Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Your Budget
Reduce your food budget
By Tammy Roberts, M.S., R.D., L.D., nutrition specialist, Barton County, University of Missouri Extension; Adapted by Maureen Jenkins, web editor, University of Missouri Extension
If it seems like you are spending more money every time you
go to the grocery store, you are right. Food prices are
increasing and have been for the past couple of years.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost of
eggs rose by 33.7 percent, milk by 21.1 percent, fresh
chicken by 8.4 percent and navel oranges by 13.6 percent
from July 2006 to July 2007. A little planning with some
minor changes can help you eat healthy without breaking your
The most cost efficient use of your money is to reduce the
amount of times you go out to eat. Meals out are usually two
to three times the cost of preparing them at home.
Purchasing snacks at vending machines or convenience stores
is also very costly and you will have a hard time finding
healthy snack options. Make your own snack mix and carry a
reusable water bottle with you. If you tend to buy soda or
coffee at convenience stores or coffee shops, try purchasing
these items at the grocery store and brew your coffee at
home. It may seem expensive initially to buy these items in
larger quantities, but what you buy at the grocery store
will cost a fraction of what you will pay for the small and
pricey items at the convenience store.
Now that you are considering eating at home more often,
there are several ways to save at the grocery store. Plan
your menus and shopping list ahead of time and only shop
once per week. Additional trips to the store make it too
tempting to pick up extras that you want but don’t need.
While making your list, check your refrigerator and cabinets
for ingredients you already have on hand. Cutting down on
trips and using your shopping list will not only help you
save money, it will also help you use less gas and save
Planning a couple of meatless meals every week can also make
a big difference in your food budget. Beans are a great
source of protein and it costs only pennies per person to
serve them. You can use beans to make a vegetarian chili —
most people don’t even miss the meat. Many kids say they
don’t like beans, but often they will eat a bean burrito and
Finally, it is important to decrease the amount of food
waste in your household. Millions of dollars worth of food
are wasted each year. That is not to suggest that you eat
everything in sight so you don’t have to throw it away.
Rather, it is a suggestion to make plans for all of the food
you purchase and follow through with those plans. How many
bananas sit on the counter until they turn black and get
tossed in the trash? That banana can be mashed and frozen
and used for banana bread later. When you prepare a meal and
don’t eat all of it, take leftovers for your lunch or plan a
night when you finish all of the leftovers from the week.
You can also use leftovers as ingredients to create a new
meal on the following day.
Food is our third highest household expense after housing and transportation. However, it is possible to decrease that expense with careful planning and shopping. We can’t control food prices, but we can control how we spend our money.
Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009