5 Easy Ways to Save Money on Food

5 Easy Ways to Save Money on Food

What are your biggest challenges to eating healthfully?  There are a few I hear from readers and my health coaching clients all the time…

Eating healthy is boring; healthy food isn’t delicious. I like to eat things that taste good — and that usually means they are bad for me. 

Eating healthy is EXPENSIVE! I can’t afford to shop at Whole Foods every day. 

Eating healthy takes a lot of time and I’m a busy person. It’s just not possible to eat healthfully and cook all the time with my schedule. 

I definitely know the challenges. And believe me when I say that I’m not made of time or money either, but it is possible to eat healthy, delicious, amazing, good-for-you food without spending a ton of money or a ton of time in the kitchen. 

Today I’m going to share a few simple ways to get started.

1. Plan Your Meals
Ooh the daunting task of planning meals. It sounds so overwhelming and time-consuming, right? I mean, don’t you need a calendar, twenty cookbooks, a shopping list, a calculator, a pot of coffee, a snuggie, and a Masters Degree to get started? Wrong. 

Just hearing the term “meal planning” makes some folks run away in fear. But, let me tell you, there is no reason to be scared. Meal planning can be as simple (or as complicated) as you want it to be. Meal planning works differently for each person and every family, but in my house, I set up a loose structure for the week to give me some guidance, but allow for flexibility as needed. I start by thinking about:

  • Produce that is in season
  • Flavors or certain types of food that I’m craving (or that have been requested by my partner)
  • How much time I have for meal prep and cooking this week
  • How many meals we will need for the week

Then I map out a simple plan from there including recipe ideas and assigning prep work to different days. I usually like to do a large batch of cooking on Sundays and prepare our meals for Monday through Wednesday. Then I typically try to reserve my Wednesday evenings for cooking Thursday through Saturday. Having a meal plan helps me to keep cooking time to a minimum because I can cook in batches since I know exactly what we’ll be eating.
2. Inventory Your Cupboards
One of the best ways I’ve found to save money on food is to not waste any! I regularly inventory our cupboards and refrigerator and incorporate any items that need to get used up into my weekly meal plan. Quinoa been sitting around for too long? Quinoa for breakfast it is! Bought way too much asparagus at the Farmers Market last weekend? Great, it’s going to be an asparagus stir-fry week! Greens on the brink of going bad? It’s smoothie time! Once you get in the habit of doing inventory regularly, you’ll usually find that you go through items quicker and this process begins to feel easier (thus, saving you time).

3. Stick To The List
I absolutely refuse to go to the grocery store without my list. When I shop without a list, I become a scattered mess and end up buying random things that don’t make sense for meals, too much or too little of items, and become especially prone to impulse buys if I am hungry. I used to use a handwritten grocery list, but I found myself constantly forgetting it so I switched to an electronic list and haven’t looked back since. (Nowadays I use the free Remember The Milk app on my iPhone.) Each week when I am menu planning, I add the ingredients I need to my shopping list. As I am cooking or in my kitchen throughout the week, if I realize that I am low on certain items, I update the list as needed.

4. Shop Less Frequently
Even though I rotate my shopping between a few different stores and a farmers market, I usually only go to the store 1 – 2 times a week. The beauty of having a menu plan and a coherent shopping list is that you can save time by getting everything you need in one shopping trip. I usually do my big shopping trip on a Saturday or Sunday morning and then visit the farmers market for seasonal produce. Shopping less not only saves time, but I’ve found that it saves a lot of money because I’m not tempted to pick up extra items all the time.

5. Be Realistic About Your Eating Habits
This tip is uber important. In fact, it might be the most important tip I give you here. In order for meal planning to be effective (instead of stressful), you have to know your own eating habits.

I know that it isn’t realistic for me to cook from scratch every evening so I do batch cooking 2 – 3x week so there are always fresh meals ready to go in the fridge. I know that by Friday, I am exhausted and sometimes the thought of doing anything on a Friday night (even reheating leftovers) sounds like a lot of work. For this reason, I usually mark Friday as an “eat out” night on my meal plan because I know that I’m going to pick up something from the cold case at Whole Foods on my way home.

I also know that sometimes, as much as I may try to resist it, I’m going to want a snack or a treat. One of the things that I have found really helpful is to specifically include a weekly snack or treat as part of my meal plan. This means that I always have a delicious something on hand that is far healthier (and usually tastier) than if I let my craving go too far and venture to the store in need of something yummy.  The key is that I know myself well enough that I can plan for this ahead of time.

5 Easy Ways to Save Money on Food

If you are interested in saving money, saving time, and eating healthier, here is how you can get started:

1. Take a look at your current situation around food and money.
What is working well for you and what isn’t working well? What do you wish were different? What are some of the barriers you have found to eating the way you want to AND saving money in the process?

2. Start small.
Start by just making one simple change this week. What is one thing you could do today or this week that would make a difference?

3. Check back with yourself and assess progress.
After you make that one change this week, check back with yourself in a few weeks and see how it’s going. Is it working well? Great, what’s a second step you could take? Is it not going so well? No problem, let’s re-evaluate and see what could be done differently next week. The key is to have compassion with yourself and know that changing habits is a learning process and takes a little time.

4. Join the Program! 
I’m so excited to announce Conscious Money, Conscious Eating which was specifically created to help people make the transition to more conscious, affordable, and sustainable eating.

Conscious Money, Conscious Eating is the brainchild of myself and Mindy Crary of Creative Money. I’ve known Mindy for awhile and love her creative approach to managing finances, being conscious about spending money, improving your relationship with money, and focusing on money possibility instead of money fear.

In Conscious Money, Conscious Eating, Mindy will show you how to be more conscious around the way you spend money on food and I will help you to get started on the conscious eating track with simple, easy-to-implement strategies that will make meal planning, preparing, and cooking a breeze. If you’ve been struggling with making some changes around eating healthier and saving money, this program was created for you. Find out more here.

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  1. says

    Hi Sonnet, I love your blog. I believe I discovered it on Facebook from a friend’s posting. This is a great post that I have shared with a friend and my busy daughter. My biggest challenge is making sure to take stock of what is in the fridge/freezer/cupboards and planning meals around those items. We do it some of the time, but other times things get wasted or get out of date in the cupboards or the freezer because we have too much to manage! So, my goal is to use up more of what we have on hand for meal-planning and get that inventory down to a manageable level. This might take more than a week. :) Thank you for the inspiration! T.

  2. says

    You’re paying more these days not only at the gas pump but also at the grocery store. Blame it on rising oil prices, disappointing crop yields, global warming, or the weak dollar. What it all means is that you need to find smart ways to save. Thanks for sharing tips and strategies that can help me slash my grocery costs without sacrificing nutrition.

  3. rachel mackneer says

    I love the idea of making a weekly snack to curb cravings and allow yourself a nice healthier treat alternative. My goal for the next month will be to make a weekly treat every sunday evening to provide a healthier and less expensive alternative to my family.

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