How to Save Money on Food Costs

You may not realize it, but many dollars are thrown out with the trash. This constitutes food that you buy but don’t consume. If your finances are tight and you already have several credit cards with high balances, it is time to change your shopping behavior to save as much as possible. One of the first places you can start is on groceries.

How to Shop Wisely

  • Buy only the fresh products you are going to use within the next couple of days, because if you don’t, you will have to throw them away. If you aren’t going to eat large amounts up fast enough,  buy smaller amounts more regularly.
  • Plan your meals and buy accordingly. If you know what you need, you will know how much to buy. We do this every month and it has saved us a ton of work and money.
  • Buy the portions that you will need, unless you can repackage and freeze the food you won’t be able to consume immediately. Don’t buy more just because it is offered as a special in the store. If the household does not use it, you have to discard it, and with it the money you spent on it.

How To Keep What You Already Have 

  • If you do buy excess fruit or vegetables, place paper towels at the bottom of your refrigerator’s crisp drawer. This will soak up the moisture that causes the perishables to rot.
  • To keep bugs from your flour, rice and pasta, place a bay leaf into the container.
  • When carrots or celery have gone limp, place them in a container of iced water together with a slice of uncooked potato. This will freshen these vegetables so you can use them as planned.
  • Keep bananas in the bunch you buy them in. They won’t spoil and go soft as quickly. If they are beginning to spoil, don’t throw them away. Surprise the family with a home-baked banana loaf.
  • Add salt to your rice to prevent it from clotting or going hard. The rice absorbs the condensation and in this way prevents clumps.
  • Buy butter in bulk when it is on sale. It can be frozen up to 6 months. Prevent the butter from taking on the flavor of other frozen goodies by putting it in an airtight container.
  • Here is a clever idea – to get sour cream or cottage cheese to last longer, you can place the container the wrong way up in the refrigerator. The logic here is that by having the tub upside down, you create a vacuum that prevents the growth of food-spoiling bacteria.
  • Honey and eggs are good food. Don’t throw honey out when it crystallizes. Heat it up in a microwave at medium heat, thirty seconds at a time until it is clear. Test eggs this way – put them in a bowl of water. Fresh eggs sink while bad ones will float.
  • Treat a lemon like an orange. Puncture it at the top and use only the amount of juice you require. If you cut it in half, the half not used will dry out and will have to be thrown away.
  • Extra cooked rice or pasta can be sealed in a plastic bag and refrigerated or frozen. To thaw pasta, just throw it in boiling water, just for a few seconds to reheat and bring back the moisture.

Do what you can to save as much as you can on your monthly food bill. This will decrease the money you waste and prevent your from spending extra.

So, do have any tricks to share about how you save money on food costs? Please share. 

This post was written by Andreas from MoneySupermarket.


How to Save Money on Food Costs — 53 Comments

  1. Great tips! To me the planning of meals and the controlled portions were real lessons. I had to recongnize that just because I could buy in bulk doesn’t mean that I’m getting a deal if much of the food ends up in the garbage. The irony is that you sometimes can save money on food by paying more for less if buying less means you waste a lot less food.

  2. Another tip is to have adequate freezer space. Stand-up freezers can usually be bought at used appliance places for <$100. And they let you take advantage of buying and cooking in bulk, which could make something like CostCo very price effective. This move reduced our family meal expenses by about 20%.

    • That is great. We bought a second freezer last year and we have fallen in love. I can now increase the amount of produce I grow in my garden in the summer because I have more space to freeze it. We now live out of our freezer until spring which is awesome.

    • Shame you can’t have a freezer. They are so handy. We use ours to stock up on seasonal goods so we can eat them later on in the year when prices spike.

      Rice in bags usually won’t clump unless your house has a high humidity. Where you get clumping is when people have a small container in their kitchen where the rice gets exposed to moisture from cooking.

  3. There are some interesting tricks here that I hadn’t heard before, like the upside-down sour cream!

    My best strategies aren’t really tricks at all – I just try to stop in at the co-op (right next to my office) a few times a week for fresh stuff. I also keep a good amount of frozen bread and veggies since they don’t go bad that way.

  4. Just say no to food waste! Banana bread is one of my go-to solutions, too. I love the idea about cottage cheese! And I read somewhere that the Egg Farmers of America or some organization like that said that eggs are good 4-6 weeks after the best by date. But it’s always good to check them!

  5. I place ripe, peeled bananas in a freezer container and use them later for smoothies or banana bread. They will turn a little brown but the flavor is still the same.

    I also keep a container in the freezer for small portions of leftover veggies —- peas, carrots, beans, etc. Whenever I have a few spoonfuls left over, I add them to the container. When the container is full, I use the veggies to make veggies soup by adding some canned tomatoes and seasonings.

    • Pam, you sound like my new best friend. We also do the same things you have listed here. I use my frozen bananas for our breakfast smoothies. I also store left over veggies like celery, kale, and squash skins in the freezer for the next time I want to make a big batch of stock. It works out great.

  6. My wife and I ALWAYS buy just what we need. We determine what we are going to eat for the week and buy just the ingredients. Sometimes we splurge on icecream, but only in the summer months. Plus, we eat it so there’s no chance of it going bad.

    • We try to do this too. We find meal planning for the month really helps keep us on track. That way only buy what we need for the recipes we plan on making. Just last night we were tempted to go out and eat for date night but instead we stayed home and made what we initially planned. It was delicious and free and we didn’t waste any food.

  7. One of the tips another blogger shared with me was if fruit is about to “go bad”, freeze it and make a smoothie out of the frozen fruit at a later date. I think that was Frugal Confessions who shared that tip!

  8. You’re preaching to the choir on throwing food away.. I *hate* throwing it away.
    Btw, with a half-lemon, putting it cut side down in a saucer of water works a treat for keeping it fresh.

    • Yes that can be true. Many people buy things in bulk because there is a deal but they fail to use the stuff. We buy in bulk, but only things we use a lot of. Otherwise we just buy what we need.

      Your right about eating out too. I find that sometimes restaurant portions are so large they are hard to finish which in turn leads to waste. It is much better to cook and eat how much you know you can.

  9. I use to find out whether old or leftover foods (the hot dogs in the unopened store packaging that showed up in the back of the fridge, for example) are safe to eat. I can’t stand throwing out good (or once-good) food! So when menu planning, I make a point to leave room to use leftovers the same week — as lunch or repurposed for dinner. Lots of meals are packed up for the freezer in single or double servings as soon as we’re done with the meal. If we get two containers of leftover food in the fridge at the same time (there’s only the two of us, so that’s actually significant), it’s time to do something with them!

  10. I love these tips about keeping food you already have! One thing I’ve done with bananas is if they start to turn brown but I’m don’t have the time to bake banana bread, I stick them in the freezer. They turn black but when you take them out and thaw them they are just fine for making the bread!

  11. Great tips! Food waste is something we continually struggle with, though I have gotten much better. However, I still get annoyed when I open a package and find some already rotted food there. Just last week I bought a bag of little cuties and found several that had already gone bad.

  12. It depends on how desperate you are to save money. You can also calculate the cost per meal or eliminate expensive ingredients to stay on budget.

  13. I agree. I wouldn’t want to cut out quality health food. An example of what I’m saying is that if you had granola or Kashi as cereal for breakfast, do you really need raspberries and bananas with it as well? If they are in your budget, then great, but if you’re strapped or cash, then maybe cut out the raspberries and have the banana for a snack later. Regarding healthy food, that’s where people have to make a decision too. If you’re strapped, do you still be organic? I’d say you should try to, but it’s a tough decision.

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