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31 Super Frugal Tips for Saving Money on Food

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Groceries costing an arm and a leg? Does feeding your family healthy meals feel like an expensive tightrope walk? This guide is your roadmap to slashing your food budget without sacrificing taste or nutrition. We’re talking real-life frugal food tips and tricks that will put more money back in your pocket, all while keeping your family happy and healthy. Ready to ditch the sticker shock and conquer mealtime affordability? Let’s get started!

woman's hands holding receipt over cart of groceries

In any family’s budget, there are many expenses we have little control over: rent, insurance, mortgage, tuition. However, we do have some control when it comes to cutting back on household expenses. And when it comes to food, now there’s an expense we can easily adjust. Here are 31 tips that have helped my family with saving money on food.

Cutting Back on Eating Out Expenses

  • No more restaurants or fast food. For my family, this means planning meals and keeping up with grocery shopping. The second I become so busy that I don’t have dinner planned and ready is the moment we decide to eat out, again! According to Yahoo Finance, “nearly half of Americans (42%) spend between $11 and $20 per person per meal, and 24% spend between $21 and $30.” Yikes!
  • Use restaurant apps. These apps often have deals that are only available through the app. For example, although I’m not a fan of fast food and wouldn’t normally recommend it, my husband has been using the McDonald’s app and the savings are really excellent. One of the deals right now is to buy a double cheeseburger and get the second one for $0.29. We have been doing that for a quick meal when we’re out running errands. I get an unsweet iced tea and he gets a diet Coke and we’re both happy for less than $10.
  • Skip pre-packaged meals. Too many additives, too few of these meals actually taste good, the portion sizes are tiny, and they can be expensive. Try cooking up a large batch of soup, a stew, chili, a casserole, or preparing breakfast or lunch burritos, and then freezing them in individual portion sizes. Here are a few simple food storage meal ideas to get you started on this healthier option.
  • Pack lunches for work and school. Your meals will be cheaper, but just as importantly, they will almost certainly be healthier and better balanced. I bought this lunch box set for my husband, and all of a sudden, it’s cool to take your lunch to work!
  • Alternative for forgotten lunches. Keep packets of instant soup/oatmeal and cans of soup at work for days when you forget to pack a lunch. Be sure to keep a spoon, knife, and fork tucked away in a desk drawer.
  • Say no to expensive vending machines. The easiest way I know to do that is to simply not have any change on hand! No money = no junk from the vending machine. Saving money on food can be just this easy!
  • Snack hack! Carry snacks in the car to avoid impulse stops at fast food or convenience stores. If you know you’ll be running errands and/or you have a full day of appointments, pack a small cooler with healthy, homemade snacks, sandwiches, fruit, and water.
  • Brew coffee at home. Make java su casa and take it to work/school in a thermos container. Avoid Starbucks. I know 2 teenagers who stop at Starbucks virtually every day and typically get expensive drinks that cost $4-6 or so apiece. That’s a ton of money per month!
  • Learn how to make “fancy” Starbucks-style drinks at home. You may very well end up liking your homemade version better.
  • Take advantage of Happy Hour prices. If you must go out to a restaurant, find a place with cheap Happy Hour prices on appetizers and make that your dinner. My husband and I recently found an awesome sports bar just a couple of miles from our home, with super inexpensive lunches, and their evening menu is budget-friendly, too. We’re not big drinkers and only moderate sports fans, but it’s a fun night out and we can keep our bill down.
  • Restaurant hacks. Find one that serves huge portions and share the meal. Also, if you go to a restaurant that offers free chips and salsa or warm bread before a meal, that’s one way of filling up and not being all that hungry for an expensive entrée.
  • Set a goal for no eating out. One week? Two weeks? How long can you go without eating a single meal at a restaurant? This is also one of the easiest ways I know of to drop a few pounds. Building your food storage is key to this!

Save Money at the Grocery Store

  • Organize your fridge. Keep an eye on leftovers and produce in the fridge. Don’t shove them toward the back of the top shelf! Instead, keep them at eye level, so you’re reminded of them every time you open the fridge. Eat them before they go bad.
  • Master the art of “re-imagining” leftovers! Chop up all the meat leftovers in the fridge and add them to chili, a stew, or a soup. Here’s a recipe I invented for Spur of the Moment Chili, which came about just like it sounds! (I do my best cooking when my back’s to the wall and it’s 5:30 p.m.!) I also take leftover meat, either chop or shred it, and then fry it in some butter with chopped onion and sliced, fresh jalapenos. This makes an amazing filling for tacos or burritos.
  • Make tortillas at home. Learn how to make homemade tortillas, for better taste and frugality! Tortillas are my trick for using up almost any leftover! I make leftover tacos or burritos by adding the heated leftovers to a soft, warm tortilla, shred a little cheese over the top and add sour cream and/or salsa. If you have leftover meat and need to make several of these, add cooked, diced potatoes or cooked rice to stretch the meat a little further.
  • Plan meals and shop with a list. Plan meals for several days at a time, shop for those ingredients, and avoid quick trips to the grocery store where you’ll inevitably end up spending more.
  • Look for a discount bin. These are often in the meat and bakery departments. This is how we’ve managed to fully stock our freezer to overflowing. A farmer can fill up your freezer fast, too.
  • Cook in bulk and freeze meals. Make multiple meals ahead of time and freeze them. It will help when you have busy days and evenings when you’re tempted to just eat out. Truthfully, eating out is so much easier than cooking everything at home, but the expense adds up and it’s one of the few expenses we have total control over.
  • Meals-in-jars. Read this post for how to prepare these make-ahead jar meals.
  • Stretch your protein. Cook a whole chicken and plan 2-3 meals with the meat: shredded chicken mixed with beans or chopped and cooked potatoes in burritos or tacos, shredded chicken in white chili — the trick is to combine the chicken, or any meat, with other ingredients in order to use it in 2 or more meals.
  • Learn to cook more things from scratch. Even things like bread, noodles, crackers, hamburger buns, and marinara sauce from tomato powder.
  • Meatless and meat-low meals. Cook more meals without meat and more meals with meat/chicken as one of the ingredients and not the main dish on its own – egg meals, beans, rice, soup, loaded baked potatoes.
  • Strategic couponing. Use coupons only when they are for foods you would buy at full price and avoid processed foods, which are both unhealthy and more expensive than homemade.
  • Learn to use meal stretchers. Foods such as cooked and mashed lentils in meatballs, rice or macaroni in soups. Add 2 cups of cooked rice to casseroles and skillet meals. Not only will the meal serve more people but you’ll likely have leftovers for future lunches and dinners.
  • Multi-use meals. Learn how to make one big dish, like chili, and then utilize it in different meals throughout the week: chili over rice, chili on a baked potato, chili with macaroni, Frito pie, chili dogs, and even added to a can of soup!
  • Hunt and fish. Look for a good, used freezer and a vacuum sealer in order to freeze the meat for later. Or, learn how to can it and keep it stored at room temperature, long-term.
  • Use grocery ads. Plan meals based on the weekly grocery store ads. Make those decisions based on the best grocery store sales, not by recipes or whatever you might be, “in the mood for.”
  • Go home for lunch, if possible. One way to save money on lunchtime restaurant meals is to go home each day for lunch if you happen to live near your workplace.
  • Double-coupons. These are less common than in the coupon-clipping days of yore. However, if you shop at stores that still happen to offer them, take advantage!
  • Digital coupons. Also take full advantage of digital coupons. I like to clip coupons for whatever we use each week, and then they automatically come off IF I buy the product.
  • Know your grocery store. Decide which grocery store(s) tend to have the best prices and memorize the store’s layout. That way, when you need to go shopping for just a few items, you’ll know exactly where they’re located. That saves time and money, since you won’t be wandering around the store, being tempted by product displays at every turn!
  • Keep a price book on everything you buy. This is an old-time concept and it’s effective. Simply keep track of the lowest price you’ve ever paid for something and record it in the book. This will help you know when a price is really a good discount or just a temporary gimmick. For example, if the lowest price you’ve ever paid for a gallon of whole milk is $2.39 and you’ve recorded that price, when you see it advertised for $2.79, you’ll know it can be bought for less. When you find it on sale for $2.19, record that new price, and it becomes your new “Lowest Price” for a gallon of milk. A price book helped me cut down my grocery expenses by a large margin. I organized it by food categories: dairy, meats, produce, frozen, canned, and so on.


How can I stick to a budget for groceries?

Planning meals, creating a grocery list, and utilizing coupons are all great ways to stick to a grocery budget. Additionally, avoiding impulse purchases and taking advantage of sales can significantly reduce your grocery spending.

What are some healthy meal options on a tight budget?

There are many healthy and affordable meal options. Soups, stews, chili, and casseroles are all budget-friendly and can be made in large batches for leftovers. Meatless meals with beans, rice, or lentils are also healthy and cost-effective.

How can I avoid wasting food?

Organize your fridge to keep track of leftovers and produce. Repurpose leftovers creatively to avoid letting food go to waste.

I need help taking control of my finances. What resource would you recommend?

Dave Ramsey has solid advice for taking control of your finances. I recommend his basic book, The Total Money Makeover for an easy-to-follow plan and a quick, motivational read.

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Final Thoughts

With a little planning and creativity, you can put these tips into action and enjoy delicious, nutritious meals without breaking the bank. Remember, a little effort goes a long way – you can save money, reduce food waste, and discover the joy of cooking healthy meals for your family. So grab your grocery list, get ready to explore some new recipes, and watch your food budget breathe a sigh of relief!

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