Studies show that we throw away an average of 30% of the food we purchase. For the average family of 4 that spends about $1000 a month on groceries, that amounts to over $300 a month thrown into the trash. Not only does that cut into your household expenses, it also adds a great amount to our total waste in landfills. You can save money on your food budget.

Everyone has experienced the irritation of going to the refrigerator for your favorite food, only to find it has already spoiled or the texture has changed, making it unpalatable. Sometimes our refrigerators are just overstuffed with food and we lose sight of that last avocado, now hidden in the back corner of the fruit drawer. Or maybe we just bought more than we needed that week and so a day or two’s worth of food is destroyed before we are able to use it.

How can you manage your food budget to get the best use and save money? Just how can you save money on your food budget?

First, plan your week’s meals before shopping. Some people choose to plan a month ahead, allowing for bulk purchases, if space allows. Plan dinners for each night, except those that you are eating out, and also lunches and breakfasts. We often plan dinner quantities to allow for lunches the next day, as our family eats all 3 meals at home most days. Once your menu is planned, make a list of what you need for each meal and then remove those items you already have on hand.

Another way to save on meal expense when shopping is to look for the sales first. This requires a little experimenting, as you might need to find recipes to fit the ingredients, but can result in a great savings. Compare prices on larger bulk purchases and use those when possible, too. Although larger quantities are usually less expensive, sometimes smaller ones will be about the same and occasionally a sale price will make them less expensive than the larger counterpart. Also, remember that buying larger quantities will not save you money if you can only use a portion of it before it spoils.

My next recommendation is quite different than you have probably heard before; stick with your list unless you find a great deal. Many times you have heard that you need to make a list and stick with it. That is true in most cases, especially with regard to non-menu items such as snacks. But you can save money by looking for in store sales and reduced prices that are not on your list, too. I leave a little flexibility in my list for just such items, especially if they can be stored in our freezer or our dry pantry.

List in hand, use your computer to search for the best deals, if you shop at multiple stores. Our family stays with one bulk store, one grocery, and another occasional, as time does not allow for many store runs. Others might find it easy to shop at several stores, procuring the best bargains at each. Coupons are another consideration. I have found most coupons are not for the items we use, but if you can find them for your regular items, you should include them. Be aware; often coupon items are higher priced products and often less healthy, prepared foods.

Once home from the grocery, it’s important to put your items away quickly and in the right place. This is also a good time to divide larger bulk purchases into usable sizes, particularly if they will be frozen. Many fruit and vegetable items spoil quickly due to improper storage. This chart from SparkPeople.com will help you choose the best storage for each type of produce.

Store your produce for best quality

Store your produce for best quality

Subscribe to the ChristmasCountryMom blog and receive our FREE e-book, Save $$$ on Your Food Budget. Our e-book covers menu planning, shopping, and food storage, plus offers unique advice on menus that are highly nutritious and very cost effective! It will help you to save money on your food budget! It will be available to the first 50 people subscribing to our blog at no charge (estimated delivery date: 12/19/14) To subscribe, just enter your email address in the space to the right of this column and click the “subscribe” button. You will then receive an email when our blog is updated and information on the new e-book as soon as it becomes available. Our subscribers will receive other gifts throughout the year, too!

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