For those of us who are budget-minded, we know that food can be one of the biggest expenses we see flying out of our bank accounts. With the high cost of eating out, and even increasing prices in produce and meats, there is no better time to buckle down on your food budget and really try to get the biggest bang for your buck. Here are four steps to create a meal budget guaranteed to save you cash.
1. Make a Detailed Plan
You probably have a food budget that includes the amount you typically spend on groceries and the amount you spend eating out. This is a great first step, but in order to really save, it is best to get as specific as possible, down to ingredients and shopping lists. Figure out what you will make for each major meal in the upcoming week. This will allow you to re-use ingredients throughout the week so you can get the most for your money. It will also prevent you from letting prepared food go bad, or from letting unused produce go to waste sitting in the fridge.
2. Shop Once a Week
The best way to keep yourself from eating out unnecessarily or buying too much or too little is by shopping regularly. If you swing by the grocery store every week, you will have the chance to pick up little things that you need to complete meals or replenish your stock of produce. It will also keep you from making last-minute impulse purchases when you’re starving at the grocery store after work in the evening.
3. Buy Bulk Items
Any food that can be stored for up to a year can usually be bought in bulk. Set aside a chunk of your food budget and purchase things like pasta, beans and rice in bulk to store over the coming year. It will be a large amount initially, but you will save in the long run. It also saves you from spending money on emergency take-out meals because you have run out of pantry staples and can’t make it to the store.
4. Use Simple Recipes
A surefire way to cut down on meal costs is to cook simple recipes with inexpensive ingredients. Ingredients like chicken or canned tuna can be found super-cheap, and there are tons of different dishes that can be prepared with either of those proteins. Also, produce expenses can rack up, so safe bets are potatoes, carrots, iceberg lettuce, bananas, and apples, to add some inexpensive ingredients to your overall menu. You don’t need to prepare fancy meals to make something that tastes great and is healthy, just look up recipes with simple ingredients or play it by ear.