Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Your Budget
Reduce your food budget
Tammy Roberts, M.S., R.D., L.D., Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Bates 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 probably right. Food prices are typically
on the rise. A little planning with some minor changes can
help you eat healthy without breaking your budget.
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
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 time.
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 love it.
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, November 05, 2013