The average American spends up to 10 percent of their disposable income on food, according to the USDA. Things are likely different due to the coronavirus, but the typical divide is between food at home (4.9 percent) and food outside of the home (4.6 percent).
Income spent on food has dropped from 17 percent back in 1960, but it’s still important to budget your food spending.
Buying groceries and cooking is almost always cheaper than eating out. But it isn’t always practical to shop and cook. Favor food at home but remember that going for out social events and socializing can be an experience that can be worth more than just money.
The key is to have a budget and stick to it as much as possible. Here are some ways to cut your food costs and still eat well.
Clip those coupons
It may not be as common as it was to get coupons in the mail or to purchase a Sunday newspaper for the best deals, but discounts are still a useful way to cuts costs. Grocery stores, for instance, have moved to phone applications that show the latest deals and rebates.
Order the daily special
When going to restaurants, ask for lunch and dinner specials. Having the soup or sandwich of the day can be much cheaper, or opting for specific appetizer entree combos.
Restaurant owners cut costs on these items by ordering and prepping in bulk. Also, if you are given two menus, one for dinner and a smaller lunch menu, definitely check the lunch menu first. The portions are smaller and selection is limited but your meal is likely to be significantly cheaper.
Eat before shopping
Grocery stores are designed to make shoppers buy more by separating essential products such as eggs, bread, and meats along the far walls of the store, which leaves plenty of room for aisles full of impulse shopping.
Going to the grocery store hungry is one of the worst things to do before shopping. Being hungry in a store filled with tempting but expensive food choices will almost always lead to impulse buying and potentially wasted food lasted on.
A new way of shopping, which gained popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic, is online grocery shopping. Online shopping lowers the urge to impulse buy due to less wandering, especially if you use a preset list of items. It also saves time waiting in lines leaving only the time to pick up your groceries when everything is ready.
Create a weekly meal plan
Taco Tuesday or Fun Friday sounds cool but it’s for a more practical reason — budgeting. Studies show that having a weekly meal plan is important to maintaining a budget because it makes food expenses predictable. Knowing exactly how much money is required for certain ingredients will also limit spending on groceries and limit the urge to wander even more.