stuff. And make sure you’ll be able to eat the food you’re buying something before it goes off. (I’ve made this mistake a ton of times and been so mad with myself).
Track everything you spend
Write down every single penny, cent or peso you spend on food.
Create a Price Book
This is really my grandmother’s tip. Write a list of the things you buy regularly and the best price you’ve found, so you know if something really is a good deal or not. Get to know what stuff actually costs, week after week.
Shop once a week
Go shopping on Saturday or whatever day suits you and that’s it. If you run out, tough luck.
Know what’s in season
Eat seasonally because it’s usually cheaper. And better for the environment.
Locate the clearance aisles
Compare frozen with fresh produce.
I find that frozen spinach is usually cheaper than fresh in my local supermarket, and ditto for berries and avocados for our morning smoothies. It’s worth a look.
Check your receipt
Make sure the offers and discounts were applied before you leave the store.
If you’re using coupons, organize them for maximum efficiency.
Say ‘no’ to snacks
Look, there’s no point busting your hump to cook frugal meals and then obliterating your budget with pricey snack bag items. Save them for special occasions.
Stop buying soda
Swap to drinking H2O from the tap (or from the filter, if that’s safer where you live).
Check out Amazon subscribe and save
Great for bulk items like diapers, wipes, baby food, even grocery items.
Wallet-Clenching Tips to Help You Save Money on Groceries: In The Kitchen
Only cook 3 or 4 times a week
The rest of the week eat leftovers. This also saves on electricity and time. That’s a triple win, folks!
Team up with friends to swap coupons
Freeze herbs for when you need them
Such a money saver. Especially if you grow them yourself.
Go zero waste in the kitchen
Muffin cases, paper towels, paper napkins, plastic straws. You’ll save your money back in no time.
Swap your coffee pod things for a French press
And save on plastic too!
Buy ready-prepared nothing.
Chopped peppers? Hell, no!!!
Find some great food bloggers who make budget-friendly dishes
Accept that soup is a dinner time meal
Bulk it up by blending in beans and lentils. Add in oodles of warm bread straight from the oven, or a toasted sandwich, and sprinkle on some parmesan and voila. Dinner is served.
Cereal or ‘breakfast for dinner’ is a meal, too.
Especially when you’re tired and broke.
‘Random things on a plate’ is also a meal
And a great way to use up leftovers.
Just tell your family it’s a picnic. Clever mommy!
You don’t have to eat dessert every evening.
Save the sweet stuff for the weekend.
Still Struggling to Save Money on Groceries?
Don’t be too hard on yourself, mama. Cutting the grocery budget is tough.
Because to seriously cut your food budget, you need to:
Get used to analysing your spending and eating habits,
Change your shopping and eating habits,
Learn new skills and recipes,
Get your family on board,
Fight against temptations in the supermarket and in advertising.
And remember that providing food and nourishment to our families is hardwired into our maternal brains.
So, no. Cutting the food budget is NOT easy.
Give yourself a break.
And a hug.
And let’s try this again tomorrow.
You got this, mama!
How to Cut Your Food Budget in Half
Wow - that was a deep dive into saving money on groceries, right?
Don’t worry, mama. You don’t have to do it all at once.
Print out the workbook and take baby steps.
Don’t forget to pin for later!!