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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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Published on October 8, 2018

13 Incredibly Useful Tactics to Help You to Stick to Your Family Budget

13 Incredibly Useful Tactics to Help You to Stick to Your Family Budget

Are you having trouble sticking to a family budget? You aren’t alone.

Budgeting is difficult. Creating one is hard enough, but actually sticking to it is a whole other issue. Things come up. Desires and cravings happen. And the next thing you know, budgets break.

So how can you stick to a family budget? Here are 13 tips to make it easier.

1. Choose a major category each month to attack

As the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” With that in mind, one approach to help you get into the habit of sticking to a budget is simply starting slow.

Spend too much on Starbucks runs, eat out too often, and have an out-of-this-world grocery bill? Choose one bad habit and attack.

By choosing one behavior to focus on, you’ll prevent yourself from being overwhelmed. You’ll also experience small victories, which help you gain positive momentum. This momentum can then carry over into your overall budget.

2. Only make major purchases in the morning

If you’re making large purchases in the evening, there’s a good chance you’re doing so after a long day and you’re probably tired.

Why does this matter? Because our judgement tends to be off when tired – our willpower is compromised.

Instead, only make major purchasing decisions in the morning when you’re energized and refreshed. Your brain will be firing on all cylinders and your resolve will be high. You’re less likely to give in and settle at this point.

3. Don’t go to the grocery store hungry

Have trouble with impulse buys at the grocery store? If so, there’s a good chance you’re going grocery shopping while hungry.

The problem here is that when you’re hungry, everything looks good. So you’re more likely to make split decisions on things that aren’t on your grocery list.

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Instead, make sure you eat prior to your grocery store trip. Then take your list, along with your full stomach, and go shopping. Notice how food doesn’t look quite so good when you’re not fighting cravings.

4. Read one-star reviews for products

Is there a product you just have to have (but maybe not really)? Check out the one-star reviews.

By reading all the horrible reviews, you may be able to basically trick yourself into deciding that the product isn’t worth your time and money.

Next thing you know, you didn’t make the purchase, you saved the money, and you feel good about the decision.

5. Never buy anything you put in an online shopping cart until the next day

If you are making a purchase online, it’s typically a two-step process. First, you click “Add to Cart” and then you go in to review your cart and pay.

The problem is that there not typically much reviewing during step two. It’s generally click pay and there you go. However, this is the perfect point to stop for reflection.

Once you add to your cart, your best bet is to step away until the next day. Let the item sit there and grow cold, so to speak.

This gives you a night to “sleep on it” and decide if you really want and need to spend that money. If you wake up the next day and still find the purchase viable, then perhaps it’s time to go for it.

6. Don’t save your credit card info on any site you shop on

One of the other pitfalls of shopping online is that fact that most sites ask you to save your credit card information.

While the sites will frame it as a method of convenience, the truth is they know you’ll spend more money in the long run if your credit card information is saved.

The “convenience” takes away one last decision-making point in the purchasing process. True, it’s a pain to get out your credit card and enter the information every time. But guess what? That’s the point. If that inconvenience helps you stay on budget, then it’s worth it. Which leads into the next tip.

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7. Tape an “impulse buy” reminder to your credit card

Credit cards make spending much easier than cash. When you spend cash, you can literally see your wallet emptying. A credit card comes out, then goes back in. No harm, no foul.

That’s why it’s a good idea to tape a reminder to your credit card. Customize a message that is something along the lines of “do you really need this?” or “does it fit the budget?”

That way when you pull out the card, you get one last reminder to help you question your decision and stick to your budget.

8. Only use gift cards to shop on Amazon

Amazon is probably the easiest place online to blow money. It’s just so easy to click and buy. However, one way you can slow the process down is buy only using gift cards. Here’s how it works.

If you plan on making a purchase on Amazon, go to the grocery store and purchase a pre-loaded Amazon gift card of the proper amount. There’s no convenience fee, so you literally pay for the money you’ll spend.

Now take that gift card home and load it to your Amazon account. There’s your money to spend.

Why does this help? It makes you have to purposely go to the score and purchase the card in order to purchase the item. That’s a pretty deliberate thing that takes some time, commitment, and thought.

This process will effectively kill the impulse buy.

9. Budget using cash and envelopes

As mentioned earlier, it’s a lot harder to spend cash than swipe a credit card. You can take this even farther by using only cash, and separating that cash by budget category.

Create an envelope for each category and stick the cash in there at the beginning of each month. When the envelope is empty, no more spending on that category, unless you borrow from another (be careful of that approach).

This can be pretty helpful for people that have a hard time following transactions in their checking account, or keeping a budgeting spreadsheet.

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The envelopes simplify the tracking process, leaving no room for error. Nothing hides from you because it’s tangible in the envelopes in front of you.

10. Join a like-minded group

Making the decision to stick to something like budgeting is difficult. It takes long-term commitment.

You’re going to feel weak sometimes. And sometimes you may fail. That said, support from others can help strengthen resolve.

Support can come from a spouse or a friend, but they won’t always have the exact same goal in mind. That’s why it’s a good idea to join a support group that’s likeminded.

No need to pay here, as there are tons of free communities that fit the bill online.

For example, reddit has multiple subreddits that deal with budgeting and frugal living. You can follow, subscribe, and get active in those communities.

This will open your eyes to new tips and strategies, keep your goal fresh on your mind, and help you realize there are others dealing with the same struggles and being successful.

11. Reward Yourself

When you set a budget, it’s usually with a large goal in mind. Maybe you want to be debt free, or perhaps you want to see $10,000 in your savings account.

Whatever the case, the end goal is great, but the end is often far away, making it hard to see the end of the tunnel.

With that in mind, it’s a good idea to set mini-goals along the way. This helps you still look at the big picture but have something that’s attainable in the short-term to help with momentum.

But don’t stop there – set rewards for yourself when you reach that small goal. Maybe it’s an extra meal out. Or a new pair of shoes.

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Whatever the case, this gives you something in the near future to look forward to, which can help with the fatigue that can result in pursuing long-term goals.

12. Take the Buddhist approach

You don’t have to be a Buddhist to recognize some of the wisdom in the teachings. One of the tenets of the philosophy involves accepting that we can’t have everything we want. And that’s okay.

Sometimes you won’t feel good. Sometimes you’ll have cravings. You can’t deny them. But you can recognize them, accept them, and let them pass by. Then you move on.

Apply this to the times you want to do things that will break your budget. You’re going to have the desire to eat out when you shouldn’t. You might want to stay out and spend too much at happy hour with your work friends.

The feelings will come. Recognize them, accept them, but let them go.

13. Set up automatic drafts to savings

If you wait until you’ve spent all your budgeted money to deposit money into savings, guess what? You probably aren’t going to put any money into savings.

It’s too easy to see that as extra money and end up using it to treat yourself.

Instead, set up automatic savings withdrawals. That way, the money is marked and gone before you can even think about it. It becomes a non-issue. It’s no longer “extra.” It’s just savings.

Conclusion

Sticking to a budget can be difficult. No one is denying that.

However, if you can do a few things to set yourself up for success, and put some practices in place to curb impulse buys, then you can (and will!) be successful sticking to your family budget.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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