Top 10 Tips & Tricks to Save on Food - (But Coupons Rock!)

Ok, so many people watched my episode and have asked me for advice on saving money on food. However, the majority of people *think* they don't have time to coupon. OK, we will just go with that even though I think that excuse is not always valid. But, I have compiled some tips just the same to help those who want to start saving money! You're welcome! ;)

Here are my Top 10 tips:

#1: Take Inventory - Are your cupboards organized? Do you know exactly what you have in them and how many of each? This is a HUGE stumbling block for many people.
     *Don't have time to inventory? Here's what happens:
          - You will be throwing away food that has already expired
          - You will be buying more of the food you already
             have that will  now expire
          - You will run out of a product without knowing it

(Check out my video that contains pantry inventory on youtube)

#2:  PLAN, PLAN, PLAN!!! I will NOT take the excuse that you don't have time for planning. That excuse alone will throw away your money.  PLAN your meals. PLAN your budget. PLAN your shopping trips. Did I mention PLAN? :)

#3:  Make meals from scratch:  Yes, many of you may need a Xanax after reading that. I used to panic, too, BUT, this is a HUGE money saver! Next time you are at the grocery store or even Walmart, check out how much they charge for something like macaroni salad. I will tell you that I buy pasta for no more than .50/box, a JAR of mayo for $2 and celery, onion, whatever for $1. I have seen pasta salad pre-made for $3.00 a POUND! INSANE! I could feed my family of 5 AND have leftovers for  less than the $3.50! And that is just ONE meal! Think of what you are wasting on pre-made items!

#4. Think outside the leftover box: Hate leftovers? Did you cook too many mashed potatoes or chicken? Make potato pancakes the next day or make some chicken chili instead of beef. Use your leftover corn to throw into tacos the next night, toss your extra spaghetti noodles into a stir fry! Don't waste or throw out food just because you don't want to eat the same thing twice! I beg of you!

#5. Buy In Season & Freeze:  Does your son LOVE strawberries like mine? Do you wish you could buy corn fresh everyday?  Stock up! Buy produce when it is in season and freeze it for later when it is not. The price could be up to half off when you do this! Also, plan your menu around the foods in season. Those price differences really add up. Not sure when food is in season? Here is a great chart you can reference from BBC Good Food.

#6. Look at the right prices:  Do NOT look at the price of an item when shopping without coupons. Rather, look at the UNIT price. That is the price in the little orange box on the left. This is what you can compare two similar items by.

               - EXAMPLE:  Let's say there is a funky-shaped bottle of
            water priced at $1.80. Then there is a standard-shaped bottle
            for $1.69. Which one do you buy?  Well, look at the UNIT
            price.  The first ($1.80) bottle has 20 ounces @ 9 cents an
            ounce. The second ($1.69) has 16.9 ounces @ 10 cents an
            ounce. IF you are going to use it all, buy the $1.80. You are
            getting more for your money.

#7.  Buy in bulk:  Again, I love coupons. But if you are against them, your best bet is probably buying in bulk...IF you will use or freeze it all by the expiration date. I don't want you to lose money by tossing away what you won't use just to get a better deal.

          -Quick tip: Cook your bulk meat all at once, use half for one
       night and half for another if you don't want to follow my #8 tip.

#8.  Cook all at once : Or, break up your cooking into just a couple days a week. Especially if you buy in bulk. Like I mentioned, cook a whole package of meat and split it up into 2 or 3 meals. That way you don't waste time and you can use it to coupon! ;)

          -Suggestions: Beef: Tacos, Meatballs, Chili, Shepherd's Pie
                                 Chicken: Salsa, Chicken Caesar Salad, Grilled
                                 Pork: Pulled BBQ, Stir-fry, Sour Cream Chops

If you are worried you will eat more because it is already made, then portion it out and put it in the freezer - thaw the night before!

#9. Eat healthy snacks : Apples and bananas are great low-cost options for snacks. So are carrots and greens. By eating healthier-choice snacks between meals, you will not be as hungry when dinner comes. However, eating "crap carbs" (sorry for the language!) like chips will mess with your blood sugar and ultimately make you want to "chow down". Therefore, you will need less food in the long run if you can change your eating habits into healthier ones. Not that it is easy. I am NOT an expert in this area! ;)

#10.  Rethink eating out : Now, I am not saying that you should not eat out. But rather, think about WHY you are eating out. Is it because you are celebrating? Have at it! But choose items that will fill you up in a good way, and don't forget to drink water. Save the soda for home if you "need" it. A SUPER waste of money!  If you are going out just because you don't have time to make dinner, re-read #8. You can always find something to eat if it is already made!

And there you have it, my top 10 tips about saving money on food!

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Check out my youtube video on the BASICS of saving money on food. If you like the video, there is a whole video series on learning how to save money. It is basically about couponing, but has tons of information on other areas of savings as well. You can find the list here!

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