‘Tis the season … to avoid overspending during the holidays. It might sound like a next-to-impossible task, but you can curb your spending significantly by changing the way you spend in just one area of your life: food and drink. In fact, with grocery food prices falling year over year, it’s never been easier to save on meals. Below are ten simple ways to cut your food budget in half.
Write it down
Don’t rely on your memory to remember all the meals you’ve ever made. Instead, create an on-going list of appetizers, main courses, and desserts in a binder and peruse to plan out your meals. Reviewing your options this way can help create a menu based on a few main ingredients which results in less and money spent in the grocery store.
Create theme nights
Make every meal a family event by creating theme nights for different days of the week. Give a simple, affordable recipe, such as mac and cheese or tacos, a new twist—and get the entire family to help with meal-prep as you can assign meals to each member of the family. If you have picky eaters, try building a theme around a go-to family favorite.
Make a list and stick to it
A list forces you to be more focused instead of wandering aimlessly through the grocery aisles. Keep in mind that retailers strategically place pricier products at eye-level. Using the same tactic for children, popular snacks are placed at lower shelf levels where they can easily be spotted by little ones.
Know how to store your foods
Not everything has to be refrigerated. In fact, some foods like potatoes, avocados, peaches, eggplants, and bananas will taste better and last longer if they’re stored in cool dry places. Most vinegars and oils also benefit from storage outside the fridge, as well as syrups with high-sugar concentration that cannot spoil. But if you’re not sure, refer to the package label for specific storage instructions.
Buy meat in bulk
You can save at least $1 per pound by buying larger cuts of meat and chopping it up yourself. Anything that’s sold in smaller sizes will cost you more in the long run. So opt for family-sized packages and separate the meat into smaller portions yourself.
Cook once for the entire month
Making 50 freezer meals in one afternoon sounds crazy, but this type of meal prep is a growing trend among busy moms on a budget. Not only does it save time, but you can feed an entire family for less than $10 a meal. Cooking ahead makes it easier to multiply your recipes so that you’re only prepping once for a dish you can eat many times.
Take leftovers to work to trim your budget (and waist!)
Pack your lunches for work to avoid packing on those extra pounds. Before you make your dinner plate, put a portion aside for your lunch. Add refreshments and healthy snacks that’ll keep you nourished all day long.
Scan your pantry
Don’t let all those foods in your pantry go to waste. Put your friends to the challenge by by hosting a “Chopped” challenge dinner party based on the popular Food Network show. After you take the scraps from your pantry and create a few secret baskets full of random ingredients, you can sit back and be the judge.
Cut back on eating out
Consumers are on track to spend more on dining out than they do on their groceries. While grocery food prices have dropped slightly, eating outside of the home has gone up about 2% to 3% each year, per reports from the USDA.
Rethink your drink
With all the extra food you’re consuming over the holidays, consider skipping expensive calorie-packed drinks and booze. One glass of red wine is about 125 calories, a pint of beer is over 200 calories, and one can of soda adds 150 calories to your total daily intake which should be around 2,000 calories a day.
Connect with me on Twitter @jeanie531 with some of your savings secrets or in the comments below.