When it comes to living expenses, there are a number of ways to cut corners and save money, but some needs are just that – needs. While you may be able to turn the thermostat down to save on energy costs or even forego your daily latte entirely, the one thing you will always need is food. Just eating alone can sometimes be pricey, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, with some money saving tips, you can actually eat pretty well without having to spend a fortune. Here are 8 money-saving tricks to help fill up your stomach on the cheap – simply a matter of planning and strategizing.
1. Cook your own food
Probably one of the best ways to save a huge amount of money on food is to stop eating out. Not only is it healthier to cook your own food, but it is also significantly cheaper. If you go to a nice steak restaurant, you can expect to spend upwards of $100 on just two people when you factor in drinks, taxes and tips. If you make that same meal at home, however, you can cut that price in half and still enjoy a bottle of wine or a drink with your dinner. The more people you need to feed, the more you save on eating at home rather than eating out.
2. Shop in bulk
Whether you are a member at a bulk warehouse or not, you can save a significant amount of money by buying in bulk and even more if you buy in bulk and on sale. For around $50 a year you can invest in a warehouse membership and save even more. Of course, you have to weigh the cost of the membership versus the actual savings you incur, but generally speaking, most warehouse memberships pay for themselves if you shop there regularly. Warehouse stores don’t just sell food either. You can also get a significant savings on TV’s and other electronics as well as household goods, office supplies and even cell phone plans. If you invest in a warehouse membership, always check prices there before shopping anywhere else.
3. Clean out your cupboards
Most people already have cupboards full of food, but they just keep buying more. By inventorying whatever food you already have, you can plan meals around it and save a significant amount of money in addition to freeing up some precious cabinet space. In many cases, your cabinets may be full of “seasonal” food, such as canned pumpkin or cranberry relish. There are no laws that say you can only make pumpkin based foods in the fall or enjoy cranberry relish only at Thanksgiving or Christmas. In other cases, you may have one main ingredient for a dish but not the other. By inventorying what you already have, you can just buy the ingredient you actually need and use up the ingredient you have a surplus of.
4. Budget, plan your meals and use a shopping list
People are impulsive and impulse buying can happen just as easily at the grocery store as anywhere else. Impulse buying is often how people end up with kitchen cabinets loaded with food they will never eat in the first place. By planning your meals out, you know exactly what groceries you need and which you do not. By creating a budget, you also know going in how exactly what you have to spend. Going in with a shopping list in hand and sticking to it also helps ensure that you walk out with only what you need and nothing you do not.
5. Use coupons and rebates
Coupons are one of the oldest time-tested, tried and true ways to save money. But the old days of clipping coupons are long gone. These days, you can find a website like this company that allows you to download coupon or coupon codes digitally or even use an app like Ibotta that allows you to upload receipts for rebates.
6. Order food online
Online stores do not have the same overhead that brick and mortar stores have, which is why you can get great deals. What’s true of almost everything else is also true of food. You can order fresh produce, organic food and even pet supplies online and not only save money, but save the time you spend going to the grocery store by having them delivered right to your door. In addition, when you shop online, you can also use a rebate service like Ebates that automatically gives you back a percentage of your purchase.
7. Use a cash back credit card
Many credit cards offer a certain percentage of cash back on purchases. Some will only give a percentage of cash back on certain purchases, but gas and food tend to be two of the main categories that qualify for cash back.
8. Stack your savings
Each individual means of saving money is great, but where the really big savings come in is when you stack savings. For instance, Boxed is an online service that allows you to buy in bulk, so you are saving money both by buying online and buying in bulk. If you use Ebates to buy from Boxed, then you also get a percentage of your purchase back in addition to getting a discount for buying in bulk and buying online. If you use a credit or debit card that gives you cash back on purchases, you are saving even more money, not to mention if you also have a coupon or discount promo code.
There are only a few things we tend to spend our money on that are truly and legitimately necessities, but food is definitely one of them. That being said, we don’t always need to spend the amount of money on food that we might. Saving money on food doesn’t have to mean living on a diet of rice and beans, either. With some careful planning and strategizing, you can actually save money and eat like a king.