You never realize the actual price of food until you start living on your own. Growing up you just assume snack cakes and spaghetti are part of you being such an awesome kid. It’s not until you’re fending for yourself out there that you realize, “well shit, food is expensive and I don't even know how to navigate my kitchen.” You might even be more tempted to order a $7 pizza or see what catches your eye on the whackarnolds dollar menu. Totally guilty of this myself. I will never forget the time I got groceries at my local grocer and the cashier told me that my total was $212.32.. For just 4 bags of groceries. I remember speechlessly giving her half cash and asking if she could put the rest on my credit card because I definitely was not expecting that to be my total. I then continued to spend the next year dishing out major cash on groceries because I didn’t put any method behind the madness. Once I changed a couple things up, I was able to save some major change and I wish I hadn’t been so stubborn in the beginning. It would have saved me a few mini breakdowns from freaking out about the amount of money I was spending on food, of all things. Save yourself the freak out and keep reading my top tips to cut your food expenses!
1 | PLAN YOUR MEALS FOR THE WEEK AHEAD OF TIME
It’s okay to occasionally eat out, but your wallet (and your body) will thank you for that deliciously cute lunch you packed instead. Sit down Saturday afternoon and lay out what you’re cool with eating for lunch for the week and an idea of what you want for dinner. This eliminates the possibility of giving into your on-the-go-fast-food-stop when you have all of your dinner ingredients waiting patiently for you at home. If you’re someone who hates to cook, Pinterest search crock pot meals and pick up a $20 crock pot. It takes less than 10 minutes to throw something in the pot and it will be ready for you to eat by the time you get home (and will make you house smell ahhhhhmazing.) It doesn’t get any easier than that!
2 | CREATE YOUR GROCERY LIST BEFORE YOU HEAD OUT TO THE STORE
Try not to deviate from your list. This is why I love grocery stores like Aldi. Not only is Aldi super amazingly cost efficient, but 90% of the store is just food items. This helps to keep away those impulse buys when you happen to pass that awesome clearance section. Going in with a plan will help you keep track of what you’re actually spending, so the total at the end doesn’t surprise your wallet. I’ve been shopping with a list for so long that if I step into the grocery store without my list made, I feel like I’m walking in completely naked. This is a habit worth developing. And my favorite part is, I can make my list right in my notes on my phone and check it off as I go.
3 | SHOP AT ALDI FOR ALL OF YOUR PRODUCE (AND ALL OF YOUR LIST IF POSSIBLE)
One of my favorite new things to make is cauliflower crust pizza, but cauliflower at my local grocery store is $3.99 a head making for a more costly dinner. By switching my produce shopping to Aldi where I have seen the same cauliflower for $0.99 on sale before, makes my whole meal cost less than $7. And that includes yummy leftovers for lunch the next day. Remember me telling you how I used to spend $200+ on my grocery bill? I just bought my entire week's worth of meals (all 7 days!) + snacks for only $95.87, and that’s lunch and dinners for 2 people. Seriously, check out your local Aldi. You can thank me later.
4 | DON’T DEPRIVE YOURSELF (!!)
If you’re feeling a pepperoni pizza from the downtown pub Friday night, dude go get it!! It is more than okay to splurge once a week. Just make sure to add a little cushion to your food money when you’re planning out your paycheck expenses. The real problem people find themselves stuck in, is they don’t plan for their splurge nights or they splurge too much (or the latter.) Find your budget sweet spot, but don’t strict yourself so much that you go insane.
If you're looking to save your budget even more, check out my 30 No Spend Weekend Ideas.