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12 Ways to Save on Your Food Budget

12 Ways to Save on Your Food Budget

As the cost of living creeps up, more and more people are turning to new ways to balance their budget at home. Food is one of the biggest expenditures for most Americans, and maximizing your opportunities to get the most bang for your buck in that department can lead to more dough in your pocket and your oven. By taking a fresh look at not just what you eat, but how you eat, you can start saving from the start.

1. Start clipping coupons.

If there was ever anything to make you feel more like your grandmother, it’s clipping coupons. However, shows like Extreme Couponing and websites such as Couponing101.com are fueling the fire of consumers looking to save a buck. Be sure to buy your weekly Sunday paper and set aside some time out of your week to go through and clip coupons for things you use. It’s also good to know your local supermarket’s coupon policies, as there may be days or times where they’ll double your coupons. There are also tons of “coupon classes” online, such as the one above, to teach you the basics before you even pick up the scissors.

2. Get digital.

Have a particular item that you use a lot? Get digging online. More and more retailers are using coupons as a way to drive traffic to their websites, social media accounts, and blogs. Digital coupons are also huge with supermarkets, with most of them offering a range that can be clicked online and used in-store with a card or your phone number. Lastly, check with coupon sites online for additional coupons you can easily print from home and use when you hit the shops.

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3. Ask yourself not what you want to eat, but what you can afford to eat.

A common mistake that consumers make is to figure out what they want to eat, rather than thinking about their budget. When you start clipping coupons, try to tailor your weekly menu around what’s on sale. Checking with supermarket flyers and advertisements, as well looking into information on how to create healthy budget meals, is also a great way to start figuring out your weekly menu. Don’t forget to take a look at what you already have in your pantry, refrigerator and freezer, as these items are already paid for and ready to go.

4. Buy in bulk.

Hitting up your local wholesaler may mean you’re lugging huge boxes of pasta out to your car, but it can also mean significant savings. Buying in bulk is nearly always your best bet for saving more money on your food budget. Look for bulk buys on things you regularly use, as they’re less likely to sit around on your shelves and go bad. Great bulk purchases include pantry items, such as canned goods, pastas and grains–all of which can be used to make a quick, healthy and not to mention easy meals.

5. Put your freezer to work.

Your freezer is a great key to saving more money on your food budget. This is particularly true if you’re buying in bulk, as you’ll be able to freeze meats, dairy and produce for use later on down the road. Take some time to learn the best ways to freeze various food items so you’ll know how to maximize your savings, as well as how to prevent freezer burn and food wastage.

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6. When you can, make your own.

Still buying jarred pasta sauces and loaves of bread? Why, when you can make your own more delicious versions for much less? Making your own sauces and food not only means you know exactly what went into them, it’s also generally more healthy as it’s less likely to be packed with additives and preservatives. Cost-wise, it can’t be beat. For example, making your own bread costs, on average, $0.66 per loaf. Compare that to a good quality sandwich bread at $3.99 and there’s really no argument.

7. Pay more attention to leftovers.

Just made a roast chicken for dinner? Now it’s time to throw away that pesky carcass, right? Wrong. Learning to use or repurpose your leftovers to make additional meals is an excellent way to save cash while eating deliciously. Turn leftover meatballs into hero sandwiches, roast bones to make stock, and use those leftover egg whites to make meringues for dessert. The more willing you are to think creatively about your leftovers, the more you’ll get out of them.

8. Kick food waste to the curb.

When it comes to your refrigerator and freezer, your new budget-conscious mantra should be: “No food left behind.” Before you head to the store, see what you still have left to use. You can even make it a challenge to come up with new ways to use those few lonely carrots languishing at the bottom of the vegetable drawer, or what’s going to happen with that sad leftover chicken breast.

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9. Eat seasonally.

Craving a tomato during the winter? That’s going to cost you a bundle. Focusing on seasonal eating means you’re going to chow down on more delicious produce, as well as preventing your pocketbook from taking a beat down. Learn about what’s great in your area and when its at the peak of availability. Not only can you stock up and fill your freezer, but you can do it a lot cheaper.

10. Don’t fear the cheaper cuts.

If you love meat-based dishes but aren’t sure you can afford it, then looking at the less lovely bits can be your ticket to carnivorous nirvana. As the nation’s food budgets become smaller, a new focus on cheaper cuts, such as chicken thighs, beef brisket and even offal, has become the hot new trend in American kitchens. Try focusing on a long, slow cooking with these meats to get the very best out of them. They also tend to freeze beautifully, making them a budget savior.

11. Start living like a veggie.

If you’re already working the vegetarian vibe, then you’re already on the path to saving on your food budget. Ditching meat from your diet, even just a couple of days a week, can offer significant savings to your bank account. Try signing on to the global Meatless Monday Challenge, or simply make a pledge to eat veggie for one meal each day. Not only is it a healthy way to live, you can also save some extra cash effortlessly.

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12. Grow your own.

Love fresh herbs, fruits, and vegetables? Even the tiniest of spaces can help support your food budget. Try growing a kitchen window box with your favorite herbs, planting a small garden in your backyard, or even just trying out a basic outdoor planter with a few carrots, onions and potatoes. You can grow a surprising amount of food, and once you’ve had it freshly picked, it’s difficult to go back to store-bought.

Featured photo credit: cpyles via flickr.com

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Last Updated on June 6, 2019

The Average Retirement Savings and How to Save Wisely

The Average Retirement Savings and How to Save Wisely

Are you on track for retirement?

If not, don’t worry, I’m not sure either. I save each month and hope for the best.

Fortunately, I’m at an age where most people don’t save so I’m ahead of the curve.

But, what if you aren’t in your 20s? What if you’re near retirement and are looking to gauge where you stand?

If so, keep reading. Here’s how to prepare for retirement and save wisely during the process.

What Does the Average American Have Saved for Retirement?

Saving for retirement is tricky.

Tell someone straight out of college to save $10k a year for retirement and it’ll be next to impossible.

Make the same request to someone decades older and they’d be more likely to be able to save this amount. But, a 20-year old college student can be “financially ahead” of someone saving more than them. Why?

Age matters in your financial journey. The younger you are, the more time you have to save and put compound interest to work. As you get older and have more saving power, you’d have less time to put compound interest to work.

Here are the average savings Americans hold by age bracket:

20’s – $16,000

During this stage, most people are paying loans and moving up the corporate ladder. Your best bet during this stage is to focus on eliminating debt and increasing your income. Don’t focus only on getting a high-paying job neither.

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Instead, focus on learning via Podcasts, reading books, and taking specialized courses. Doing this will make you more valuable and give you more career options.

30’s – $45,000

At this stage, you’ve hopefully escaped your entry-level salary and work at a career you enjoy. Your earning power has increased but you now have more obligations. For example, marriage, kids, and a mortgage.

Set a plan to pay off all your debt and focus on eliminating unnecessary expenses. Leverage financial tools like Personal Capital to ensure you’re on track for retirement.

40’s – $63,000

This is the stage where you’re at the prime of your career. Top financial institutions recommend you have at least 2 to 4 times your salary saved up. If you’re falling behind, start maxing out your 401K and Roth IRA accounts.

50’s – $115,000

During your fifties, you’re close to retirement but still, have time to save. You may be helping your kids pay college tuition and other expenses. Since you’re at the peak of your earning power, max out all your retirement accounts.

60’s – $172,000

By this point, you should have about eight times your salary saved up. If not, you’ll depend primarily on social security benefits averaging $1400 per month. Max out all your retirement options as much as possible before retiring.

Ways to Save Money on a Tight Budget

The sad reality is that most Americans aren’t saving enough for retirement.

Even high-earning power isn’t enough to secure one’s financial future. You need to have the discipline to save for retirement while time is in your favor. Don’t wait for you to have a high salary to save, start with having a small budget.

First, get a clear picture of where you stand. Write down a list of “needs” and “wants.” For example, Netflix and Amazon Prime are “wants” and a “cell-phone” is a need.

Use tools like Personal Capital to analyze your spending patterns. Personal Capital allows you to add all your financial data in one place–making it a powerful option to gauge where you stand.

Once you know all your expenses, organize them from highest to lowest expense. When you can’t cut more expenses, call your service providers to negotiate a lower price. If you’re not good at negotiating, use services like Trimm to lower your monthly expenses.

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How to Save Money Each Month

By this point, you know the average amount of money you should have saved for retirement based on your age.

But, breaking this down into monthly goals can be challenging. Here are some rule of thumbs to follow:

Aim to contribute 10%–15% of your salary each paycheck. Review your progress each week.

Why so often? The reality is that life gets in our way and you will have many financial setbacks. Your goal isn’t to be perfect but to get back on track instead.

Reviewing your finances weekly lets you know where you stand with your retirement. This doesn’t have to be a long process either. All it takes is login in Personal Capital to view your net worth and check how much you have saved for retirement.

Turn saving into a game and aim to save more each month. It will get challenging but you’ll get creative and find more ways to save.

Top Money Saving Challenge Tips

To prepare for your financial future and not be another statistic you need to be different.

How?

By adopting new habits that’ll help you become a saving machine. Here are some ways you can save more:

Automatically Contribute Towards Retirement

If you’re working for a company, you can automatically contribute towards your 401k. If you’re not currently contributing more than 10%, make this your goal. Contribute 1% more today and automatically increase this amount a year from now.

Odds are that you’re not going to be negatively affected by contributing 1% more. Many times we spend our money on things we don’t need. Contributing more towards retirement is a great way to secure your financial future.

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Use the Right Tools to Know Where You Stand

Once you’re contributing more towards your retirement accounts, gauge your progress. Make use of finance tracking apps to help you view the big picture of your retirement.

When I’d first signed up for the app Personal Capital, I didn’t know I had a negative net worth. Despite saving thousands of dollars, my debt brought my net worth to the negative. Knowing this motivated me to save more and spend less.

Now, I have a positive net worth. But, it was because I was able to view the big picture using the app. Find out what your net worth is using a finance tracking app and you may surprise yourself.

Bring in Experts to View Your Blind Spots

If you have too little or too much money saved, you should consider hiring financial experts.

Why?

You may need someone to hold you accountable to help you reach your financial goals. Or, you may need help managing your money as effective as possible.

Regardless of the reason, getting help may help improve your financial situation.

Before you hire an expert, find out which areas you need help the most. For example, if you’re constantly overspending, find a debt counselor. If you’re struggling with choosing the best investment options, hire a financial advisor.

Speed up Your Retirement Contribution

After learning how to manage your money well, the next best thing is to earn a higher income.

You’re capped at how much you can save but not much you can earn. Even if your employer isn’t giving you a promotion, you can still take charge of your financial future. How?

By starting a side-business.

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This will be something you’d work on after you’ve finished your day job. Once you start earning income from your side-business, you’ll be financially better off.

The best part is the more work you put into your side-business,[1] the more potential it has to earn more money.

So start a side-business in an area you’re familiar with. For example, if you enjoy writing, do freelance writing for small e-commerce businesses.

Once you’re earning a higher income, you can contribute more towards your retirement. Don’t wait for the right opportunity to secure your financial future, create one.

Reach Financial Freedom with Confidence

What if you were able to retire tomorrow with no problem, all because you’d have enough money saved up and little to no debt left to pay off? How would you feel?

My guess is that you’d feel happy and relieved.

Most Americans are falling behind their retirement goals for many reasons. They’re not prepared, they carry bad money-habits and are thinking short-term.

For you to retire successfully, you need to work backward and adopt better habits. Contribute more towards your 401K and focus on growing your income.

If you do, you’ll save money and pay debt faster.

Don’t beat yourself up if you’re behind your retirement goals. Take the first step today towards a brighter financial future. Isn’t retirement worth the hard work and sacrifice to be at peace?

Featured photo credit: Huy Phan via unsplash.com

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