Food is expensive. It doesn’t take more than a trip to the grocery store to realize that. Or a glance at your monthly expenditures. Unfortunately, even if you skip snacks and mostly shop at grocery stores rather than restaurants, you can still spend a great deal on food. If you’re looking to save on your monthly budget, food is an ideal place to look, because most of us spend a great deal on our monthly groceries. We asked top personal finance bloggers from around the web for tips on how they save money on food, and we got a lot of amazing tips. In fact, some of the tips are so good, that most of our bloggers suggest you can save $100-$400 every single month. If you have a big family, you can almost count on the savings being on the higher end of the spectrum.

While exact savings will depend on your personal shopping habits, the number of people you’re buying groceries for, and where you live, we averaged out that most families can save $350 every month. Here’s what the bloggers had to say.

Plan Your Meals

Planning your meals has the obvious benefits of ensuring that you’re not left at dinner time with nothing to eat, and forced to order takeout because the grocery stores are closing, but according to the personal finance bloggers, it can also save you money. In fact, going into the grocery store with a set shopping list seems to have a number of other benefits as well, including that it might reduce how many snacks you buy, because you’re only buying what’s on the list.

Miranda Marquit – Planting Money Seeds: “Plan your meals. Just having a plan can go a long way toward ensuring that you reduce food waste and shop with a list.”

Kalen Bruce – MoneyMiniBlog.com“Make a plan. This is the most important thing.  Plan your meals, buy what you need and shop with a list.  This eliminates waste and saves some serious cash.”

Laurie – The Frugal Farmer: “Always menu plan before you shop so that you’re never stuck saying “There’s nothing to eat” and then being forced to order takeout.”

Gretchen Lindow – Retire by 40: “Pay for meal planning. Personally, I absolutely hate meal planning so I pay for meal plans from eMeals. It sounds counter intuitive, but paying for meal plans that come with recipes, a shopping list, and even calorie counts simplifies our routine and saves us money.”

John & David – Debt Free Guys: “Only buy items on your list, avoiding all impulse buys”

 

Miranda Marquit – Planting Money Seeds: “Plan your meals. Just having a plan can go a long way toward ensuring that you reduce food waste and shop with a list.”

Andrew Schrage – Money Crashers: “Shop with a list based on an inventory of your fridge and pantry and stick to it – avoid impulse buys.”

Brian – DebtDiscpline: “Have a meal plan and shop with a list. Don’t over shop, you typically make trips to the store at least once a week, if you buy too much you can end us throwing food away and money too.”

Never Throw Anything Away 

Most of us throw away a surprising amount of food, and that adds up, whether you realize it or not. The personal finance bloggers had more than a few tips on reducing food waste to save money.

Lance Cothern – Money Manifesto: “Try meal planning to reduce food waste. In addition to reducing waste, you can plan based on the deals of the week to save money buying food as well. Buy food you eat a lot of in bulk to save money. However, if you end up throwing out the food before you eat it, you’ll lose money, not save money”

Gretchen Lindow – Retire by 40: “Never let leftovers go bad. Put leftovers in individual servings, in pretty, clear containers, and we move them to the front of the fridge, ensuring that we get them eaten before they go bad.”

Shop Smart and Stock Up During Sales

Basics and everyday food items don’t go on sale every week, so when they do, you might want to stock up. One of the things all of the finance bloggers had to say was that the more trips you make to the grocery store, the more you’ll spend, even when you’re buying the same number of meals. Check out these tips on stocking up:

Stefanie O’Connell – The Broke and Beautiful Life: “Utilize bulk bins for grains, beans and nuts.” 

Andrew Schrage – Money Crashers: “When you see an item on sale that your household eats a lot of, stock up to increase the savings.” 

Melanie Lockert – Dear Debt: “Buy staples in bulk like olive oil, rice, flour, etc.”

Liquid – Freedom 35 Blog: “If something that can keep is on sale, stock up. Meal plan after you’ve bought your groceries. Instead of planning out what you want to eat, it’s more financially prudent to focus on buying sale items for your grocery list.”

Miranda Marquit – Planting Money Seeds: “Buy on sale and in bulk. Non-perishable foods can be kept for long periods of time. However, it’s also possible to purchase meat, cheese, veggies and fruits on sale and freeze them for later use.”

John & David – Debt Free Guys: “Review sale items at your grocery store(s). Build menu and grocery list exclusively on those sales item.”

Lazy Man and Money: “There are too many grocery tips to put in one article. We’re (my family) military, and the commissary has unbeatable prices on almost everything. However, Walmart and Aldi can be competitive on a number of items. I keep a mental database of what is good to buy at which places.”

Don’t Be Afraid to Go Generic

Generic brands get a bad rap, but they might not be so bad. The personal finance bloggers recommend giving cheaper brands a chance, so you can at least see if you like them. Because most generic brands run at around 10% or more under the cost of name brands, you could be getting quite a regular savings.

Lance Cothern – Money Manifesto: “Don’t forget to try out store branded food. Most of it is just as good as the name brands and costs less. Try it once and if you don’t like it, don’t get it again. However, if you do, you can save money for a long time into the future.”

Laurie – The Frugal Farmer: “Shop around the sales and be willing to buy generic”

Price Match and Coupon

Couponing might be something your grandmother did, but it can still save you money today. The bloggers also recommend comparing prices at different stores, although you should factor in how much the gas costs when driving between stores.

Liquid – Freedom 35 Blog: “Price match the best deals and then research what kind of meals you can prepare with the items you’ve bought on sale”

Andrew Schrage – Money Crashers: “Use paper coupons found in the Sunday newspaper. It’s still one of the best resources to save on groceries. Also, use mobile apps like Saving Star and iBotta if you own a smartphone.”

Buy In Season

Most health experts recommend buying in-season produce, but did you know it can help your budget too?

Gretchen Lindow – Retire by 40: “Buy in-season. Produce tends to go on sale when it’s in season, and eMeals has meal plans that use in-season ingredients, saving even more money!”

Go Healthy

Those pre-packaged meals are convenient, and often not very healthy, but could they be sabotaging more than your waistline? Nearly all of the bloggers said yes. Here’s what they had to say.

Melanie Lockert – Dear Debt: “Avoid pre-packaged foods”

John & David – Debt Free Guys: “Avoiding processed and packaged foods, which are more expensive” 

Stefanie O’Connell – The Broke and Beautiful Life: “Skip sodas and juices – good for your budget and your health.”

Gary Dek – Gajizmo: “Educate yourself. There are a lot of misconceptions about healthy foods, diets, and costs. Don’t let the food and beverage industry convince you that eating well is expensive – it doesn’t have to be. The money you save buying cheap food will cost you more in health insurance premiums, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If you have to live on a budget, eat well and cut other expenses.”

Miscellaneous Tips

Most of the personal finance bloggers had more than a few miscellaneous tips about buying food. While some of them are common sense, you can definitely use them to save money.

Stefanie O’Connell – The Broke and Beautiful Life: “Consider frozen produce”

Melanie Lockert – Dear Debt: “Eat a mostly vegetarian diet. Meat can be expensive, so this is a great way to save.”

Liquid – Freedom 35 Blog: “Don’t shop hungry”

Laurie – The Frugal Farmer: “Grow and preserve your own food whenever possible.” 

William – Dr. of Credit: “Make sure you use a credit card that earns a category bonus on where you’re shopping. For example some cards will give you 5% cash back at grocery stores or restaurants.”

Gary Dek – Gajizmo: “Remember the premium you pay to eat out. The $30 steak you buy at a restaurant costs $10 in the supermarket, so instead of eating out, treat yourself to better quality food at home on a regular basis.”

Brian, Debtdiscipline: “Have quick or standby meals on hand at home to prevent the impulse to pick up fast food or take out.”

Lazy Man and Money: “Go to the right restaurants. Save the nice steakhouse for a special occasion. For a quick family dinner, you may be able to get out of Sunway for $10-$12. (My kids are very, very small.) At Applebees, it can be $25. If you master the various menus at various fast food places, you could get out for a couple of dollars. This isn’t ideal from a health perspective, but this is a “sometimes” thing. Go to restaurants rarely. Meal for meal, they’re the most expensive way to spend your money.”

So, how much can you save?

With careful planning, avoiding packaged foods, and making sure that you don’t waste anything, most of the bloggers think you can save hundreds every month.

William, Dr. of Credit – 5% of spend

Laurie, The Frugal Farmer – $300-$1000

Liquid, Freedom 35 Blog – $100

Melanie Lockert, Dear Debt – $200

Lance Cothern, Money Manifesto – $100

Gretchen Lindow, Retire by 40 – $600+

Stefanie O’Connell, The Broke and Beautiful Life – $100

Kalen Bruce, MoneyMiniBlog.com – Up to $600, possibly more – we used to feed a family of 3 for $1,000, now we feed a family of 6 for under $400.

Brian, Debtdiscipline: Saving will vary and depend on your personal situation.

We averaged that out to an average of $350 per month for a family, which is a pretty hefty savings no matter how you look at it. Of course, you will save less if you’re buying for fewer people, but you’ll still be cutting down on your bills.

Good luck! If you have more tips of your own or you want to share your experience with the experts, write us to: laura@montanacapital.com