There’s no greater happiness than enjoying a satisfying meal after a bout of hunger. Food is one of the greatest things about life, but consequently, it can also be one of the most expensive aspects of living.
With inflation showing no signs of stopping and wages staying relatively stable, food costs will likely continue to rise and become and ever larger part of the average consumer’s expenses. If you can find a way to cut down on food costs, you can also save a lot more money every month.
Here are ten tips to help you save money on food without sacrificing any quality.
Buy in Bulk
One of the easiest ways that you cut down on food costs is to buy groceries in bulk. How most resellers (of both food and other items) make money is they buy a large quantity of items from producers, then sell them to consumers for a marked up price.
If you can manage to find the producer of groceries and buy directly from them, you can skip the middle man and cut out a lot of the unnecessary costs. Also, most grocery stores are looking to get rid of as much of their inventory as soon as possible. For this reason, when you buy in bulk (even at grocery stores) you can expect a nice discount on your purchase.
Of course, some foods just can not be bought in bulk as they are difficult to store or spoil easily. However, here are some foods that you can (and should consider) buying in bulk:
- Dried beans and lentils
- Frozen meat and poultry
- Frozen berries
- Frozen vegetables
- Olive oil
- Canned beans
- Canned crushed tomatoes
- Lean ground beef
- Peanut butter
Meal Prep Ahead of Time
One major way that people lose money on food is through excessively eating out. One meal out can easily cost upwards of $30, when a home-prepped meal would be only a fraction of the cost. Most people think that limiting dining out is about will-power, but the reality is that circumstances play a large role too.
If you’re hungry at work and don’t have anything to eat, the only rational option is to head out for some food. Very few people would starve themselves in this situation just to wait to get home and save a few dollars. However, over time the money builds up and you end up losing hundreds (if not thousands) a year on eating out.
A great way to prevent this from happening is to meal prep ahead of time. Prepare your meals for the whole week in one go and you don’t need to worry about waking up too late and not having time to prepare food. Not only will you save money with meal prepping, but you’ll also save lots of time and stress.
The great news is that there are plenty of delicious meal prep ideas as well as vegan meal prep recipes that you can start easily implementing right away.
Look for Discounts
This almost goes without saying, but certain things are much cheaper at the grocery store when they are on sale. Sometimes a store will have a seasonal offering and other times it will just want to get rid of an item. Whatever the case, keep an eye out for discounts and see if any of the items you normally buy can be substituted for the ones on sale.
It’s true that some discounted items are of lower quality than the full price items, but if you try them out enough times you can get a sense for how much you value each item and make your food (and financial) choices accordingly.
Most people don’t ask for their receipt when buying groceries. The few that do usually take a look at it to make sure that the cashier didn’t make a mistake, then promptly throw the receipt out (or stuff it into the bottom of the grocery bag, for it to never be seen again.
Believe it or not, these receipts can actually help you save money on food. Some of the receipts contain coupons for certain items that you can use the next time you visit the grocery store.
Aside from receipts, you can also pay attention to any coupons that come in flyers or that happen to appear in your mail. These will typically only shave off a couple dollars for each item, but it amounts to a lot when added up over time.
Shop Specifically at Supermarkets, Grocery Stores, or Costco
A lot of people live close to convenience stores or small specialty shops and go to these places to buy groceries.
Making the switch to shopping at supermarkets, grocery stores, or bulk warehouse-like stores like Costco will save you tons of money on food. The food at these locations is almost always cheaper and better quality than the food you can get at convenience stores.
Do Not Shop When You Are Hungry
When you’re hungry, you severely overestimate just how much you can eat, and just how good everything tastes. As such, you’re more likely to buy food that you won’t actually end up eating, or end up buying too much food.
To save money on food, make sure that every time you go out to shop for groceries, you have a full stomach. This way, you’ll make more rational decisions and really buy the items that you need (and not the ones that you just want).
Look for “Best Before” on Items
Another major way that money is burned on food is food that ends up rotting or getting thrown out because it has gone bad. Buying in bulk is great, but if you end up throwing 90% of it out, all will have been in vain.
When shopping for groceries, make sure to check the “best before” date on each item. Ensure that you (and your family) are able to finish all of the item before that date. If not, consider buying a smaller portion of it, or consider switching to a different brand that offers the item in a different size.
Look for “Reduced”
Not everything you buy needs to be at the peak of freshness. Indeed, many items that are “reduced” actually serve a good purpose when used wisely:
- Reduced vegetables and legumes are great to add into soups and stews, as it will all be boiled up anyways.
- Ripe bananas might feel weird to bite into, but they’re great for making muffins or banana bread.
- Bread that is only a day old might offset some people, but it is great for making french toast and also for making grilled sandwiches.
- Ripe fruits can be put into a blender to make a delicious smoothie (and no one would be the wiser).
Before making a beeline for the freshest part of each grocery store, stop by the “reduced” section and see if there is anything you can take advantage of.
Grow Your Own Food
If you can grow your own vegetables and herbs, you can find yourself saving a big chunk of your grocery money every month.
Things like basil, tomatoes, lettuce, radishes, spinach, and cucumbers can be grown right on your balcony and don’t require anything other than a pot full of fresh soil and some sunlight and water. You don’t even need a garden to make this happen.
Store Your Food Properly
Storing your food properly will ensure that it lasts for the longest time possible and you maximize the potential of your groceries. Some tips to try are:
- Use reusable containers (as food usually lasts a shorter amount of time when stored in the original packaging).
- Store butter on the counter instead of in the fridge. Room-temperature butter is easier to spread and will both save you excess butter and save you time.
- Freeze leftovers if you want them to last for as long as possible.
- Keep your spices away from sunlight and heat. The reason some spices have a stale taste to them is because they have been damaged over time.
- Store potatoes with an apple. Apples give off a certain chemical that minimizes sprouting in potatoes, helping them last up to two times longer.
- Keep chocolate in the fridge. Most chocolate has a high amount of fat in it, which spoils easily and can cause unwanted flavors to seep in over time. To maximize the useful life of this expensive ingredient, store it in the fridge.
- Keep freezer bags on hand at all points in time. You never know when you might want to freeze an unexpected amount of produce.
Recap: How to Save Money on Food
Saving money on food can ultimately help you cut down on thousands of dollars a year of unwanted expenses. Many people think that to save on food is to sacrifice the joy of eating, and for those who love food, the thought is simply too much to bear.
This, in fact, is not the case at all, and tons of money can be saved on food with just a little bit of planning and smart thinking. Turns out you don’t have to torture yourself with bland meals OR go on a major diet. You just need to think a few steps ahead and you can dramatically change your financial relationship with food.
Jeff is a Harvard 2025 student passionate about making smart financial decisions both in school and in the workplace so that he can spend more time doing what he loves (like playing golf, spending time with family, and travelling). He has experience working in the financial industry and enjoys sharing all things personal finance, academic, and golf-related. Outside of blogging, he loves to cook, read, and golf in his spare time.