Reduce Your Food Costs: Saving Money on Dining Out and Groceries

Olivia Thomas
Published Sep 2, 2023

It can be difficult to eat well while maintaining a decent budget in the modern world, but there are some things you can do to help yourself make the most of your food budget. Food is one of the largest consistent portions of your budget, and this is true for people at just about any level. College students often have very little money to spend on food, so they try to get by with subpar options like ramen noodles and fast food. Families with multiple children have to deal with spreading the income of one or two people over a food budget of four or more people. Even if you don't necessarily have to worry about money, you could still be wasting hundreds on options that aren't as healthy or economical.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics claims that the average amount spent on a month's worth of food per household in 2016 was around $600. Nearly half of that budget ends up getting spent at bars, restaurants, and fast food joints.

Every year, Americans spend just a little bit more on food consumption. Most of that is because of the trend toward eating out and avoiding cooking at home. Americans of all ages are to blame, despite the fact that some groups are critiqued more harshly for it.

Thankfully, while you know that you will have to spend a significant amount on food every month, that final amount is quite flexible compared to other costs that don't change month to month, like your mortgage or rent payment. Of course you have to eat, but you don't have to eat the same thing every month, and you can alter your food budget to fit a more conservative consumption methodology.

One of the best things you can do to gain better control over your food budget is to start planning your meals on a weekly basis. Make a list of the things you'll need to make each of those meals, then go to the store and buy only those items.

To make this an even more efficient budgeting tool, avoid finding recipes and building meal plans around them. Instead, pay attention to the coupons and sales that are available that week from your grocery store of choice, then build your meal plan around the items you can buy cheaply. With apps like Ibotta and sites like Coupons.com, you'll be saving extra money in no time.

Make sure to avoid buying the name-brand products, and instead opt for the store-brand items. They are usually just as good, if not better, and they are significantly cheaper. Before you start shopping, look through the physical store for any deals or coupons you might have missed.

Another way you can save in the long run is through bulk purchases of sale items. This is especially helpful if those products are frozen or non-perishable, so you can stock up at a rate far lower than the typical rate.

Of course, you'll want to take into account how quickly you or your family uses a product. You could end up buying too much of a product simply because the deal is good, but then those products might sit uselessly on your shelf for years. Most experts estimate that the average American wastes about $371 in food every year, and most of that is produce that gets bought and goes bad before it gets eaten.

Dining out, while usually considered a fun or convenient experience, is basically a waste of money. If you can avoid eating out altogether, that would be best. Of course, this can be difficult in the fast-paced world in which convenience is a huge factor from time to time.

If you can't avoid eating out on occasion, try to go for lunch when the deals are a bit better. Look for happy hours as well since they sometimes include reduced food prices.

To get better deals, check out websites that resell specific gift cards at a discount, like Gift Card Granny or Restaurant.com. Avoid extras like alcoholic drinks, desserts, appetizers, and add-ons. If you have any leftovers, take them home for maximum food utility.

In some instances, you can take advantage of food delivery services and the deals they are offering. Without these deals, delivery services tend to be overly expensive thanks to additional charges and fees.
 

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