Practical Things You Can Do Today To Start Spending Less On Food Tomorrow


We’ve been talking a lot about food and how to spend less on it recently. Because universally about 99% of us are struggling with it.

A couple week’s ago we wrote about how far being aware of your spending goes toward spending less, (Spoiler Alert: very far!) but you might still be making excuses. We talked about that last week.

Today, it’s all about simple strategies you can put into place without upsetting your entire life, and build upon as you get more practice.

Get Organized.

Just in the way that we have to think ahead and give every dollar a job, we have to plan ahead and get organized with our eating. If everything is what-I-feel-like-right-now, you will go broke. (You might already know this.) So you have to make a plan. You have to have a system. You need to think ahead. On Sunday nights, pin all the meals you will make for the week on your “Dinner This Week” board. Or use a service like eMeals to get ahead of the week. Or just get crazy and write it down on a piece of paper and stick it on the fridge. It is all personal preference, as long as you are stepping back and taking some time to make a plan. So make your plan and…

Shop Accordingly.

You made the plan—yay!—but now you have to implement the plan. So do not go to the store without building a list from your plan. Shop for your plan, and only for your plan. And if you are doing this, you should be able to….

Make Fewer Trips.

It is just not possible to go into the store and get one thing. So we add this, and that, and oh-just-one-of-those and it adds up crazy fast. Have you ever looked at a receipt right after you checked out, sure there must have been a mistake because there is no way it could have added up to,…. oh, yeah, I guess it did. Less trips, less impulse buys, and less spending overall. But no matter how well you plan or shop, life will happen. So,…

Plan For Emergencies.

You are going to have a bad day at work or get home late or have unexpected guests. If you factor these types of things into your planning, you will save a lot of money. I like to call the not-going-out-for-sushi plan. I might want to go out to sushi, but if I have something quick and easy on-hand, I can probably talk myself out of it. Or I at least have a good, solid chance of talking myself out of it. Because planning for the things you can’t really plan for is kind of a thing at YNAB. And we already know it works. Life never goes exactly like you planned and you must learn to…

Be Flexible.

Just like you have to “Roll With The Punches” in your budget, well, this might be the main reason you have to roll with the punches, but you get the idea… Every month is a little bit different and there are a lot of factors that contribute to your eating/spending on food—your job is to adjust. You might just accept that you will spend more at the holidays, or be very frugal on the month when you eat out for a very fancy birthday dinner. Or maybe you know that during baseball season you have to grab more takeout, or that in the summer you have more people over. Whatever it is, just be aware, make adjustments. By remaining flexible, you’ll have more options to lower your costs in the long run, like…

Stocking Up On Sales.

Just because it is on sale does not mean it is a good deal necessarily. (Same goes for Costco!) But if it is something that you eat regularly, and can store, if you can stock up when something is on sale, by all means, stock that outside freezer with everything you’ve got! And in the absence of sale prices, you might have to get creative, or…

Consider Less Expensive Options.

Maybe you’re stuck in a habit of always grabbing the same brand. Try a cheaper brand one week and see how it goes. Or try a different store. Trader Joe’s is about a mile further away from my house than Save Mart, but I drastically reduced my groceries budget, just by switching to do most of my shopping at Trader Joe’s. I don’t even know how it all works but it is SO much cheaper. (Disclaimer: I still go to Save Mart for Diet Coke. Trader Joe’s one real shortcoming is a total lack of Diet Coke.) Little changes add up over time and it is worth it to test some things out and see what makes the most sense for you.

If Food Is A Priority…

That is OK! Enjoy it! Without guilt! Only you can determine how much to budget and spend on food. Budgeting is all about what is important to you. So if good food or eating out is a priority to you—know that—and budget around it.

I work full-time, from home no less, and sometimes at the end of the day, I realize I thought about dinner zero and desperately want to get out of the house. I know this about myself and we budget accordingly. Whenever we have a tight month, or something unexpected happens, we always know we can pull back on our eating out budget, but for the most part, it’s a lot bigger than it needs to be, because that is a priority for me, er, our family. I lose no sleep over it.