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Food….A Four Letter Word

by Jaime Thompson on January 14, 2011

Last week I touched on how to save (or really spend less) on “stuff”. One of the biggest budget busters for people is food, so I think it’s worth discussing some ways to keep those costs minimized as well. You have to eat, I’m not going to deny you that, so how can we keep food expenses to a reasonable portion of your budget.

– If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, I think you’ve started to see my underlying theme of “always have a plan” and this goes for grocery shopping as well. Create a meal plan for the week, create a grocery list based on that meal plan, and shop according to the list.

– Eat healthy, fresh, and local. We are very fortunate to live near several fantastic farmers markets that operate year round, if you do as well, shop them. Not only are they often less expensive than grocery stores, but you’re helping out your local economy, which I’m sure could use it. When you eat healthy balanced meals, you aren’t hungry all day long. The more processed you eat, the more empty calories you eat, and the more food you consume. I’m not trying to turn this into a health class, it’s just the way our bodies work.

– Know how much things cost. Most of us have more than one choice of grocery stores to shop at. Pay attention to the price differences amongst those stores. I am not a coupon-er, but I know many people who are and claim to save a ton of money. What I have found is the items I buy don’t usually have coupons and when they do, even triple a coupon at one chain does not make it any cheaper than the face value at the store I regularly shop at. This will not be the case for everyone, so you need to be aware of your situation.

– Weigh your opportunity cost. Time is money. Is it worth driving all over town to hit 10 different grocery stores to save $20? I’m not answering yes or no, I’m asking you to ask that of yourself. It goes back to knowing how much things cost at the stores available to you and how much you value your time.

– Just because you have a coupon does not mean you need to use it. Do not buy something just because it is on sale or cheap.

– Obviously food doesn’t only come from a grocery store. When you go out to eat, try to find coupons or specials. With sites like Groupon and LivingSocial attempting to change the way we shop, you might find a good opportunity to try a new restaurant at a great discount. Yep, it’s that plan ahead thing again, but I think you’ll find a little planning will take you and your money a long way.

(photo by rick)

  • Randy Buckman

    Good post! I completely relate to the local and healthy food. Our food budget could probably be $50-100 less per month if we choose to buy the cheapest, boxed, most processed food. But we choose to buy alot of whole, fresh produce and as much local as possible. Even our meat we try to get as healthy as possible instead of the cheapest/lb. We realize, we would do what we had to do, if neccessary, but without your health nothing much is relavent.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the feedback Randy! I agree processed can be cheaper in the short term, but like you we’ve chosen to invest in ourselves and our future by eating fresh and organic. I’ve found that with some planning we can still do that on what the average American spends on processed groceries every month. There are no excuses, only choices, not saying mine are better for everyone, but everyone has a choice.

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