Saving Money - Food

Our savings tips Friday deal with saving money on food. You can save on food expenses without compromising your family's health.

First of all, plan your meals. Once a week sit down and make out a menu. Look for specials and use coupons when you plan your meals. A good web site to use is

Planning also includes keeping in mind your family's needs. The basic needs to remember are:

  • What does my family like?
  • How many of us will be eating?
  • What do the kids or older people need?
  • Is it too hard to make?
  • How much money do I have for food?
  • Will we be eating away from home so I should buy less food?
  • Will friends and relatives come over for meals?

Another important part of food shopping is planning the menu for your family's meals. Here are some tips to follow when planning a menu:

  • Your family needs.
  • Good Nutritious foods
  • Variety of foods, keeping in mind texture, color, flavor, and temperature.
  • Consider wise use of leftovers
  • Weekly specials and seasonal foods, such as fruits and vegetables
  • Plan one meatless day per week. You'll save at the grocery, save time and you'll likely save a few calories.

Using a shopping list saves you time. It helps you control your spending. It also helps you remember all the items you need. Here are some helpful hints for making a shopping list:

  • Keep paper and pencil in the kitchen. You can write down things you need when you think of them.
  • Check your kitchen cabinets and refrigerator as you make your list.
  • Organize a list the same way the grocery store sections are laid out. You will save time and avoid forgetting items when you shop.
  • Look at the newspaper and ads for sales and coupons.

Here are some other helpful tips to help get you through the grocery store without going broke:

  • Eat before shopping for food. Hungry people tend to buy more food than they planned on.
  • Know the current prices of the food you buy most often.
  • Read food labels to learn about contents, nutrition, quantity, number of servings, steps to prepare, serving and storage tips, and other useful facts.
  • Buy the amount of food the fits your family's needs and your storage space.
  • Buy larger sizes of items that want spoil. It may be cheaper.
  • Buy the quality and size of food that fits how you will use it.

Know the tactics stores use to try to get you to spend more:

  • Stores place the most expensive items at eye level (note that the most expensive kid's cereals are often placed lower - at their eye level.)
  • Stores use large, flashy end-of-aisle displays that are seldom cheaper. Companies pay for these positions.
  • Candy is in an area that is difficult to avoid (in other words, no matter how hard you try your kids will se it!).
  • Shelves change constantly - new products will be displayed where your old favorites used to be, forcing you to look longer, at more items, than you intended.
  • Pre-cut fruits and vegetables look beautiful, but are expensive.
  • Massive end-of-aisle displays, large window signs, hanging banners all create the illusion that the store is filled with bargains, even if it isn't.
  • Prepared meals that you can see and smell as you shop are tempting but costly. Use pre-made foods only when necessary. They can cost twice as much.
  • Specialty items like chips, dip, and soda are all placed together to increase impulse sales.
  • Lounge areas, free coffee, samples, free newspapers, etc. are all designed to keep you in the store longer- hopefully spending more money.

Compare your costs seven different ways. Compare:

  • prices of different brands.
  • cost of frozen, canned, fresh, and dried items of the same food.
  • number of servings in each food package.
  • prices at different stores.
  • prices of similar foods, such as fresh peaches and pears.
  • larger packages and two smaller ones of the same product to get the better value.
  • the cost of convenience food versus the cost of making it from scratch.

Sources: University of Illinois extension services, University of Wisconsin extension services.