Food is an essential expense — and it’s a fun one too, if you’re a foodie. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a good meal, but overspending on food can be a major problem if you’re having a tough time sticking to your budget, or you’re running up credit card debt for restaurant meals.
Food spending is a big expense for millions of Americans — recent research from The Ascent reveals that spending in this category tops 10% of the typical household’s income. The good news is there are ways to cut costs if you find yourself spending too much. In fact, you can often reduce your spending without impacting your meal plans too much.
How much are Americans spending on food?
According to The Ascent’s research, average food spending was about $660 per consumer per month in 2018. This represents 13% of household spending, and includes $372 on food at home and $228 on food consumed away from home, including fast food, takeout, delivery, vending machines, and food trucks.
This is more than Americans spent on entertainment, healthcare, personal insurance, pensions, and education. It also adds up to close to $8,000 per year — a big chunk of change.
There are plenty of ways to reduce your food expenses — including cutting costs on dining out, and reducing what you spend on groceries.
Cutting your food spending
To cut your grocery costs, the simplest approach is to learn the sales cycle. Typically, items go on sale about every six to eight weeks. When an item you often use has a price drop, don’t just buy one — buy enough to last until it goes on sale again. If you eat one frozen pizza a week and it hits rock-bottom prices every six weeks, buy six to stick in your freezer when it’s on sale so you never have to pay full price.
If you want to take your savings to the next level, there are lots of other ways to cut spending. You can use coupons from the Sunday paper, which can also be purchased pre-clipped from several different websites if you only want coupons for things you buy anyway, and you don’t feel like getting the paper.
You can also check sales flyers from different stores and look for opportunities to combine coupons and sales. Sometimes you can even end up getting things like toothpaste and shampoo from drug stores for free, or for mere pennies.
Planning your weekly menu around grocery store sales flyers is another good way to save, especially if you batch-cook big meals when ingredients go on sale, then freeze them for later.
You can cut dining-out costs by limiting the number of restaurant meals you buy, and only eating out when you have a special restaurant to try or an occasion to celebrate, rather than for convenience. If you cook a little extra with each meal and freeze it for a day you don’t feel like cooking, you’ll reduce the incentive to dine out when you just don’t feel like whipping something up.
Saving on food costs can help you balance your budget
If you’re struggling to save enough to accomplish your goals, or if you’re having a hard time paying down credit card debt or other high-interest consumer debt, cutting your food costs could free up some much-needed cash. With so many families spending so much on dining, there’s lots of room to save while still enjoying life and not sacrificing on the taste or quality of your meals.
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