It’s embarrassing to admit, but I only started cooking in my mid-20’s. I used to eat out a lot.
I knew the key to saving money on food is cooking at home.
Through a lot of research and trial and error, these are the tips I’ve used to cut my food expenses in half!
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1. Create an easy meal plan
Meal planning is difficult!
When I first started out meal planning, it took me hours per week. It would stress me out to the point where I end up going out for 2 days just to destress from meal planning and then repeat!
As a parent, things only got busier. Time is precious. Time spent meal planning is time spent away from my kid or doing other things that are going to even more significantly boost my savings!
When I heard about the $5 meal plan, I was ecstatic! It saves time and money! For only $5 a month, I receive a delicious meal plan that only costs $2 per meal!
What I love is that they offer a 14 day free trial (approximately 40 recipes) – regular or gluten-free – that you can cancel at any time with no questions asked.
2. Use free grocery store cash back apps
I use these 2 cash back apps to save money on groceries! It’s free to signup and the cash back process is easy!
Checkout51: All you need to do is purchase an item on their grocery list, you can get money back by taking a picture of your receipt and sending it! After they’ve approved the receipt, they’ll put the money in your Checkout51 account that you can cash out when you reach a minimum of $20.
Sign up here at CheckOut51 to start earning cash back.
Caddle (only available in Canada): Similar to Checkout51, Caddle gives you cash back on groceries, but also on other purchases (like just by uploading your Costco receipts you get $0.5!). You can also earn cash back for taking short surveys, watching videos, writing reviews, and engaging with brands.
Sign up here at Caddle to start earning cash back.
3. Get cash back through Ebates
Ebates pays you cash back for shopping at any of their 2500 partnered companies, which includes grocery stores!
In the U.S., Walmart is one of those stores!
If you sign up with Ebates, click on Walmart, grab the grocery items you would normally grab and get paid cash back for your shopping trip! Of course shopping through Walmart.com doesn’t apply to perishables (produce and meat), but it does apply to canned goods, dried beans, cereal etc. and everything else Walmart carries.
In the U.S., you can even get a free $10 Walmart gift card or just plain $10 if you sign up at Ebates now. You have to spend $25 within 90 days of signing which should be a breeze since Ebates is affiliated with over 2500 stores including Amazon, eBay, Macy’s, Kohl’s and Target.
4. Buy discounted grocery store gift cards
There are online gift card marketplaces where you can buy discounted gift cards including grocery store gift cards that other people are selling.
I’ve also seen discounted gift cards for IGA, Safeway, Longo’s, Sobeys and Fortino’s.
Bonus savings – you can use your credit card to pay for these gift cards so you can still get your credit card points!
5. Buy an Instant Pot
The Instant Pot has changed my life! We missed the 2017 Black Friday instant pot deals and thought we could wait until next year and get it.
But then my husband surprised me on Mother’s Day with one.
My baby was around 5 months and I was stressing out because I could barely find time to prepare food, let alone eat it! I was also worried about how I was going to prepare healthy meals for my baby now that she’s going to start solids.
The instant pot has not only been a game-changing time saver. It has opened my eyes to this whole world of healthy and delicious eating through pressure cooking! Because it’s so easy to cook meals in the Instant Pot, there’s extra incentive to not eat out. I highly recommend getting an Instant Pot.
6. Cook extra
I try to make an effort to do this for every single dinner meal. It saves me time and money by providing leftovers for lunch the next day or freezer meals for convenience.
One important aspect to cooking extra is storage. I’ve purchased plastic and glass containers, brands ranging from Pyrex to Anchor, and different sizes. I’ve experienced lids breaking after pro-longed use (and they don’t sell replacement lids!). The odor from foods have seeped into the container and even stained it.
What I love about them is that they’re BPA free. they’re airtight and leakproof, and the lids just easily snap or screw on. The rectangular containers can be used in the oven, microwave, freezer, fridge and dishwasher.
Some of these strategies might not work for your lifestyle. If you try a few out and make them into a habit, you’ll see significant savings.
7. Get the best price using Flipp
Flipp is an app that gives you access to all of the weekly flyers and you can search for items to view the best price!
For places that price match like Walmart, Flipp makes price matching easy! Flipp also has coupons!
8. Plan around what’s on sale
When I became comfortable with meal planning and had many go-to recipes, I started buying based on what’s on sale. That doesn’t just include what’s listed in the flyer, but also what’s expiring and naturally imperfect.
When I go to the grocery store, I first hit the areas with food that is about to expire. The food item is usually marked between 25-50% off.
Every perishable food section (produce, meat, bread, dairy and ready-made food) either has an expiring area (whether it’s a standalone cart or a designated spot with a label) or the expiring food is in its usual spot amongst the other food.
Each grocery store is different. Some have more expiring food and some are better at managing inventory and have less.
Sometimes I leave the grocery store buying only expiring food and it is awesome seeing all the 50% off symbols!
I also buy the naturally imperfect food. Naturally imperfect food is usually mishapen or discoloured, but completely edible and offered at a discounted price. Some grocery stores actually label the product as naturally imperfect while others have them in an area similar to where the expiring food would be.
9. Eat meatless a few days a week
Meat is often the most expensive part of the meal.
Using a substitute protein source (e.g. quinoa, beans, lentils etc.) saves a lot of money. For beans and lentils, you can compound those savings by buying dry and in bulk.
10. Organize your food
There was a time when we wasted 25% of the food we bought. What helped us was to organize our food in our fridge, freezer and pantry.
We have sections for milk, cheese, grains, meat, vegetables, fruits, condiments, meals etc.
We use labels for some areas. Being able to clearly visualize what we have has helped us quickly determine what we need to purchase.
At some point, we were contemplating buying a second freezer. Second freezers can be a useful tool depending on your circumstances.
Once we refined our organization systems in the kitchen, we realized a second freezer would only cost us more money in the long-run. More energy, more food wastage.
11. Grow your own food
Since we’ve owned our house, we’ve had a vegetable garden.
Each year, the vegetable garden has grown and we learn better practices on how to plant and harvest.
Gardening is an art. It’s also a huge money saver. And it’s healthy – you know where those vegetables came from and how they were grown.
Before this garden, I knew nothing about growing vegetables. I hadn’t even owned a plant.
Take it from a newbie like me, just start. Even if it’s just one plant like a basil plant. Once you start, you realize the benefits. 1 basil plant will become 2.
Here’s a quick summary of the 11 best ways to cut your food expenses in half:
- Create an easy meal plan through $5 meal plan
- Use free grocery store cash back apps: Checkout51, Caddle (Canada)
- Get cash back through Ebates.com (U.S.) or Ebates.ca (Canada)
- Buy discounted grocery store gift cards
- Buy an Instant Pot
- Cook extra
- Get the best price using Flipp
- Plan around what’s on sale
- Eat meatless a few days a week
- Organize your food
- Grow your own food
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