This is the fourth in a series of articles by CommunityAmerica Credit Union. The series will tackle personal debt by planting the seeds of savings and making smart downsizing choices. For some, this may be a way to get started on a positive foot. For others, it’s a chance to start over after years of overspending. Regardless of your reason, we’ll help you navigate how to downsize realistically.
If you are overspending like clockwork every month on food expenses, you are not alone. On average, Americans spend between $500-$700 monthly on groceries. That doesn’t even count eating out. Wow. Whether you are eating out or in, your money may be flying out of your wallet at an uncomfortable rate. As a result, food budgets are among the first to go. Below are turnkey tips for dialing back on food expenses each month.
Identify Favorite Meals
Your grocery budget is not worth the gamble on experimental meals. Sure, it’s tempting to try that promising recipe on Pinterest, or see if your kids will try broccoli yet again. Unfortunately, many of these food purchases could go bad before they’re used. We suggest identifying five tried-and-true meals that your family will enjoy, and make them on repeat each week. While spaghetti night and Taco Tuesdays may get tedious for you, the constancy will help you save. You’ll also be at ease knowing your kids will undoubtedly eat these meals. If you get in a rut, make small tweaks on the meals, such as chicken tacos instead of beef.
If you get in the habit of consistent meal-making, consider a food delivery service like Hy-Vee Aisles On-line. Some people swear this helps them save because they aren’t tempted to pick up random items in the store aisles.
Freeze, Freeze, Freeze
Leftovers only help you save money if you actually eat them after day one. Many people have the bad habit of keeping their leftovers refrigerated and opting for a freshly-made meal or take-out instead. A quick Google search will let you know if you can freeze a meal or article of food. Some of the suggestions may surprise you! For example, bread, fresh herbs and even milk can be frozen! Also most soups, stews, rice dishes and cooked meats freeze and thaw very well. Get into the habit of freezing excess food or meals to avoid waste. Before your next grocery store trip, plan your meals around frozen items you have on hand.
Be Resourceful when Dining Out
We don’t have to convince Penny Pinchin’ Mom readers to keep an eye out for discounts or coupons. If you’re reading this, you are likely already doing that. But we do have some suggestions for being more resourceful when you are dining out. Most of the time, restaurants give you way more food than you can realistically eat. Share a meal, or have your kids share a meal, and you’ll shave your bill significantly. Sometimes appetizers can be equally filling, and cost less than entrees. Choose several appetizers to share as an alternative to large plated entrees.
Create Special Occasions
People often eat out because they want a break from cooking or to get out of the house. You can still create fun experiences without breaking the bank on a night out. For example, when the weather is nice, have a picnic in your yard. Or, pick a night to try a new recipe together. If you are only doing this once or twice a week, your grocery bill should stay low. Just avoid recipes that use ingredients or seasonings you’ll likely never use again.
With a few changes to your grocery purchases and spending at restaurants, you can improve your outlay on food significantly!
Up next: People LOVE their pets, and are willing to spend big bucks to properly care for and spoil them. We’ll share some ideas on saving money on your furry friends.
The blog and its opinions are expressly that of its author and does not convey the opinions or strategies of the Credit Union and should not be considered financial advice.