Reduce Living Expenses
Save on Food and Grocery Expenses

(Last updated: January 12, 2010)

This page shows how to have save money by reducing food and grocery expenses. Food and groceries are one of the main living expenses for many people. By reducing these expenses, you can have more money for other things.

These suggestions are offered for your consideration. Perhaps they can guide you to a better life style. But the final choices are up to you.

Here are the topics:

Guides to nutritious foods
Buy in bulk, if appropriate
Buy from low-cost sources
Buy lower-cost items
Change your food preferences
Change your habits, if needed
Convenience costs money
Government assistance
Hydroponics food growing
Plan ahead
Reduce or eliminate spoilage
Save money on pet food
Use coupons
Use low-cost recipes

In order to reduce your food and grocery expenses you may have to do some planning and change some of your habits and preferences. Whether the money you can save is worth the effort is up to you.


IMPORTANT

Before using this information to reduce your living expenses be sure to read the following notice: Disclaimer.

Guides to nutritious foods

The purpose of this page is to help you have nutritious meals at a reduced expense. To that end, I am providing a link to a jumping off point for various food guides. They are discussed at the following Wikipedia website.

Food guide pyramid

However, I make no recommendations for any particular food guide. That is for you to determine.

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Buy in bulk, if appropriate

You usually can save money if you buy in bulk. If you won't be able to use up everything before it spoils, you can share with friends or family. (You can rotate the purchases among the group of people that you share with.)

You will need to have a storage area large enough for whatever amounts you choose to keep for yourself. Make this some place that is easy to access.

It might be worthwhile to become a member of a local warehouse store. This could be a BJ's Wholesale Club (locations), Costco Warehouse, or Sam's Club, for example.

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Buy from low-cost sources

Make a list of the most expensive items you buy on a regular basis. Go around to your local stores to see where they are the cheapest.

Buy bread and pastry items at a day-old bread store or day-old pastry store if you have one of them in town. They probably will taste just as good as if purchased at a grocery store.

If you have a "dollar" store (or other bargain outlet) in your town, you can save money by shopping there. The dollar store in my town has inexpensive cleaning products, for example.

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Buy lower-cost items

Quite often certain brands of food and other items are cheaper than the heavily advertised brands. In my own area, the Western Family brand tends to be low-cost. In many chain stores, the store brand tends to be lower cost than the better-known national brands. (Better to pay just for the food itself, without having to pay for the advertising expense.)

One way to find low-cost brands is to compare the unit cost for the same item in different brands.

Buy lower-cost cuts of meats and slow-cook them to make them tender. Use appropriate spices and flavorings to make them tasty.

When local produce is plentiful it usually will be cheaper than out of season produce that has to be shipped in. You might also find bargains at a farmers market when they are open for the season.

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Change your food preferences

Learn to enjoy low-cost foods, and those items that are lower cost at certain times of the year.

Thus, you could try going without meat for one or more suppers a week. Instead, you might try having soup and sandwich meals.

Potatoes are a low-cost food that can be used in many different ways. (My favorites are baked potatoes, scalloped potatoes, and hash browns.) Other low-cost foods are beans, carrots, rice, and soup.

Candy, potato chips, soda pop, and other junk food are expensive and not very nutritious. Instead of junk food, buy fruits and nuts for snacking. If your kids keep begging for junk food when you go shopping, try leaving them at home, if possible.

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Change your habits, if needed

Do you buy things on a whim rather than because you have planned to use them in meals? Do you buy bananas in a bunch and then have to throw some of them out? If you have some of these problems, you might want to change these wasteful habits.

Make a list of the things that you have been throwing out over the past several months. Then make a note on your permanent shopping reminders list not to buy these things anymore or not to buy too much at a time.

Don't go shopping when you're hungry. You'll be tempted to buy things on impulse.

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Convenience costs money

You can save a great deal of money by forfeiting various types of conveniences.

Don't go to a fast food outlet or a restaurant for lunch. Instead, make your own lunch at home and bring it with you to work. This is the tried and true "brown bag it" method.

Don't buy frozen TV dinners. They are a very expensive way to purchase food. If you want, you can make your own frozen meals at home.

Make meals from scratch at home. It takes longer but you can save a lot of money. All of the pre-processing done by others costs you plenty. Of course, I don't mean to grind your own flour. I mean to make your own pie crust, for example. Chop up things yourself instead of buying them already chopped up. Buy chickens whole and cut them up yourself.

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Government assistance

The food stamps program in the United States has been renamed to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The following information was copied from the official USDA website, which was last updated December 2009.

"SNAP helps low-income people and families buy the food they need for good health. You apply for benefits by completing a State application form. Benefits are provided on an electronic card that is used like an ATM card and accepted at most grocery stores.

"Through nutrition education partners, SNAP helps clients learn to make healthy eating and active lifestyle choices.

"To apply for benefits, or for information about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, contact your local SNAP office. You can find local offices and each State's application on our national map. Local offices are also listed in the State or local government pages of the telephone book. The office should be listed under "Food Stamps," "Social Services," "Human Services," "Public Assistance," or a similar title. You can also call your State's SNAP hotline number. Most are toll-free numbers.

"Please don't call us at FNS headquarters to apply. We don't handle applications for the SNAP here. The State and county offices do that. And we don't have application forms. Each State has its own application form. If your State’s form is not on the web yet, you'll need to contact your local SNAP office to request one."

See the official USDA website for more details.

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Hydroponics food growing

Hydroponics is a method of growing food that does not use soil. It can be used both inside and outside. Thus if you live in a city and don't have access to a garden spot, you can grow food using an indoors hydroponics system. If there is an interruption in the commercial food supply, a home hydroponics system may be able to tide you over the disruption.

Following are various websites that explain this method of growing food and herbs, and provide the needed equipment and supplies.

Carefree Garden -- They supply "All your Hydroponic and Organic needs for indoor gardening." They have equipment and supplies for "growing indoors, outdoors, on your patio, or in a greenhouse."

Home Hydroponics -- They explain how to use a hydroponics system in your home. They also provide information on commercial and homemade systems.

How-To Hydroponics -- This site sells a Hydroponic System Plans & Hydroponics Gardening Guide. This manual can be either downloaded from the website or shipped in printed form.

Plant Lighting Hydroponics -- They provide "Great Prices on quality name brand Grow Lights, Hydroponics Systems, and Plant Nutrients."

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Plan ahead

One way to reduce your food purchases is to plan your meals a week at a time. Then you can make up a shopping list for the coming week and buy only what is needed.

If your local newspaper features weekly grocery advertisements, you could plan your meals for the coming days around those specials.

Another way to plan ahead is to keep in mind when fruits and vegetables in your area are the cheapest. You may want to buy enough to be able to can or preserve a portion for later use.

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Reduce or eliminate spoilage

One way to reduce food spoilage is to buy only what you will use right away. Another way is to freeze the leftovers, or use non-spoiling containers or wrap.

The following website sells containers they claim will reduce spoilage (but I make no guarantees or recommendations):

Always Fresh Containers

Save leftovers instead of just throwing them away. They can be used in casseroles, salads, soups, and stews. You can even make a game out of this practice. See how many family members can guess the new ingredient in your "mystery" casserole.

Put a list on your refrigerator of items apt to spoil the soonest. Then include them in your snacks or menus for the coming week.

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Save money on pet food

Pet food can be a major expense, especially if there are just you and the dog or cat. Here are some ways to save money on per food:

If you are buying an expensive brand of pet food, try using a less expensive brand. (Will your pet know the difference?)

If you are spending money on expense canned pet food, try buying only the less expensive dry pet food. At least mix the canned pet food with the dry pet food.

Then there is the option of feeding your pet table scraps.

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Use coupons

Coupons can save you money, but only when they are used to buy what you really need.

See if any local stores will give you double or triple the value of the coupon.

Sources of online coupons:

CoolSavings
couponclearing.com
SmartSource.com
Value Page.com
www.WowPrintableCoupons.com

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Use low-cost recipes

You can find all manner of low-cost recipes by searching on the Internet. Just enter the search term "healthy low-cost recipes."

Sometimes a family member or friend will have some favorite low-cost recipes that you can use.

When preparing soups, casseroles, and other combined foods, you may be able to use lower-cost substitutes. Thus, you might use nonfat dry milk to replace some or all of the regular milk called for in the recipe.

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