10 Tips to Save Big Money on Your Food Budget

Food Budget

Here’s the story about how I learned to save big money on my food budget.

When I was a young adult (and not so organized) I used to go grocery shopping about once a week. I’d spend a reasonable amount of money, but many times those shopping trips ended with me going home, putting everything away and then going out to dinner. I was a little crazy to shop without a plan and then come home with nothing to eat for dinner. I soon learned that by planning meals before grocery shopping can save you BIG MONEY!

10 Tips to Save Big Money on Your Food Budget

  1. Cook at home. This will be your biggest savings. Americans spend some 50% of their food dollars on restaurant meals. Cooking at home is always cheaper. Planning a week of meals at one time can make it easier to follow your plan.
  2. Stretch your budget by making a meal out of left-overs. Omelets, quesadillas, stir-fries, soups or pastas can incorporate many different ingredients.
  3. Eat left-overs for lunch or freeze for another meal.
  4. Know what’s in your freezer. Have a running inventory of what you have stored and plan when you will use it. Make sure you use each meal within a year.
  5. Use less meat. Make a meal once a week that focuses on beans, tofu or eggs.
  6. Incorporated frozen vegetables into recipes. They are healthy and inexpensive.
  7. Grow your own garden. If you have a yard use some of it to plan some herbs and seasonal vegetable. It’s healthy and a great project for the kids.
  8. Buy some items in bulk. Check prices, but sometimes buying in bulk and freezing for later can save lots of money.
  9. Stock up on staples like beans, rice, canned tomatoes, oil, pasta and frozen veggies. Having basic items will help you throw something together for dinner in a flash. You can do this with an organized pantry.
  10. Buy when it’s on sale and use coupons when able.

You can save big with a little organization.

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Janet Schiesl

Janet has been organizing since 2005. She is a Certified Professional Organizer and the owner of Basic Organization. She loves using her background as a space planner to challenge her clients to look at their space differently. She leads the team in large projects and works one-on-one with clients to help the process move quickly and comfortably. Call her crazy, but she loves to work with paper, to purge what is not needed and to create filing systems that work for each individual client. Janet is a Past President of the Washington DC Chapter of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) and was voted 2016 Organizer of the Year by the Washington DC Chapter of NAPO.


  1. Janet Barclay ( on August 7, 2012 at 11:25 am

    Rather than “leftovers,” I prefer to think of them as “plan-overs.” There’s not much difference in the time and effort required to make a big pot of stew versus a small one, and it’s so nice to have an extra meal or two in the freezer for those times when you don’t have time to cook, or just don’t feel like it.

  2. Basic Organization on August 7, 2012 at 11:34 am

    I totally agree. My family won’t eat a “leftover”, but if I rap the extras into a tortilla or serve over rice they seldom realize that it’s something they have seen before. Planning makes all the difference. It can save you time and money.

  3. Seana Turner on June 15, 2020 at 9:38 am

    My funny reaction to the leftovers comment is how much my husband loves them. The only thing better than dinner is leftover dinner. When he was contemplating going back into the office to work, which he has not yet done, he said, “But then, you know, no leftovers.” This made me laugh, as of course he could take the leftovers to work. But I guess there is no microwave, so it isn’t easy. I was touched that he saw that as a drawback.

    I’ve actually been thinking a lot recently about eating out. It has clearly become a “core” part of our American lifestyle. We are accustomed to either eating out or easily being able to pick up take-out. I was thinking back 150 years or so, and how important cooking was… how much you wanted to have someone in the family who could cook. It really is a critical life skill!

    • Janet Schiesl on June 15, 2020 at 7:20 pm

      Yes, it was a critical life skill and I think it still should be. I was talking to one of my sons a few months ago and he mentioned how a lot of his friends were really challenged because the restaurants were closed and they eat out all the time. Lucky for my son he cooks.
      I like your leftover story. A few years ago my family won’t eat leftovers, but now they have gotten used it them. I usually cook two big meals each week and we eat them again as leftovers or I remake them into something else.

  4. Sabrina Quairoli on June 15, 2020 at 10:46 am

    While my grocery bill has been larger these days with everyone at home, I do find that I have enough to be creative and do a variety of meals from the ingredients I buy. I have a grocery list that is pretty extensive and it helps remind me on the different ingredients I use frequently. We go to a wholesale place and find most of our meats there. They have a lot more organic meat than they used to, so it is making it easier for us too.

    • Janet Schiesl on June 15, 2020 at 7:23 pm

      We tend to buy a lot of the same thing each week. Those are just out staples I guess. When I start my grocery list I can add about 10 things without even thinking “do I have this”. Those are the things we always need.

  5. Lucy Kelly on June 15, 2020 at 11:49 am

    Years ago I learned from The Frugal Gazette (it was a newsletter, still available as a book) to make a price book. It tells me which store has the best per unit price on items we use all the time. It comes into its own when there’s a sale and you can stock up with confidence because you know (a) it’s something you’re going to use and (b) it was the most economical anyway and now it’s on sale! Comparing per unit price, which is now listed on the price label on stores, has saved me from many a “bargain” that turned out to be actually more expensive per unit.

    • Janet Schiesl on June 15, 2020 at 7:26 pm

      I never heard of a price book, but that’s a good idea. The closest I’ve done is many years ago I price checked the supplies I often use for work to figure out where I could get them cheapest. I did it because I only made a trip to Staples for work supplies, so I wanted to know I was getting the best price, since I was going out of my way.

  6. Linda Samuels on June 15, 2020 at 3:11 pm

    Since the pandemic, we’ve been eating home almost exclusively. We used to eat out or get take out much more frequently. Our grocery bill has grown substantially, but our dining out expense is practically zero. I haven’t reviewed the numbers to compare, but I am curious to find out. I’ve noticed that grocery prices have increased over the past months. We eat a lot of fresh fruit (berries mostly) and vegetables, minimize beef intake, and eat more fish (salmon mostly,) chicken, and eggs. I just started a mini herb garden and one tomato plant, which I’m loving. It’s great to have an unlimited supply of fresh basil, dill, cilantro, and more. It is my first attempt at gardening. If it goes well, I will consider expanding it for next year. I’d love to grow lettuce, peppers, cucumbers, and maybe some berries.

  7. Janet Schiesl on June 15, 2020 at 7:30 pm

    You must have a green thumb Linda. I used to have a vegetable garden when my kids were young. It was great, but over the years I have had less and less success. Last year I started just visiting a farmers market or picking-my-own berries and tomatoes. I love doing that.
    We don’t go out to eat much, so that aspect of the pandemic has bothered us. What has changed is that one of my son’s moved back home. Wow! I forgot how much he eats.

  8. Julie Bestry on June 17, 2020 at 7:36 pm

    I don’t cook (and hate cooking); luckily, I’m fine eating the same things for breakfast and lunch daily. But the prospect of inventing dinner is beyond me. I love your incredibly organized approach to saving money on a food budget, but #s 5 and 10 are the only ones that are not beyond my skill set. I don’t eat meat, and I use coupon/discount apps. But I am just a terrible grownup — I don’t like vegetables, I won’t eat soups or stews, I won’t touch leftovers (though I rarely have any, anyway). These are excellent money-saving tips for actual grownups, though! 😉

    • Janet Schiesl on June 18, 2020 at 1:03 pm

      Julie, I love your reply. Play to your strengths. Cooking everyday (or most days) is not for everyone.

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