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How To Save Money On Food

Part 1 of 2

Save Money On Food Now
Frugal families are eager to save money on the food budget. For Americans, food is so much more than just nourishment for the body. It's a means of connecting. It's entertainment. It represents personal choice, extravagance, and comfort. Because food touches so many parts of life, a decision to cut food costs impacts far more than the dinner table.

Take a moment to define the role of food for your family and to consider real solutions for bringing down costs.

Define "Food"
For purposes of home management, we consider food to be anything that you eat or drink. By extension, the food budget is anything purchased for eating or drinking, whether it is actually consumed or not. Apply those definitions to your own spending.

For a week or two, write down every place from which your family buys food or beverages. That's the trip to the grocery store, the coffee from the convenience store, and the brownie from the school bake sale; it's every drop of food or drink. Next, review your list and determine what you want to count as food from the food budget and what you'll categorize as entertainment or socialization. To cut your food expenses, recognize your total expenditures and then target what you want to cut. Consider transitioning your family to targeting your food budget for nutrients that fuel your body. That single decision can save hundreds of dollars. Tackle the entertainment and comfort aspects of food as a separate project.

Reduce Waste
The EPA estimates that Americans waste 30 million tons of food annually. You can reduce your contribution to food wastes by taking specific action:

Buy what you will eat - Many a head of lettuce has gone bad in the back of the refrigerator when a shopper has determined to eat healthy and made a healthy purchase. Days and weeks later, failure to follow through has resulted in wasted food.

Don't overbuy - Follow through on eating what you have purchased. Occasional waste is acceptable. If you buy produce reduced for quick sale at ¼ the regular price and then eat only ¾ of the purchase, you've still come out ahead and can justify tossing the last bites.

Shop your shelves - You may need to declare a spending freeze until you've used up a stash of stored foods. Be bold and creative with cooking new dishes. Once your food storage is at a comfortable, waste-free level, end your spending freeze and shop smart.

DIY
From filling a reusable water bottle with filtered water to cooking a four-course meal, nearly anything you prepare at home is cheaper than anything prepared for you away from home. Convenient, prepared, packaged food and drink comes at a cost.

Train The Family
I'm not suggesting that you return to the Depression era practice of locking the bread box or that you drive your family to sneaking and developing an unhealthy relationship with food, but there is merit to getting the family on board. A frank conversation that explains, for instance, that eating vegetarian once a week saves enough money for the fee for youth soccer can encourage your kids that there's something in it for them. Consider what role food is playing in keeping peace in the family. Are you buying expensive food items rather than dealing with the conflict created by not having the item on hand? Are you comfortable with the role of food in your family?