Did you know that by September 2008, food prices had risen 13 percent in just three years — to about $165 a week, or $8,580 a year on average for two-income families that include two to three people? The last few years since then have been no exception. A report done by the US Department of Agriculture showed that in August 2011 a typical “thrifty” family of four with elementary school aged children spent $618.80 on food per month. As you can see, the cost of so many everyday commodities is going up which means that many of us are finding it hard to make ends meet. Food is a large part of the household budget and it is becoming harder to provide nutritious meals for the family. Here are ten ways that you can cut your food budget in half and still be able to provide your family with delicious, healthy meals.
- Work out your food budget – save your food dockets and restaurant receipts for a month to get a good idea of where your food dollars are going now; include everything you eat and drink. If more than 10% of your food dollars goes in eating out, you have a simple way of slashing your food budget right away.
- Shop once – every time you go into the supermarket, you are tempted to buy more than you need. Shop once; when an item has been eaten, it’s gone until the next shopping period.
- Shop with a list and only buy what you need for the coming food period. It is the little extras that creep into the shopping trolley that tend to make the food budget blow out.
- Have a basic shopping list – have a list of basics that are needed all the time in your home, whether it is bread, flour, sugar, coffee or butter. This forms your weekly shopping list, with any occasional items added as needed. Work out what quantities you normally use in your shopping period, what is the most economical package size and buy these.
- Don’t be tempted by specials – remember, the shops put on these specials to make you buy more things that you need. If one of your regular items is really good buy, consider this a viable, money-saving purchase. However, it needs to be paid for out of your food budget so something on your list will have to go.
- Plan your menus for the week and write a shopping list of the ingredients you will need. If a recipe calls for an expensive ingredient or one that you may not use again, find a substitute for it.
- Cook at home – home cooked meals are more nutritious and less expensive than food that is bought outside the home. Fast food like pizza, hamburgers and fries are high in fat, often dangerous trans fats, contain very little nutrition and cost more than the basic ingredients are worth. However, you can make these same foods at home, in your own kitchen, using fresh ingredients, making healthier and cheaper meals for your family.
- Cook in bulk – it uses much the same amount of power to cook a double (or more) batch of your favorite dishes.
- Look for alternatives to expensive cuts of meat – cheaper cuts of meat are just as nutritious and tasty as expensive ones. Look for recipes that use slow cooking methods that turn cheap cuts of meat into a feast. Dried beans and pulses are a great, cheap alternative to meat in meals like burritos, stews, burgers, soups and salads.
- Grow your own – whether you have a large or small yard, a deck or a sunny windowsill, you can grow some of your own food. Grow as much as you can and enjoy the richer flavors, improved nutrition and the cash savings. Share or swap your excess with your friends or neighbors or sell it at the local farmers market. Find a local community garden to increase your gardening space and get great gardening tips. If your local government ordinances allow, keep 2 or 3 chickens for delicious fresh eggs in return for your kitchen scraps.
These are just ten of the numerous ways to cut your food budget. Don’t try to make many changes at once; start with calculating your food budget, cooking more at home and developing a kitchen that is food efficient.
So, have you tried cutting your food budget? What kinds of things have you tried?