Food Cost-Cutting Strategies for Every Lifestyle

Ever wonder why you never have enough money to save? I’m talking about consistent, regular deposits out of every paycheck that go straight into a savings account. Maybe it’s time to consider that you’re handing over your savings to local restaurants, drive-thrus, diners and coffee shops. Think about it.

What if you didn’t eat out so often? What if you were strategic in buying basic ingredients and then cooking great meals at home? What if you had all of that money tucked away in a savings account rather than the coffers of local eating joints?

No matter your lifestyle, I am confident that with the right strategies, you really can reduce the amount of money you’re spending on food.

MORE TIME THAN MONEY

If yours is a single-income household struggling to survive in a two-income world, keeping food on the table and the bills paid can be quite a challenge. The good news is that time is on your side. The one not working outside the home has the time—it takes time to carry out the best strategies—to keep the cost at rock bottom without sacrificing quality.

Multiple stores. All grocery stores and supermarkets have tremendous weekly sales. And they announce these details in their weekly flyers—in print and online. These sales include “loss leaders,”—items priced so low, the store loses money, and for the sole purpose of getting you through the door with hopes that you’ll grab lots of full-priced items, too.

Eat the sales. Buy only loss leaders and items that are on sale. You won’t starve and you’ll have a huge variety of food items to choose from and in every department. When your budget is really, really tight don’t give in to the temptation to buy more just because it is on sale.

Detailed plans. Create specific shopping lists and specific budget and then stick to them like glue.

Coupon like crazy. Matching coupons to sale is the best weapon you have against rising food costs. There are free websites like TheKrazyCouponLady.com that will hook you up with the best coupons out there—and teach you how to use them to your best advantage.

Become an expert. Invest five weeks and $49 in Erin Chase’s Grocery Budget Makeover! (she’s the $5 Dinner Mom). You’ll gain expert status in no time—and recoup the cost the first five minutes you put this valuable information to work. Registration for the class closes on Jan. 9 so if you’re interested, do not delay.

LITTLE TIME, TIGHT BUDGET

For dual-income families with kids, time becomes an especially valuable commodity. It’s scarce. Both of you work full-time jobs. Kids are in school plus all of their extra-curricular activities. Then there’s church and weekends filled with sports and just playing catchup to get ready for the next week. You don’t have time to visit every store; to take advantage of a variety of sales. But money is still really tight, which makes the challenge even greater.

Pick a store. Your best bet is to identify the grocery store or supermarket in your area that is known for having the lowest everyday prices, then stick with it. Download that store’s app. Get on its mailing and email lists. Use coupons as they are available.

Eat the sales. See above. Cautiously add full-priced items but only as absolutely necessary. Learn the store’s sales cycle. Typically every area of the store will be on sale at least once every 12 weeks.

Get a makeover. If you can eke out the time, consider taking The Grocery Budget Makeover course (see above). You will not regret it because you will learn so many cost- and time-saving strategies.

PICKY EATERS; DIETARY RESTRICTIONS

You have the time and the skills to cook at home. The problem is making meals that actually taste good given the long list of ingredients your picky eaters will not touch. Or you need to produce menus and dishes that match someone’s dietary restrictions otherwise known as “doctor’s orders.” Often just give up and go out because it’s just not worth the effort and hassle involved in trying to meet all of the dietary and personal taste restrictions.

PlateJoy. There’s is no shortage of meal planning recipe websites. However, there is one site that stands out for picky eaters because it is so unique. PlateJoy is a membership site that takes your lifestyle (you complete a quiz to start; when I did this I identified 55 items that my husband and I do not care for and would not want to ever see in a recipe), learns your family’s tastes, health goals and time constraints and then creates custom-designed meal plans that will greatly simplify your life. And make mealtime your happy place.

Once a week you get your custom recipes and grocery shopping lists. You can choose from 50 different data points (paleo, vegetarian kid-friendly, cleaning eating, etc.) and then create a specific list of what I call our “do-not!” ingredients. At the top of my list is goat cheese. Just so you know. PlateJoy cost: $8-$12 a month.

eMeals. This meal-planning site offers variety and flexibility allowing you to pick the recipes that best fit your needs that week. You can start with a free 14-day trial, choosing the meal plan that fits your family best: Gluten-free, diabetic, classic, heart-healthy, slow-cooker, 30-minute meals and so many more. eMeals offers a great service. A subscription at eMeals is as low as $5 a month for a 12-month subscription. You also have the option of a 3-month subscription for $10 a month.

MORE MONEY THAN TIME

Young professional DINKS (dual income no kids) often and for whatever reason—insane work schedule, enrolled in grad school and working full-time, crazy commute, you name it—do not have time much less the desire to shop for groceries beyond running in to pick up a six-pack of Red Bull and chips. And they’re the first to admit they lack the basic skills to prepare it if they had the time to shop for it.

Because they see themselves as having more money than time, DINKS routinely default to the most expensive eating style of all—restaurant, fast food, diners, and drive-thru and not because going out again for the twelfth time this week is particularly enjoyable. It’s a necessary burden to avoid starvation.

Home Chef. Wait. Before you skip past the idea of meal delivery services, you have to learn about Home Chef. It is neither expensive nor unreasonable and that is saying a lot coming from your humble columnist who loves to cook, has time to cook and lives within one mile of Costco.

I cannot figure out for the life of me how Home Chef does it, but they do. Week after week and with a level of perfection and at a final cost that is so low, it leaves me wondering why I bother planning, shopping and cooking so much.

Home Chef is not for every lifestyle. If you feed more than two people, more than likely you can do better cost-wise by following one of the other strategies above. But for a family of two (or perhaps three), this is the only meal delivery service I would consider. And consider I would (and do).

Here’s how it works: You join (cancel anytime if you want). You sign up for the number of meals you want in the week and the number of servings. Then you choose your meals from 13 different options (they change weekly). You can tailor meals to your dietary needs including low-calorie and low-carb and more. And you can pause service anytime and for as long as you want, too.

The cost for Home Chef is an astounding $9.95 per serving with a free shipping option. Here’s what you get delivered to your doorstep even if you are not there to accept it: Everything. Seriously, everything you need to assemble, heat and eat.

The packaging is beyond belief it is so precise. Just follow the simple well-written instructions that even a fifth-grader could follow. Meals turn out exactly as presented and pictured. The ingredients are remarkably fresh and beautiful.

I am impressed with Home Chef. You can check it out HERE. And when you get to that page, you’ll see that I’ve arranged for you to get a $30 coupon should you wish to try Home Chef, too.


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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Pat

    Some other free blogs are KrogerKrazy and Hip2Save. I live by them. They save me so much money and I couldn’t afford to not have them really. I work a full time job and a part time job and have been supporting my two disabled brothers along with my grand kids. I usually save 60% or more at Kroger when I use coupons and match them to sales. I got Huggies for my grandson and paid 78 cents for 4 bags of them($25.78 after coupons with $25 back at the register). Sale, coupon, and cash back at the register equal savings. Some people say buying generic is cheaper but I have never seen generic diapers for that price believe me. I would have bought them in a heart beat. LOL You can use the cash back at the register to pay for produce and meat even. Be careful cause prices can get so low that you want to buy it even though you would never use it. I have been caught up in that and then had to donate them. I love overage. I bought formula once and didn’t have any kids but the coupon was larger than the price and at that time Walmart let you keep the extra so that was money off my groceries. I bought diabetic cereal cause I had a $5 coupon and it was only $3.74 so free cereal and overage to use on my shopping (same way with the formula I talked about earlier). I donated the formula to a shelter and ate the cereal but added sugar LOL. If I didn’t have my brothers I would have more meatless meals which saves money too. Go forth and coupon and watch those dollars. My goal this year is to start an emergency fund. I am down to my last credit card to pay off so I will be able to have an emergency fund which will be nice when I have to replace my roof in 5 years.