Tips for Eating on a Budget

posted 6 months ago in The Lounge
Post # 32
452 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: September 2017

If this hasn’t been suggested yet, I would suggest doing batch cooking. I’ve made giant pots of barley casserole and spaghetti sauce. It’s usually enough for 4 meals for the two of us, plus some smaller portions for lunches. This usually costs me about $12-15 for all the ingredients. 

Post # 33
819 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: February 2019

My Fiance and I are big proponents of meal planning.  We spend MUCH less this way than if we go in without a plan and rarely impulse buy things that aren’t on the list.  We personally do it weekly because beyond that some produce and meat goes bad.  We take stock of what our weekly schedule looks like, how much time we’ll have to cook and the approx # of meals we need and plan around that.  I think it’s definitely something that gets easier the more you do it because you get into a flow/routine and get a sense for what ingredients are more affordable.  We probably don’t have the absolute cheapest bill but look to balance our tastes, healthfulness, and price.

Some of our tips:

We think about ingredient cost when planning your meals.  Protein cost is especially something to pay attention to. Unless it’s something we really have a craving for or is a nicer meal/special occasion we don’t tend to use expensive proteins.  And we also tend to go for dishes that stretch the protein with veggies and grains (like a crockpot dish or soup.) We also balance a meal that has a meat protein with another meal that relies on lentils or chickpeas for protein.

If something calls for an expensive ingredient we’re not likely to use other things, we think of substitutions.  Or we try to pick more than one recipe that uses the same ingredient, so we’re not throwing things away.

We don’t put things in the cart we don’t have a purpose for.  Sure if a staple item is on sale that we know we use regularly we might stock up on it, otherwise we honestly ignore sales and I think it works out better overall. 

We don’t really buy a lot of snack food, or if we do it’s more of a special treat item.  There really aren’t a lot of sodas, chips, etc. that come into the house.  Not that we don’t love them, but these are the things we tend to eat as a treat when going out.  I honestly think not buying these items is a huge part of what keeps our budget in check.

Post # 34
4151 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: January 2017

rockclimberbride :  yeah $100 for a big family, but what did she feed them? Mac n cheese and chicken nuggets? Healthy food costs a lot, esp. where I live (Canada). I spent $90 last night just for 3 bags of groceries- quality meat, cold cuts, some fruit. Not much but it adds up.

Post # 35
1955 posts
Buzzing bee

I don’t do much sale shopping. I used to do more coupons but even what we do might help you.  I sketch out a dinner meal plan for the next week on Friday or Saturday and then make a grocery list.  I include some basics for lunch sandwich stuff, salad stuff, a bit of snacks and then husband or I make one trip to the store on the weekend.  We rarely make additional trips during the week.  I don’t buy a lot of processed snacks like chips or cookies or crackers.  We mostly buy meat at Costco and then use a food saver to save into smaller sizes.  

Post # 36
752 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: City, State

Batch cooking and your freezer need to become your best friends, it works out cheaper to buy larger portions than smaller, so either spectate and freeze for when you need or batch cook things like spag Bol, chilli, stews, pasta bake and portion them up and freeze them. It’s also great for days you’re too tired to cook, it’s a means to eat out less if you have something quick in the freezer. 

Also shop around for better deals. I go a bit further out for a butcher when I can get good quality meat for a decent price cheaper than the supermarket but it saves me a fortune in the long run. 

Have meat free meals one or two days a week. Meat is generally the most expensive ingredient. 

Set a weekly food budget and stick to it, £300 a month is roughly £75 a week so keep your receipts, stick to your budget and if you reach it you have to be a bit more creative with the store cupboard ingredients. I do this rather than meal plan. Meal planning doesn’t work for me because no matter what I do by Wednesday I never fancy what’s on the plan. So I go to the supermarket with my weekly budget in mind. One opened up round the corner from me it’s far too easy to pop in after work, so I just have to keep the budget in mind, once we go over I have to use what’s in the cupboard or freezer, it uses up stuff that’s been laying around for ages and stops me overspending

Post # 37
246 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: June 2016 - City, State

rockclimberbride :  We cook from scratch for all our meals and we ussually prep meals for 4-6 portions even though we are only two. If I am really organized we try to do that for 2 different dishes and then spend the week eating leftovers and alternating between dishes. (if I only have time for 1 main dish, we try alternating with salads or soup). We initially started doing that because we didn’t have time to cook at night on certain days, but that also helped keeping our budget down as we can shop for family portion items.

As PP said, we make our lunches as well.That helps cut down a lot of outside food.

We buy some things in bulk: nuts, beans, and most of all: spices are SO much cheaper in bulk. I didn’t find that rice, pasta, flour, sugar,etc were cheaper in bulk. 

We only shop every 2 weeks. The only things that would make us pop into a store would be fresh veggies and fruits if we ran out after 1 week. I estimate our grocery shopping cost to be $200-300/month.

We used to go out to restaurants a lot, we are trying to majorly cut down on that. One thing that seems to work for us is to only go out for small things. So, for example, instead of going to a restaurant for a full meal we just pop in for dessert, or we go get ice cream/pie/cookie in a place we like, or some really good tacos at a cheap hole in the wall, and that’s our treat for the week!

Post # 38
2216 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: December 2017 - Courthouse

I think a lot of those parents that spend a ridiculously low amount on groceries also coupons, has super cheap grocery stores, eats small portions and cooks with primarily ready made ingredients. 

I cook most of my meals from scratch or close to it. I use a variety of meats and produce. And I try to stay on the healthy side. Even with that, I spend about $80/week on groceries so $320/mo for just the two of us. And I shop at Aldi! 

Post # 39
76 posts
Worker bee

Echoing what everyone else has said… I tend to buy really high quality (= expensive) meat, dairy and eggs, so we do budget more for them, but we save in other areas (all grass fed/free range/organic).


We definitely save a lot by meal planning. I also avoid getting ready meals/frozen meals for us. This includes baking mixes too. Everything is bought as an ingredient. So if we’re doing pizza, I buy the canned tomato sauce, the cheese, etc, and I make the dough. Having a bread machine is so nice for homemade bread and homemade dough. I also taught myself how to make things like biscuits, pancakes, and cornbread from scratch (it’s really not that hard). So a typical meal for us would be some kind of fresh or frozen vegetable, a starch (one of the breads or a grain like rice, couscous or pasta), and the main protein. We also try to eat vegan at least 1 night a week for health reasons. 


So for me and my husband, I budget $100 a week (usually spend about $80 and use the remaining $20 to get a really nice wild-caught fish or some other grocery treat). That covers our milk, eggs, yogurt, produce and deli meats (my husband loves sandwiches). Then I give myself and additional $100 for organic/grassfed meats (where I buy in Costco in bulk). So that’s still $500, which is a lot, but we’re eating the most expensive animal products so I don’t feel too bad about it.


The USDA also has some weekly/monthly budget guidelines and that’s really helpful to determine if you’re on a “thrifty” “moderate” or “extravagent” budget. 

Post # 40
1519 posts
Bumble bee

Write out your weekly menus then shop online. Ban yourself from going to the shop.

Post # 41
284 posts
Helper bee

Buy as many veggies as you can.  Cheap and healthy 

Post # 42
8964 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper

rockclimberbride :  The thing with foodie bloggers/vloggers is that their so called budget includes items they have bought in bulk. So she might feed her family for less than $100 a week but that is because she is only counting the portion she is using but when she was at the grocery store her bill would have been more than $100 with buying staples in bulk. It is highly deceptive.

As for tips I agree with pp’s. Cut meat, even if it is only once or twice a week. Buy staples in bulk as it is usually cheaper. Meal plan and take note of seasonal fruit and veg which are usually cheaper. Make bulk lots and then freeze.

We visit the grocery store about once a month and spend less than $60 and I live in Australia which is a HCOL country. We grow our own vegies which keeps costs way down. We also joined a food co-op. Basically we pay a pp fee monthly and give one weekend day pp per month where we either sort food or collect food. Basically we visit farms and collect the rejected by the supermarket chains produce (which usually goes to waste) and then it is distributed amoung members. We all also bring along our oversupply of home grown items. We also buy bulk lots of staples. Food shares and co-ops are a great way to save money and be involved in your community.

Post # 43
2584 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: July 2011

rockclimberbride :  With all my meal planning and aldi shopping, I don’t do meat free days. I am sure hubby wouldn’t mind, but I like meat…. no I LOVE meat. I will have fish or cheaper cuts, but I could not go veggie. Add to that as well when I am not pregnant I don’t eat dairy and my son is allergic to dairy so going meat free for us gets a bit too close to vegan for my comfort.

Post # 44
4351 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: November 1999

rockclimberbride :  Hubby and I enjoy eating out so to make all the numbers work, I try to do grocery shopping in a conscious budget friendly way. We bulk buy legumes, do a lot of vegetarian dishes, egg dishes, we bulk buy frozen salmon, cook cheaper stewing cuts of meat and bulk out with vegetables.

Our weekly dinners look like this 





Soup/pasta/noodle dish

Leftovers x 1 a week

Our lunches are always a salad with either beans, tuna, chicken or cheese like haloumi/feta. 

Our grocery bills are around $100 every 10 days and it includes cleaning items. I buy what is in season to keep costs down. I shop at aldi for cleaning products and soap etc I also track specials by looking at catalogues. I also barely shop in traditional supermarkets. I go to green grocers and buy my meat and fish legumes, nuts from specialty stores. I also bake my own treats weekly. Make my own dips like hummus,/tzatiki/carrot dip and make pita bread crisps for snacks. They taste better and are free of palm oils and e numbers and are great value for money. 

 planning meals helps you to avoid those ‘I’m hungry and we need to eat’ shopping trips where you go in for dinner ingredients and come out with ten things that look delicious but you don’t need. It also helps you to avoid throwing out extra fruit and vegetables that you can end up with when you don’t plan meals. 



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