In this economy, it seems we all are looking to cut our costs and make our dollars stretch farther. One area of the budget that is usually easy to cut costs on is the food budget, if you do it right. A few very basic things to do, some of which I have blogged about previously, is to shop the weekly sales ads, only buy the sales items, buy less packaged and processed foods, use coupons if you have them, plan a weekly menu, eat at home more, and cook from scratch as often as possible.
In our city, the grocery ads usually come out on Wednesdays and Sundays. I will buy a newspaper each of those days and go through the store ads. Unless there are really good sales at several stores, I usually pick the store that has the most deals that I would use and shop there that week. Also, if you don't want to go to several stores, Wal-Mart will match competitor ads (there are some exceptions that they have, check with your local Wal-Mart). I generally avoid Wal-Mart as much as possible, but occasionally, I will take my ads with me and have Wal-Mart match the prices for me.
Buying less packaged foods and processed foods not only costs less, it is healthier for you too. Those bags of chips and cookies cost more, and most of the time they are full of all kinds of junk with little to no nutritional value, and lots of salt and sugar. Eating healthier is also thrifty, because it will promote better health. Better health means less unessecary trips to the doctor. You will get better value for your dollar if you spend it on nutritious food.
I occasionally clip coupons and use them, but most of the time the coupons out there are for the packaged and processed foods. Sometimes I have gotten coupons for, say, $5 off my next grocery order. I love those! But since the coupon usually promote junk food, I am finding I don't use them as often anymore (we have been striving to eat healthier at home, so junk food does not have much of a home in our house).
One of the biggest things we have done that has helped tame our food budget was to plan a menu for the week. Seriously, it only takes me around 5-10 minutes to plan, and it utilizes what I have in the house. We waste less food, spend less on groceries, and eat out way less now. I keep it pretty simple. Breakfast is usually cereal, oatmeal, or Malto-meal, lunch is usually leftovers or sandwiches, and dinner is usually a main dish, plus fruits and vegetables as side dishes. The kids snack on things like fruits, veggies, pretzels, etc.
One of the biggest things I do to save money on the food budget is to cook from scratch. Packaged convenience foods at the store are more expensive, usually, than making it yourself. For example, we don't buy frozen pizza most of the time. I use my breadmaker to mix up a whole wheat crust and make the pizza from scratch. I can make two healthier pizzas for less than $5.00, plus it will usually last for more than one meal. I try to make enough of the food so we can have it for more than one meal. Leftovers really are the first convenience food ever invented! All I have to do is pop it in the microwave, it's our own version of fast food, and it costs way less.
I hope some of these suggestions are helpful to you, and give you more ideas about how you can save even more money :)