Saturday, January 16, 2016

Your Three Largest Expenses: Part 3 - Food

Food is usually the third highest monthly bill for your families. Costs as you all know have really escalated the past few years. Some prices have been lower the past few months like chicken and there has been a small drop per pound in beef prices. But after reading an article about a bird flu breakout in Indiana, I wouldn't count on low chicken prices for long unless they can contain it. That said there is always a way to lower your food bill unless you are eating the very basic foods at rock bottom prices.

I have been guilty of spending way too much money the last few months on stockpiling and holiday foods. We also have spent much more than we usually spend on eating out which should be a part of your food budget. So you will see my numbers come down this year.

The best way to get a handle on how much you are spending is to track every penny that you spend on food at the grocery store or any place else that you buy it for about 3 months. Also track every dime that you spend at Starbucks or for coffee anywhere. Include all fast food meals, restaurant meals or take  out. Include those snacks, gum or candy that you pick up anywhere. This will give you the truest picture of what you are really spending. If you do this, I think most of you will be shocked at what you are really spending on food. I know I have been many times.

If you want to set a reasonable budget for your family's food each month, figure out what you can live with and then adjust that amount up or down as you need to. I don't do this anymore. I found that if I set a certain amount, I would use every dime because I felt I could. Instead I now think about every purchase I am making. Do I really need to buy this item? Can I substitute something else? Is this meat on sale? Will some other kind of meat that is on sale be just as good? Can we do three meatless meals this week? Can I buy a large amount of meat or poultry in bulk at rock bottom prices so that my cost over a year will be cheaper? Up until the holidays and while I was stockpiling I was spending a lot more than usual. But overall I spend as little as possible on food for the  year.

So this year is how I will spend as little as possible monthly on food:

- Eat from my stockpile. I buy it at rock bottom prices so I won't let it expire on my shelf, turn into a science experiment in the fridge, or get freezer burn so that it is wasted. I try to keep no more than 3 months of food stockpiled at one time.

- Update my price book so that I know who has the cheapest prices on a regular basis.  

- Buy at the cheapest stores that have quality products. For me, that is Aldi's. For you it may be Winco, Save- A Lot, Super Walmart, Grocery Outlet, etc. Aldi's product quality has gotten better and better over the years. They also carry a lot of organic foods now at rock bottom prices. That made me happy because not only can I afford them but most people can. I spend at least 70% of my money there.

- Use coupons at other stores on the basics if the price is cheaper than Aldi's with coupon or if Aldi's doesn't carry an item. My local store has a couple of items each week that are free or really cheap after a doubled coupon. If the store is on my route and it is an item I use, I will pick up couple of them. But I won't use a coupon just because I think I am saving, on a product we don't normally use. That would be a waste of money.

- My local store is more expensive than Super Walmart so if I don't have a coupon for an item that Aldis doesn't carry, I buy it at SWM. Be sure to sign up for Walmart's Savings Catcher . Enter your receipt when you get home and if the price is lower at another store, they will credit the difference to an e-gift card for you that you just take to the store and use on you next purchase.  

- Stick mostly to the perimeters of the stores where the produce, meat and poultry, and dairy products are. Only go down another aisle if you need a specific product. Get the product and don't browse there or in any other aisle.

- Cook as much of your food as you can from scratch.
It is almost always cheaper than buying it already processed. Process your own food.

- I always shop the sales for products that I normally buy. Even Aldis puts a few items on sale each week. My banana purchase was an example of that. I never pay full price for anything if I can help it. Most rock bottom sales can be found on the front page of the grocery flyers. Some are on the back pages.

- I use Checkout 51Ibotta, and Saving Star to get money back on some of my purchases. I know there are many more sites also.

- Buy veggies and fruits when they are at rock bottom once or twice a year. Then can them or freeze them to use during the year. We also buy them fresh and eat them fresh during that season. I try to keep these purchases under a $ 1.00 a lb. But most times I have to pay more for apples. Many times I can also buy frozen veggies under $1.00 a lb. When they are I stock on the veggies that I don't can or freeze in season.

- Eat more meatless meals. Use rice, pasta, vegetables, fruits, and beans in those meals. Make a cheese pizza once a week instead of getting take  out.

- Cook my own fast food,pizzas, and restaurant meals like steak and seafood at home rather than spend double or triple the price at restaurants. We are only eating out  this year with a few gift cards, groupons, and coupons we have. 

- Do all of my baking from scratch. I will be baking a birthday cake for my grandson today. At the same time I will be baking two loaves of banana bread.

- Make more and more condiments from scratch.  

- Purchase deeply discounted meat that is about to  expire and eat it that night or freeze it immediately to use for future meals. I see it once in a while in our area, not frequently. But when I do see a meat that we will eat, I buy a few.

- Our local grocery store has a rack with discounted fruit and veggies that will expire soon but are still good. If I can use them before they do or freeze them for making smoothies or quick breads and muffins, I will purchase some. 

- I always check the discounted bakery racks to see if items are as cheap or cheaper than I can make them. Only then will I purchase store made.

- If you see clearanced canned vegetables or fruits at a great price and can use them before they expire, do so. I have purchased many a canned tomato and pineapple slices this way.

- I buy my meat in bulk when I see a rock bottom price. I have done this with NY Strip loin and chicken breasts recently. I will buy up to a year's worth if I find a great price. I food saver them and they will be just as good a year from now as they are when I buy them.  

- We have also cut back on the amount of meat that we eat at a meal. I serve portions much smaller than we use to use and fill the plate with other foods.

- We entertain a lot for both family and friends. I cook the meals from the every day foods we have on hand and don't buy anything special. 

- And lastly the very best way I save is to leave Hubby at home and never send him to the store. I can go into a store with him for just a quart of milk and some lettuce and come out of the store with $100. worth of products that he just can't live with out.

We can reduce how much we are spending on food by being always conscious of prices and doing everything that I have outlined above. Food is one of the places you can cut without affecting the health of your family. That money can be freed up for debt repayment, investing for retirement, and upping your net worth. So every day think about what you can do to reduce your monthly total. I will be.


  1. Hi AD, this is Chris. I am going through your blog now that I have found you again. <3. I LOL about your last tip of leaving hubby at home while you grocery shop. I agree with you. With my hubby it is the expensive olive bar he can't resist. I don't know yet if you have done a post on this, and maybe you have and I haven't found it yet, but I see you use the Ibotta, checkout 51, etc. Do you find they are worth your time to do? I have not signed up for any of them, b/c I wasn't sure if the time spent vs money saved would be worth it for me? I would appreciate it if you would do a post about them if you haven't already. I am not sure if it would be something I would use regularly? I wonder if it would be like my rewards credit card that I don't really get a lot of rewards b/c I mostly use cash. Thanks.

    1. Hi Chris,

      I have mentioned Ibotta and Checkout 51 a bit here and there. I really like Ibotta. It is worth the time. But you have to remember to check it before you go shopping and click the deals you are going to use. I sometimes forget. I just cashed in for a $20. gift certificate recently. If you decide to sign up would you please use my referral link on my side banner? Thanks. I used to feel the way you do about rewards credit cards. However we have switched to using the card for everything and then paying the bill off when it comes. We have gotten more than $400. rebated back to us this way.