According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 30 to 40 percent of food produced and purchased in the United States is thrown away each year. When you consider this information in concert with the October 2020 USDA Food Plan report that reveals the average family of four on a moderate budget will spend over $927 each month on food, it’s safe to say many dollars are going into the garbage throughout the year.
Managing Your Budget
The first step toward better managing your food budget is identifying where your food money is going. Consider these questions to determine where you’re spending your money. From there you may be able to locate more significant potential savings.
- How many times each week do you dine out?
- Do you find yourself throwing spoiled, uneaten food away frequently?
- How often do you order pizza or fast food simply because you feel too tired to cook?
- Do you feel you spend too much money on food for your household?
- Have you attempted to cut your food costs in the past? Were you successful?
- What percentage of your paycheck each week goes to food (dining in and out combined)?
Once you have a handle on how much you are spending each week on food, you can begin to make changes to curtail your spending while improving the quality of foods you eat and feed your family.
Tips for Dining Out
Dining out can be a fantastic opportunity to have a relaxing meal with friends and family in which no one is exhausted from preparing the meal. Believe it or not, there are things you can do that will help you save money even when dining out. Consider these tips to help you cut your food costs while enjoying a delicious meal out.
- Take advantage of loyalty programs and discount offers. Some restaurants offer discounts as deep as 50 percent off your meal for every fourth visit through their loyalty program.
- Sign up for restaurant email lists. Some of them offer free food on your birthday. Many offer free food during your entire birthday month. Take advantage of what they offer.
- Clip coupons. You can find coupons online or in your local newspaper.
- Dine out for lunch rather than dinner. Lunch menus often offer smaller portions and cost less than dinner portions.
- Box half your food when the server brings it out. You can save it for lunch the next day. That is one less meal you have to plan or prepare, and you are less likely to overindulge for dinner.
- Opt for water instead of costly sodas, cocktails, and other drinks. A family of four can easily save $10 or more per meal out by drinking water instead.
Simple steps like these can help you save big when dining out.
Tips for Dining In
When trying to tame your spending for dining in, things sometimes get complicated by busy lifestyles, unexpected outings, and other events. These tips can help you improve efficiency for preparing meals at home while reducing the amount of food waste you create.
- Buy convenience meals. They are easy to prepare on busy nights and a fraction of the cost of restaurant meals.
- Create a weekly meal plan and do advanced meal prep on the weekend. That reduces meal prep time during the week.
- Only buy food for one week at a time. That will help avoid food spoilage waste.
- Never go food shopping on an empty stomach. If you are hungry, more food will wind up in your shopping cart.
- Learn to love your crockpot. Start dinner in the morning when your energy level is high, so dinner is ready and waiting when you get home from work.
- Plan your menus. Cook your food according to what’s on sale each week.
Cutting food costs does not require you to make major lifestyle changes. You can still avoid dinner out on the town while keeping your food budget in balance if you follow the excellent tips above.