Frugal Living 

Five Ways to Save Money on Food

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KitchenThe number one way to save money is by learning how to cook. You might have a hectic schedule and be exhausted at the end of the day but push yourself to prepare a nice meal. You’ll get to enjoy it, expand your knowledge about cooking, and eat better than ordering it from some fast food place. You won’t be good at it in the beginning but over time your skills will improve and you’ll enjoy it even more.

Use a Leftover Calendar

The #2 tip by Eating Well was to minimize waste and we do this by using a leftover calendar. It’s part meal planning calendar, part leftover calendar because we record what nights we’ve cooked certain meals. This gives us an idea of which meals are getting close to spoilage and we eat those first, rather than the ones that are closest to the front of the shelf in the refrigerator.

Learn to Butcher a Chicken

I’m always amazed when I see chicken breasts for sale at a grocery store for $5 a pound when, right next to them, are over roasters at 99 cents a pound. Part of the price difference has to do with the cheaper cuts on the chicken, and the bones and sweetbread, but if you learn how to butcher a chicken you can save yourself a ton of money. You also get lovely bones to make your own stock, which I find to be fun.

Making Your Own Pizza

We love making pizza at home, their #5 tip, because it’s so easy. We don’t make the dough, we cheat and buy it from the grocery store, but we get fresh ingredients and some Don Pepino’s pizza sauce to make ours. We get to control the quality of the ingredients and we get to save a little money, as pizza is really cheap to make. Not only that but we get piping hot pizza that’s right out of the oven prepared the exact way we like it.

Go Almost Vegetarian

Their number one tip is to go vegetarian a few nights a week and while we’ve tried to go this route in the past, it’s usually lasted only a short while. Our tip is to try to go heavy on the vegetables and a little lighter on the meat, but still incorporate it in your meals. We’ve gone with eggplant dishes cooked with ground pork, which gives us a big portion of eggplant with just a little bit of pork. We’ve done the same with tofu, green beans, and other vegetables with good success. It’s hard to go completely vegetarian but just a little bit of meat can go a long way.

Grow Your Own

If you have the room, try growing your own vegetables. The best yielding plant is the tomato, if you can avoid killing it, and a home grown tomato tastes entirely different than one you buy at the store. When you let it ripen on the vine, the flavors are far more intense and it’ll make the grocery store tomato taste like water. We usually grow tomatoes, a variety of herbs, and some other fun things just to try them out.

Fun tip: I had read that if you chop the ends off scallions and dip them in water until their roots regrow, you can plant them and they will regrow. I did it on a whim and it actually worked, it’s pretty amazing. That won’t save you much money but if you have extra space you aren’t using, it’s worth trying out just to be surprised like I was.

Do you have a good money saving tip for food?

(Photo: betsyjean79)

{ 36 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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36 Responses to “Five Ways to Save Money on Food”

  1. moljacks says:

    I do most of these already with one exception: I am afraid to butcher a chicken! I need to finally learn how to do that.

    • Shirley says:

      Most grocery stores with a Meat Dept will cut the chicken in half for you upon request. I’ve never had one charge for this service since it is considered ‘customer service’ and usually ends up with free (and best) advertising by word of mouth.

      Once the chicken is halved, the wings and legs are simple to cut off. Bend the joint and cut through it. Lay the now limbless half, skin side down, on the cutting board and cut on a diagonal from the bottom of the ribs up to the backbone following the ribcage.

      Be sure to wash the cutting board (best not to use woodwn ones) and all utensils used with SOAP and HOT water immediately after use. Raw chicken is a great bacteria carrier and those little varmints spread quickly and easily.

  2. cubiclegeoff says:

    We’ve been trying to figure out the best way to go vegetarian at least once a week, but haven’t been able to figure out foods that we like and can live with that would allow us to do that (we won’t eat tofu, so getting enough protein can be a pain, even with added beans). Making our own pizza is definitely cheaper and we do it often. We also buy a lot of frozen vegetables that are often cheaper than “fresh”, but are considered more nutritious since they are frozen at their prime.

    Our biggest issue is trying to eat healthy while saving money. Buying antibiotic free meats is expensive, buying some fruits and veggies organic (only certain ones since others it doesn’t matter to us), is also expensive.

    • Jin6655321 says:

      Well, I would say give tofu a chance but I can understand why people don’t like them.

      If you’re only going vegetarian once or twice a week, you probably don’t have to worry as much about complete protein (though, keep in mind, I’m not a doctor or a health professional in anyway). However, protein does make you feel fuller longer.

      May I suggest omelets? It’s a great way to use up left vegetable. Vegetarian chili-mac is also fantastic. Oooh, and avocado and hummus sandwich… Any pasta dish can be made vegetarian, just load it up with vegetables and you won’t even notice what’s missing.

      If you find yourself missing that meaty taste, mushrooms can be a decent substitute, esp. if it’s well grilled.

      I used to think every meal needed a dead animal in there somehow but I’ve since gone quasi-vegetarian. It’s worth it. Your wallet will thank you, you’ll discover all these new dishes and ingredients, and you’ll appreciate a well grilled steak a lot more.

      • ben says:

        I would try Tofu a try but where I am it is sold only as a “health” food at $9+ per pound. This makes it not a cost savings but a sever loss in terms of money vs almost any meat.

    • NateUVM says:

      Might I suggest Quinoa? Or a meal where you use Hummus? Those can both be pretty decent sources of protein.

      • cubiclegeoff says:

        I still haven’t tried Quinoa, although mean to. Problem with Hummus is when it gets cold outside, it’s nice to have something warm.

    • MB says:

      It’s really not hard to get protein in America. First, your body does not use any protein you eat whole. All protein is broken into amino acids and your body rebuilds the amino acids into protein when it needs them.

      Second, everything has some protein in it. A cup of milk has 8 grams of protein. A cup of yogurt has 8 grams of protein. Peanut butter (don’t buy the sweetened stuff & use it to make peanut sauce) has about 7 grams in a tablespoon. Eggs have seven grams. Whole grains have protein. So a day in which you eat two eggs, have a slice of whole wheat bread with peanut butter as a snack, a cup of yogurt, throw a handful of nuts into a recipe, put a little cheese on your eggs, etc…you will eat enough protein easily.

      That vegetarians lack protein is a myth. I’ve tracked mine carefully and I lift weights, bike, Spin, do plyometrics, etc. I’d know if I were lacking protein.

      People tend to fear tofu because they think you eat it straight out of the box. You can but like most food, it is better cooked. Tofu easily absorbs the flavor of whatever is in the pot. You can change the texture by freezing it, pressing it, or drying it. You can blend it in a smoothie, soak it in greek herbs for a feta analogue, etc.

    • Stefanie says:

      Adding beans to your meal will give you plenty enough protein for that particular meal. Adding rice to that will give you a complete protein as well.

      We have to remember that many food contain a few grams of protein here or there so most people – vegetarians and vegans included – can get plenty of protein with some beans/ legumes, rice, pasta, milk (dairy/ soy/ nut), yogurt (dairy/ nut/ soy), quinoa/ grains, and veggies throughout the day.

      Americans tend to over-worry about getting enough protein. Chances are, especially with only 1 veg meal a week, you’ll be just fine.

      • Shirley says:

        Any legume (even sprouts) and any grain, eaten at the same meal, make up the eight essential amino acids required to create a complete protein.

  3. cubiclegeoff says:

    Also, instead of butchering a chicken, we often buy cooked chickens from the supermarket and then use it during the week. It usually makes 3-4 meals and some lunches, and can cost anywhere from $5-$8 (depending on the store and how the chicken is raised).

  4. cdiver says:

    One of the best things you can do for yourself and your wallet…eat less.

    • Ryan says:

      Eat less unhealthy foods and eat more healthy ones.

      Lean meats and veggies for the win.

      • NateUVM says:

        I think the thought here was about portion control. So many times, when we eat out, we are given a portion that is a LOT more than we need or what is healthy. That can create bad habits when we cook for ourselves, too. Doesn’t help that it’s cheaper when we cook for ourselves, either. All that much easier to eat more.

        Try to limit your portions to what you really need in order to enjoy a healthy diet, and you’ll be surprised, I think at how little that can be.

        And I’m not even kidding when I say that I’ve personally lost 35+ lbs on changing nothing other than my portion size. I was already eating healthy food. It was just that my portion sizes were still innappropriate. Portion size can make a BIG impact on your waist size, as well as how much money stays in your wallet.

        • Ryan says:

          One of the big reasons for this is due to people’s sendentary lifestyle. If you don’t do much activity during the day/week, you don’t need a lot of food.

          It’s all about calories in vs calories out.

  5. daenyll says:

    I love home made pizza and large batches of soup. Since I live alone I take part of the soup and put it in small containers in the freezer and just pull one out to stretch between planned meals during a month or when I’ve run out of leftovers sooner than planned. Also, gotta love the roaster chickens, cook one tear it down to carcass for stock and use extra meat for the base of new meals.

  6. Shirley says:

    True, there are few things more tasty than a home grown tomato! And thet retain that intense flavor even after being frozen or canned. Once eaten, you are spoiled for life. 🙂

    • ziglet19 says:

      We grow our own for the first time last year, and they were sooooo good. I planted extra plants this year so that I could can some. Now I have plenty to get me through the winter.

  7. lostAnnfound says:

    get the sale flyers from your local grocery stores and make up a weekly menu based on the sales for that week. Write your shopping list from your menu & stick to the list!

    • Ryan says:

      This also works well if something is on sale that has a long shelf life. Stock up on it for future use. Meat is one example. Buy it when it’s on sale to last 2-3 weeks in the freezer.

    • Shirley says:

      And do clip and use the coupons from those ads. Paperclip them to your list so you won’t forget them.

      • cdiver says:

        Coupons are always for the more expensive products. The generic products are usually less still after applying the coupon to the name brand product that was packaged in the same factory.

  8. K says:

    I’d add one more to your list. EAT LESS! According to the CDC in 2007 about 70% of Americans between 20-74 were obese or overweight. If you eat less, you’ll buy less, and therefore spend less on food.

  9. roommate says:

    One way to save money and lose weight at the same time is to eat 2 times a day. I only eat breakfast, lunch and lots of water which helped me lose over 20 pounds.

  10. Stu says:

    The leftover calender is a good idea.

    Heres another tip, if you’ve got the stomach or creativity for it.

    My mom used to make a left-over casserole at the end of the week with all the leftovers. It was hit or miss if it was good, but it sure got rid of the leftovers without throwing them out.

  11. zapeta says:

    We plan our meals every week, including when/if we will eat leftovers and then make a grocery list after we see what we will need to cook and what we already have. This saves us a ton of money since we go in with a list and stick to what is on the list. We’ve found that we can save the most by buying about 90% of what we need at Aldi and only buying the bare minimum at other stores. The real plus to this is that we don’t have to hassle with coupons. I suspect that if someone does the grocery game and is diligent about it they might have a lower cost but we haven’t ever tried it.

  12. Shirley says:

    Like Stu’s mom, we have a ‘leftover’ dish, after not having teens home for dinner for a few days. 🙂

    I make soup starting with broth, onions, garlic, celery, cabbage, oregano and basil and then everything leftover goes in too. A can of pasta sauce thickens it and barley adds to its heartiness. Homemade soup is a big hit around here (no matter what’s in it) and the kids make sure there’s none left over, always managing to be home for dinner when there’s a pot of soup on the stove.

  13. Rusty says:

    If you are trying to reduce your animal protein consumption, consider substituting TVP (textured vegetable protein) for ground meat. We buy our TVP in the bulk section of the grocery store. It reconstitutes quickly in hot water and will absorb the flavor of whatever sauce it is cooked in (pasta sauce, hamburger helper, etc.).

    Also, consider other grains (bulger wheat, couscous, buckwheat groats and amaranth) in addition to quinoa.

  14. Aaron says:

    If you have clean lakes and waterways, learning to catch and gut your own fish is a great way to save. I’d also recommend finding a local store with bulk bins, so that you can stock up on dry staples like rice, beans, lentils, and oats at lower prices.

  15. jsbrendog says:

    don’t eat!

    i keed i keed. that scallion trick sounds intrguing though. i love me some scallions…

  16. Hap says:

    Two things:

    Use coupons. You’ll feel like a cheap old grandma doing so – until the cashier hands you your receipt which is at least 25% less than you usually spend (on a few occasions, I saved nearly 90% on weekly shopping – have to coordinate high coupons with triple coupon days etc. but you can do it; I had a life otherwise, and I did it). Problem with coupons is finding ones for things you really want; but you can get them easily online now. Any food/brand you like, go their website, Twitter or Facebook etc., and they will probably have some printable coupons somewhere you can use. You might be able to sign up so they’ll email coupons to you.

    Two: Shop more than once a week. It’s a hassle, but if you are like most people, your “plans” for weekly meals will not be adhered to carefully, and you probably are actually throwing out a lot of food every week. If you shop more frequently, you can better adapt your dining interests to what you’ll really use/feel like eating for the next couple days, and will know not to shop if you end up going out a lot that weekend to eat etc. In some countries, people shop for groceries every day, and think it’s weird that we try to shop/prep food ahead.

  17. Barbara says:

    Measure everything you eat. Pretend your going to have lap-band surgery and your stomach will only hold 4 to 6 ounces at a time. you will need storage containers. one chopped up apricot is 2 tablespoons/1 @1/2ounces.3 ounce oatmeal hot water then microwave .add 1 -3 ounce of milk or yogurt.For flavor one teaspoon of molasses(for minerals).

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