You’re tired of watching your hard-earned money disappear into your stomach. From the daily coffee runs to dinners that cost more than your first car, your budget has had enough. This month, your mission is to reduce your meal costs and finally build up those savings like you’ve been telling yourself for years. Luckily, saving on meals is totally doable if you’re willing to get strategic.
No, you don’t have to resort to water and crackers or anything crazy like that. With some simple money-saving tips and tricks, you can trim your costs by half and still enjoy delicious food. This blog post is going to help you revolutionize your meal planning and learn some money-saving recipes!
Cook at Home and Bring Lunch to Work
Firstly -- cooking at home is one of the best ways to reduce your food costs. Make a meal plan for the week and cook larger portions to have leftovers.
Leave a couple hours free on the weekend to prep ingredients for the week. Chop veggies, cook rice, marinate meats. When dinnertime rolls around, you could have half the work done.
Double recipes for dishes like chili, soup, casseroles, or burritos and freeze half for another meal. You've already done the hard part, now you have an easy homemade dinner waiting for you!
Packing your lunch could save $10-$15 a day. Invest in resealable containers and fill them with leftovers like pasta, stir fries, or frittatas. Some fresh fruits or a salad make easy sides. For some extra motivation, count your savings in a year—you might be surprised how much you stand to gain.
Decide on meals for a whole week, make lists and do big grocery shopping trips. Shop family packs of meat or large bags of rice and beans. Plan similar ingredients for multiple meals, like using chickpeas in a salad or curry. Minimize food waste by using everything you buy & not buying too much food.
With some time and effort, you can get into the habit of cooking your own food at home and bringing lunch. Your wallet will thank you, and you will feel good knowing exactly what's in your food. Focus on simple meals and enjoy learning a useful skill. Home cooking is rewarding in so many ways.
Use Leftovers and Repurpose Ingredients
Using up leftovers and repurposing ingredients you already have on hand are 2 of the easiest ways to reduce your food budget this month.
Do you have leftover rice, beans, or grains from last night’s dinner? Use them up in a stir fry, burrito bowl, or in fried rice. Leftover proteins like chicken, beef, or fish are also perfect for turning into sandwiches, soups, or casseroles. Check your fridge for any other leftovers that need to be eaten soon and find creative ways to give them new life.
Raid your pantry for ingredients to bulk up leftovers, like:
- Canned beans, corn, and tomatoes
- Broth or bouillon to make soup
- Rice, pasta, or grains
- Frozen fruit or veggies
Take inventory of what you have on hand and think of different ways to use the same ingredients. Such as:
- Cooked ground beef can be used in chili, sloppy joes, tacos, or pasta sauce.
- Cooked chicken can become enchiladas, pot pie, bbq sandwiches or a creamy pasta dish.
- Veggies like bell peppers, zucchini and eggplant are great on pizza, in frittatas, stir fries, or grilled as sides.
- Stale bread can be turned into bread pudding, croutons, or bread crumbs.
- Beans and grains can be added to soups, salads, or burritos for extra nutrition and bulk.
Check in your pantry, fridge and freezer and you’re bound to find lots of ingredients with multiple uses. Repurposing what you have avoids waste and saves you money that would otherwise be spent on grocery purchases. With some creativity, you can transform leftovers and basic ingredients into totally new and delicious meals for your family.
Shop Sales and Store Brands
Want to save on food? Shopping sales, using coupons and buying store brands are some of the easiest ways to trim your grocery bill this month without lacking on meals.
Check your local store ads for the best deals on meats, produce and pantry staples. Stock up on non-perishables and freeze extras of perishable items like ground beef or shrimp. Buying in bulk when on sale could save you up to 50% off regular prices.
Don’t overlook the power of coupons. Search online for digital coupons from sites such as Coupert.com or Coupons.com's websites. You can also find coupon mailers in your newspaper, at the entrance of most grocery stores or in the weekly ads. Match coupons to items already on sale for the biggest savings. Some stores also double or triple coupon values up to a certain amount.
Only Shop Store Brands
Store brand items could save you up to 50% over name brands items. Many store brands are high-grade and made by the same manufacturers as popular brands. Give them a go for staples like rice, beans, nuts, canned goods, spices and baking supplies. If you can't tell the difference, you've found an easy way to trim your bill in half for those types of products. So why spend money on fancy packaging?
Following these simple steps help trim your grocery budget by hundreds a month. Be flexible in your meal planning by substituting ingredients that you find on sale. Get in the routine of checking ads, clipping coupons and comparing prices to find the best deals.
Try Meatless Meals and Eat More Plant-Based Foods
Meat and seafood can be expensive, especially if you're feeding a family. Replacing some of these animal-based proteins with plant-based sources a couple times a week can help you save hundreds each month.
Try meatless Mondays
To start, commit to one or two days a week without meat, such as “Meatless Mondays.” These days, build your meals around vegetarian proteins such as:
- Beans. legumes: Black beans, chickpeas, lentils, etc. These are inexpensive, filling and packed with protein. Use them in chili, curry, salad or soup.
- Tofu: Tofu is made from soy and contains all the amino acids our bodies need. Scramble it for breakfast, grill it as a burger or dice it in a stir fry.
- Seitan: Made from wheat gluten, seitan has a chewy, meaty texture. Use it in place of beef or chicken in many recipes.
- Plant-based meat alternatives: Options like Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger are more expensive but can satisfy a meat craving. Use occasionally.
Bulk up on whole grains and veggies
Fill the rest of your plate with whole grains, like brown rice, quinoa or farro, and lots of vegetables. Roast, steam or sauté veggies in season for maximum nutrition and value.
Find Some Affordable Recipes
Search online for budget-friendly vegetarian recipes to find some favorites. Some ideas: pasta primavera with veggies instead of meat, black bean sweet potato enchiladas, lentil sloppy Joes or vegetable curry.
Eating less meat and more plant-based meals a couple times a week is an easy change that can help you save money on your monthly food bills and improve your health.
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