Originally posted onto WalletPath.com 8/30/16.
There are tons of articles out there about how you can save tons of money on your food budget. For some reason, when the question is presented, critics and advice givers come crawling out of the woodwork and all over the place to throw in their two cents on the subject.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a really great thing when the world gathers around a particular subject to offer help. The problem is, a lot of the advice is great in theory but lacking in execution. On top of that, there are so many “tips” out there! So which ones are worth actually trying?
To try and find what the best methods of what would really save you the most money on groceries for the average month, I took the liberty of implementing some of the most popular suggestions from the internet and lived by them for a month.
Below is how to cut your monthly food budget in half…according to the internet.
Cut back on the “extra” beverages.
Difficulty to stick to: 2 / 5
Alcohol and liquor can really add up on the tab if you are not careful, even during happy hour. I’m not a heavy drinker, but I enjoy a beer or two when I go out with my lady every now and then. However, one area that I always put out on is fancy coffees at a restaurant. I don’t know why, but if a waiter or waitress offers me a cappuccino, I’m going to say yes.
According to the internet, the coffee sipping and boozing must cease and desist. As painful as it was, we implemented this drought of “beverage extras” into our budget and stopped ordering alcohol and fancy coffees for the month. We filled the void by getting our fill of coffee at home (Folgers all the way, baby), and stuck to drinking the bottles of whiskey and vodka that people gave to us for our birthdays and housewarming that we never finished. Cheaper to hit the sauce at home? Absolutely.
Bottom Line: Cutting out alcohol from our monthly purchases saved about 40 bucks total from what we usually spend when we go out. That’s pretty close to a whole extra dinner bill!
Eat at home.
Difficulty to stick to: 1 / 5
This was by far the most common method of saving money when it comes to groceries. Article after article started with this “tip” at the top of the list. It sounds practical, but before you switch on that stove or oven, you also have to know how to cook to make it worth your while. No one likes burnt food, and who wants to pay the medical bills if a loved one gets food poisoning?
Thankfully, cooking at home is not something that I had to work hard at doing. When I first got out of high school and into college I worked in restaurant kitchens, so I am no stranger to working and prepping food myself. That being said, I had a leg up on this “tip” because I know what to do with ingredients to make them versatile instead of just for one individual purpose.
To make this tip work, I substituted a two date nights where we usually just go out to a bar or fancy dinner with a meal that I prepared myself. Typically, when the two of us go out, it’s about 50 or so dollars because we both get whatever we want. Appetizers, entrees, desserts, and whatever drink we want (she’s a mojito gal and I’m a lover of cappuccinos, remember?). We spend freely like this because we don’t get out much.
Hitting the supermarket to prep for dinner, I spend about 25 bucks on the two of us total, and that was for a three course dinner. Still seems pretty steep, but the ingredients I bought were versatile enough to make more meals later that week than just for date night. Things like flour can be used for more than a cake, chances are that you are not cooking up an entire sack of potatoes for just two people, and the giant tri-tip you just bought can make some pretty awesome leftovers throughout the rest of the week.
Bottom Line: Two dates nights that would have rounded out to about 50 bucks each if we went out, I substituted for meals cooked at home. I saved about 60 bucks on this one (I’m also an automatic big tipper, so we saved a ton by not having to tip anyone at a restaurant. Yay!)
Stick to store brand products.
Difficulty to stick to: 3 / 5
This was a fun one to try. When we hit the supermarkets, we usually B-line to the aisle that contain our trusted brands, but what if we all just took a step to the left or right whenever we were about to reach for our favorite brand products?
For the month I tested this out on, I tried to stick to non-brand items. This was pretty hilarious when it came to my favorite purchases –breakfast cereals. Alternative names like “Oat-Ohs” (Cheerios), “Froot Hoops” (Fruit Loops), and “Sweetened Flakes of Corn” (They didn’t even try with this one, but I assumed it was Frosted Flakes).
Overall the month was pretty unnoticeably different. Everything in my house ran about the same: the tissues (not Kleenex, just “Facial Tissues”) still got the job done, the cereal was close to the same –albeit a little off–, and medicines from the pharmacy aisle kept us all alive just the same (I got a cold halfway through the month).
Bottom Line: This was actually a pretty fun one to try to implement into my spending habits. I saved about 2 dollars on each thing that I normally would buy. In a single month, that may not be huge, but I imagine that if I stuck with this store-brands-only trend for a whole year, I think a pretty huge sum could be saved.
Difficulty to stick to: 5 / 5
I’m not going to lie on this one –I gave up pretty early on. I rifled through the newspaper (yes, I still get a REAL newspaper, not just digital) and found the Penny Saver section and broke out the scissors. Halfway through cutting through the first waxy page I stopped. My brain was saying “Why is saving 6 cents on a can of tuna worth this effort?”
Thus ended the couponing experiment. Sorry guys.
Bottom line: If you want to save a whopping ten cents on a package of plastic spoons, then couponing is all you. Beware paper cuts.
Grow it yourself (Caution: your thumbs may turn green).
Difficulty to stick to: 6 / 5
I actually really tried on this endeavor, but failed pretty horribly. My girlfriend and I thought starting small with a garden would be the best thing, which really was the best decision we could have made.
We bought a small basil plant and brought it home and after reading the directions (yup, plants come with instructions) we watered it and gave it sunlight and even talked to it. Seems pretty easy, it’s just a plant right? NOPE.
This little devil weed was the neediest thing I have ever had to work with. We picked at its leaves every time we cooked something, which was pretty often, but due to how many leaves this little guy had we could never reach the end and pick him clean. On top of that, he would grow and grow and replace the leaves we took off. More so, the bigger he got (I am assuming it’s a “he”) the more water he needed and more sunlight he craved. It was too much to keep giving him a dose of water every two hours before he would start to wilt, or that he got TOO MUCH sunlight and had to be removed from the windowsill.
Already long story shorter, we pulled the plug on the basil and picked his leaves clean all at once and let him go.
Bottom line: Unless you know how to garden and actually care for plants properly, gardening is a lot more of a burden than it is a money saver. We did however save on the cost of basil for the month. He cost 2 bucks to take home and gave us an entire month worth of basil. In the end we saved 6 bucks because of that little green terror. Woot!
So which tip was the best?
The winner of all of these “tips” that we gathered from the internet was the suggestion to cook at home.
If you don’t know how, getting a cook book off of Amazon or a trip to Williams – Sonoma could be a great investment. If you know what you are doing and can plan for your grocery list to fulfill more than just one meal with the bought ingredients, you can end up saving a ton in the long run.
How was or is your experience with cutting back on your grocery budget? Any tips you would suggest to others? Share them with us in the comments below!