How to save money on food: Great tips from three years of Get Rich Slowly

While driving to our monthly book group discussion on Saturday, Kris and I had a conversation with our friend Courtney. Courtney's family is beginning to feel a financial squeeze. Her husband's employer is cutting jobs. To keep working, he'll have to take a pay cut and move back to the position he left a couple of years ago.

“I've started to read personal finance books,” Courtney told us. “We know we're going to have to make do with less money, so I'm looking for advice. I'd really like to learn how to cut back on groceries, for example.”

“Oh, you should read Get Rich Slowly,” Kris said. “J.D. writes about that all the time.”

It's true. I do share a lot of stories about how to save on food. It's something we all struggle with. But I feel like I've almost written too much on the subject. “I don't want to post another story about clipping coupons,” I said. “But, you know, maybe I could collect all of the stories about food that I've published in the past. I could post a compendium for you, Courtney.”

“That'd be great,” she said.

I've scoured three years of the GRS archives to find the best stories about saving money on food. First up is this survey: How much do you spend on food? There's no info in the article itself, but there are over 180 comments that reveal families have radically different budgets for food. Some people are able to feed a family of six on $400 a month. But some single folks spend $400 a month just on themselves.

I divided the remaining articles into broad categories:

Specific Strategies

Lists of Hints And Tips

Frugal Recipes

The Psychology of Shopping

You can find many other similar articles in the food category of the Get Rich Slowly archives.

Though I generally frown on overt self-promotion in the comments, I'm making an exception for this post. If you have a favorite article about saving on food — from anywhere on the web, including your own site — feel free to share it with Courtney and other GRS readers!

More about...Frugality, Food

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Carrie
Carrie
11 years ago

i’ve collected this list of my favorite food savings articles
30 Quick, Green, and Frugal Meal Planning Resources

Kelly Hao
Kelly Hao
4 years ago
Reply to  Carrie

I love this advice. I have some more below. While not grocery-saving advice, it’s still money saved! 1) drop the smart phone and get a “dumb” one. Save about $50 per month. Get a low-priced tablet (e.g., Kindle Fire) or use your old iPhone as a wi-fi only device. Wi-fi is available everywhere; you really don’t need to pay for cell-based data plans 2) call your car and home insurance company and tell them you want to go through all your coverage because you found another carrier that is cheaper. They’ll probably help you “find” 10% off or more. 3)… Read more »

Saver Queen
Saver Queen
11 years ago

Great compilation! I’m reading this while baking homemade granola bars. I love making homemade snacks so I don’t have to buy these marked up products at the store. There are so many easy ways to cut down on your food budget – it just takes some time, effort and some planning.

rachel
rachel
11 years ago

I hadn’t even read your BLOG yet, but felt like I was in love with it by your title! Great stuff. Keep it up.

mhb
mhb
11 years ago

Wow – this is a perfectly timed list. We’re feeling the squeeze, too, and food is the one department we’re not already quite frugal in… so it’s time to trim the food budget. Thanks, JD!

Lea in Oak Grove
Lea in Oak Grove
11 years ago

Wonderful – I appreciate this as well, being a new reader. Thanks!

DD
DD
11 years ago

Wow! And I thought that I wrote a lot about saving money on food.

Beth @ Smart Family Tips
Beth @ Smart Family Tips
11 years ago

Thanks for compiling this huge and helpful list. Thanks, too, for allowing shameless self-promotion. 🙂 These articles have been quite popular on my site:

Save Money on Food and Eat Better, Part 1

Save Money on Food and Eat Better, Part 2

quinsy
quinsy
11 years ago

hey, this reminds me of a question. does anyone have a link to what fruits and vegetables are in season during what months? I am kind of a farming/food dummy and I do want to buy things in season, but I haven’t figured out how to tell what is in season when. I have been looking at food labels for at least a year and it seems like no matter what time of year it is, fruits and vegetables all come from California. I know joining a CSA would help on this but I am a picky eater still working… Read more »

retired
retired
11 years ago

A simple way to save, put left-over veg’s in a container and freeze until you want to make soup. Bones from roast and chicken boiled at the same time give it a good flavor. No bone drop in an egg for protein. My mother called this refrigerator soup we would have it once a week. Cooking for two or three I found it takes to long to get enough, so I freeze until I an ready I also will use shrimp shells to make a stock straining before I add the vegs.

McKenna
McKenna
11 years ago

quinsy, I get an organic newsletter that lists what produce is in season. Check it out here: http://www.organicgrocerydeals.com/forums/view.php?pg=newsletter Also pay attention to what’s on special or new in the produce section–that’s often a clue as to what is in season. You could also ask the produce manager at your local store–I’m sure s/he could help you. I have a lot of tips on my blog: http://www.lakecountrysaver.com/ One of the BEST ways to save on groceries is to use Angel Food Ministries if there is a location near you. I wrote about it here: http://www.lakecountrysaver.com/angel-food-ministries-a-bargain-and-a-blessing/ Other general tips: *Track your food… Read more »

Kristine
Kristine
11 years ago

I read a blog called thirty dollars a week and they have some great tips on eating on the cheap…$30/week (for two people). Highly recommended.

http://thirtyaweek.wordpress.com/

Carl Marx
Carl Marx
11 years ago

JD, Saving on food is a good start as it is one expense we all have and you have listed more than what the average blogger will be able to read in the next few weeks. I do however recommend to ALL to read the publications and take from there what you can. I would just like to add that saving on food when buying, preparing and even recycling it to the next meals is only one of the items we should concentrate on. Dealing with the financial crisis requires a holistic approach. I have written and published a few… Read more »

Alison Wiley
Alison Wiley
11 years ago

I’ve devoted lots of time and thought to food expenses over the years, and noticed two things: 1.) good quality food often yields more nutrition and pleasure-per-penny than the cheapest-possible-food
2.) growing an increasing proportion of my own food each year yields LOTS of nutrition and pleasure-per-penny.

For instance, my salad garden is abundant right now. I can gather a big bed of greens and top it with my quick, tasty and inexpensive curried tuna salad. http://www.diamondcutlife.org/good-potluck-dish-curried-tuna-salad/

DDFD at DivorcedDadFrugalDad
DDFD at DivorcedDadFrugalDad
11 years ago

Nice recap! I have already read most of these . . .

As for Courtney, it sounds like she is trying to buy fire insurance while the barn is already on fire. These are things you need to plan for before the need arises– I guess better late, then never.

Tina
Tina
11 years ago

Thanks for the shout out Kristine! At $30/week, we try to share our receipts and recipes for our $15/per person – $30 week food budget. We’ve got a couple of good frugal ideas out in the blog (using freezer scraps for stock, buying in bulk, making your own pricey vegetarian mock meat). The food is vegetarian (not vegan), so that helps keep the cost down.

Wastedfood.com is an interesting blog on reducing food waste and I always find thekitchn.com full of helpful tips.

Linear Girl
Linear Girl
11 years ago

Reduction of food waste is my number one tip to saving money on food. @quinsy – There is a simple way to evaluate what is in season. In Spring, leafy things are in season (leaves emerge first on a plant). In Summer, fruits are in season (and by fruit I mean whatever seed bearing thing a plant produces: peaches, tomatoes, squash, peas, you get the drift) and in Autumn roots come into season (carrots, turnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes and the like). This system is extremely broad and has many exceptions but it gives you a way to think about whether… Read more »

Buckeye
Buckeye
11 years ago

My wife and I spend anywhere between $300-$400 per month on groceries. We try to eat a lot of fresh, organic foods (meat, veggies, fruit, etc.). It cost more to eat this way, but our health is an investment we like to make.

We were amazed how much we spent on groceries/dining out when I started tracking our monthly expenses. With that said, since we have started eating organically, we eat out a lot less which has actually saved us quite a bit.

Andrea
Andrea
11 years ago

I hope to do better when I retire- more time, less money- in food savings but really to prepare more made from scratch healthier food. I’d like to bake bread/rolls more and make more soups.

Jenzer
Jenzer
11 years ago

Tina, thanks for the Wastedfood.com link! Lots of frugal bloggers write about how to spend less on food, but I think more could be written about not wasting food once you get it home. At this point in my own frugal journey, I’ve already adopted several shopping strategies that work well for our family, so my next “frugal frontier” is reducing food waste. These are some of the techniques we’re using: * If it’s perishable, plan its use. Does a bag of potatoes get hashed for breakfast, microwave-baked for lunch, roasted for dinner? How many sandwiches will we make this… Read more »

Chris @ BuildMyBudget
Chris @ BuildMyBudget
11 years ago

Wow, this is quite a list!!

tibetanpeachpie
tibetanpeachpie
11 years ago

A great cookbook for cooking in season in ”Simply in Season” :
http://www.worldcommunitycookbook.org/season/guide/index.html

A beautiful, wonderful book !

ladykemma2
ladykemma2
11 years ago

1. i plan meals with intentional leftovers for next day’s brown bag lunch. so I plan 14 meals. i look at what’s in the cupboard and plan from there. 2. i shop biweekly. freeze the milk and loaves of bread. i keep a couple of cans of evaporated milk in case i run out. 3. shopping biweekly. produce that rots gets eaten first. cabbages, potatoes, broccoli, apples, veg that “keeps well” eaten toward the end of the 2 week period. 4. the saturday at the of the biweekly week is leftover day. 5. i make huge pots of soup and… Read more »

ladykemma2
ladykemma2
11 years ago

i forgot, i use my crockpot a lot. rice cooker too.

ladykemma2
ladykemma2
11 years ago

dang, where did the edit feature go?

another thing i do is cook outside to keep the air conditioning bills down. i have a solar cooker, a roaster oven, and a crockpot to use on the back porch.

Ellen
Ellen
11 years ago

Since you’re allowing plugs, I’ve got a site devoted to this topic, with articles and recipes. One thing I find useful is to think in terms of “cost per serving” rather than pound or whatever. For example, a roast might cost more than hamburger but can be made into lots of different meals so you don’t feel like you’re eating leftovers. I’ve got a cost per serving calculator for various cuts of meat and poultry so you can go thru your grocery ads and figure out which meat will bring you the most servings.
Cost per Serving Calculator

Omar
Omar
11 years ago

Thanks for the links. Came at the right time. I was just thinking about buying something to eat. I’ll check out the links. Happy Memorial Day.

Save Money Hound
Save Money Hound
11 years ago

Great line up of resources. The psychology of shopping is an interesting one because everyone has different triggers for spending. Once we understand our triggers, we can decide to modify our behaviours and change our spending patterns should we choose to.

Laura
Laura
11 years ago

I just stumbled upon this compilation of posts and comments and am really impressed. I wanted to add my own site, http://safewaygirl.com in case it would be helpful to anyone reading this. I filter through the Safeway circular every week and identify which advertised deals are actually good and will save you money, versus the other deals where Safeway tricks you into buying items which aren’t really on sale. From my experience, this is the secret to saving a lot of money on a weekly grocery bill. I don’t know of equivalent “expert” sites for the other stores I shop… Read more »

Maharani
Maharani
11 years ago

For Quinsy: Check an “older” cookbook out from the library. They usually carry lists of what is in season, because before the current epidemic of designer cooking and eating, people shopped and cooked seasonally. Another tip-IF you shop and cook seasonally you need to develop multiple practical doable recipes for each item. The reason why there are recipes for, say, stuffed, roasted, pureed, baked, eggplant is largely because in the old days eggplant season meant one ate eggplant for several weeks….. Having a few recipes to rotate staves off boredom. Learn to cook. By this I mean “real” cooking-not Martha… Read more »

Mindy
Mindy
10 years ago

I read the article on your website and thought your readers who be interested in how to save money on food by making their own mixes. I publish a cookbook called Mix-A-Meal Cookbook that does just that. It is found at http://www.mixameal.com. The ingredients are basic dehydrated ingredients that also store long-term so you can buy now and save later when food prices are higher.

Michelle
Michelle
8 years ago

I was surprised you didn’t have any articles on freeze-dried foods! They are NOT dehydrated. It’s healthy, nutritious fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy, etc. that is flash frozen and most have a shelf life up to 20 years. All you do is add water to bring your food “back to life” and it looks, smells and tastes just like fresh. My point is…you an save a ton of money by slowly starting a food storage system with the foods you eat, rotating them by using it, and no more thrown away strawberries, bell peppers, potatoes, etc etc etc. That way, if/when… Read more »

Carlos Hank Rhon
Carlos Hank Rhon
7 years ago

I always search for coupon codes before ordering anything online. Bank charges can be killer. I used to do the accounting for a small businesses and it wouldn’t surprise me to see over $300 a month in overdraft fees.

Gwyn Weatherspoon
Gwyn Weatherspoon
7 years ago

A friend of mine linked your blog on Facebook and that is how I discovered it. Very interesting stuff.

Gal
Gal
6 years ago

For me still, the simple advise “buy only! what you need” is the main advise. So using a shopping list on my phone like https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.gal.appshoppinglist is a winner

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