Fed up of overspending on your food bill? You’re not alone.
The average cost of food per month for the typical American household is about $550. With 64% of Americans recently changing their spending habits due to the pandemic, it’s time to be more frugal and stop overspending on your weekly grocery shop.
If you’re looking for tips on how to eat more frugally, look no further.
What is a frugal meal?
Let’s start by explaining exactly what a frugal meal is. Frugal means economical in use and entailing little expense. Therefore, a frugal meal is small and not expensive.
Examples of frugal meals include:
- Homemade pizza.
- Vegetarian curry.
- Chicken and rice bowls.
- Homemade soup.
Frugal eating: 10 ways to eat well without breaking your budget
So, how do you eat frugal? Whether you’re looking to reduce your food budget as an individual, couple or family, these tips will help you save money on food.
1. Frugal healthy meal plan
The key to slashing your food budget is meal planning. Grab a pen and paper or use a spreadsheet and plan out all of your breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks for the next week or fortnight.
Use your meal plan to write your shopping list for the grocery store and avoid buying unnecessary items. A meal plan will also ensure you don’t waste any food.
2. Check your cupboards, fridge and freezer first
You’ll be amazed at what food you already have in the house.
Make a list of all the essential items that you already have in your store cupboard and research recipes online that will give you inspiration for meals.
A common reason households overspend on food is by buying items that they already have in the back of the cupboard.
Stop buying a weekly tin of tuna when you already have four.
3. Freeze leftovers to avoid waste
Each day in the United States approximately one pound of food per person is wasted.
Freezing prevents microorganisms that cause food to spoil from growing, meaning your food won’t go off.
A freezer is your best friend when trying to live more frugally as it allows you to save leftovers and use another day.
Frozen food often contains more vitamins and minerals than fresh food because freezing preserves nutrients.
Freezing meals is also a great time saver. After a long day at work, it’s nice to know that there’s a healthy, nutritious frugal meal waiting to be defrosted and eaten.
4. Skip store-bought lunches and pack your own lunch
Hands up who is guilty of buying their lunch when out and about rather than taking it with you?
Yes, it’s convenient, but it also costs you significantly more than if you took a packed lunch.
If you’re a serial shop-bought lunch offender, start by reducing how many days you eat out slowly.
A great place to start is by taking leftovers from your dinner the night before instead.
A common reason why people buy their lunches is that they forget to bring their lovingly home-prepared lunch.
Set a reminder on your phone so you won’t forget.
Alternatively, if your office has a fridge or freezer, take all your lunches in for the week in one go.
5. Invest in a crockpot
A simple way to make your food budget go further is by regularly using your crockpot.
There are hundreds of crockpot recipes online that include all types of meat or vegetarian alternatives.
Crockpot meals produce a good amount of food, which makes them great for leftovers the next day or to add to your freezer.
The great thing about crock pots is that the meat is slow cooked all day, meaning you don’t have to fork out on expensive cuts of meat anymore.
Crockpots also use less energy than your stove, helping you live more frugally.
6. Grow your own vegetables and herbs
What can I eat for $1? Growing your own vegetables and herbs is rewarding, healthy and fun, and will cost less than $1.
Home-grown food also tastes better.
A sheltered, sunny spot is ideal for growing vegetables, while herbs prefer partial shade.
You don’t need to be a pro at gardening to grow your own produce.
Crops such as courgettes, beans, beetroot, rocket, radish and potatoes are great for beginnings as they require little maintenance.
According to the National Gardening Association, the average family with a garden spends $70 on their crops—but they grow an estimated $600 worth of veggies.
7. Shop at local grocery stores or Farmer’s Markets
Food from Farmers Markets has a much shorter field to plate journey than the food in your local grocery store, meaning it’s better for the environment and the price is often less.
Produce at markets is also seasonal. Seasonal produce tastes better, includes more nutrients and costs less.
The reason it costs less is that there are often large harvests that need to be sold, driving the price down.
If you buy local seasonal produce you reduce the need for transportation costs, making the unit costs lower.
Another benefit of buying at a market is that often you get to try some of the delicious food before you buy it.
8. Bulk up on carb recipes
Bread, pasta, rice and potatoes are much cheaper than meat or fish.
An easy way to keep meal costs down is by adding filling alternatives such as mash potato with stews or bread and butter with a main meal.
Other ways to bulk out meals include adding porridge oats to mince dishes or red lentils to curries and casseroles.
Nobody will notice that you’ve added these ingredients, but they will be fuller from eating less.
If you’re on a low-carb diet, here are some frugal low-carb recipes to try:
- Broccoli quiche.
- Cauliflower hash browns.
- Sausage casserole.
- Savory pancakes.
- Eggplant pizza bites.
- Cauliflower wings.
9. Use substitute ingredients
If you don’t have a particular ingredient that’s listed in a recipe, it can be tempting to jump in the car and take a trip to your local grocery store.
For a more frugal way of living, try using ingredient substitutes that you will most likely have in your store cupboard.
Common substitutes include:
- Crème fraiche = cream or plain yoghurt.
- Pastry flour = all purpose flour and cake flour combined.
- Ricotta = cottage cheese.
- Saffron = ground turmeric.
- Vanilla beans = vanilla extract.
- Tarragon = fennel seeds.
- Butter = apple sauce.
- Champagne = sparkling apple cider.
10. Take cash to the grocery store not cards
Only taking cash is a proven method of helping you spend less money. As you can physically see how much cash you have, it’s less tempting to spend it.
Using only cash is also a guaranteed way to make you stick to your budget.
For example, if your grocery bill comes to $100 when you get to the cashier but you only have $85, you will put an item back.
However, if you have your debit or credit card you are much more likely to overspend rather than putting an item back.
Impulse shopping can be difficult to resist, especially in a grocery store. If you only have cash to hand, your limited budget makes you question all of your purchases.
Live a healthier, more frugal life
Now you know how to do frugal eating right, nothing is stopping you from slashing your food budget and enjoying a healthier lifestyle.For all of the latest money-saving tips and tricks, explore our library of personal finance articles.