How I Reduced My Food Costs by 25% Without Going Hungry

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In case you didn’t know, earlier this month I lost 50% of my income. After being depressed for a few days, I realized that this won’t bring me my money back, so I’ve decided to make a plan and stick to it. And since rebuilding the business I lost is possible, it’s a slow process and it will take at best a few months before we’re on similar levels. But it might drag for much longer, too.

Fortunately, even though the loss itself came as a shock, we’ll only feel it financially at the end of March, when I’ll get the February payments. And from that moment on. So it’s good to have a month and a half to prepare. And boy, we didn’t lose time!

After checking out our spending for the previous month, we decided where to cut. And since food is usually somewhere at the top of the expenses for all families, we’ve decided to give it a go with it. Here is how I reduced my food costs by 25%:

1. Buy large quantities
I loved my yoghurt in its 100 grams plastic glass, it was just a portion and exactly as much as I needed. It was also expensive. We now buy the large bucket, half a kilo, which is 60% cheaper if we are to compare prices. And we are comparing prices now! The same goes for basically everything else: the more you buy, the cheaper the price per unit or kilo/pound. Something that we always knew, but never completely practiced.

2. Buy frozen meat instead of fresh
I loved my fresh meat that I just had to get out of the bag, throw into the pan and then eat it. Well, I realized that frozen meat, surprisingly, has the same taste. But it’s a lot cheaper – and you can portion things better since it won’t hit the expiration date after a couple of days.

3. Buy fresh fruit and vegetables instead of frozen
It was extremely easy to buy me a bag of frozen peas or ready to bake potatoes. But they cost more than double compared to the same vegetables that I can get fresh from the peasants market that’s just 2 minutes away from my home. I have to get my hands dirty and it takes longer, but it’s a lot cheaper.

4. More veggies, less meat
We won’t go vegan, but we decided to cut on the meat consumption and realized that we don’t miss it that much. I think it’s been 4 days in a row without meat so far, and yeah, we don’t feel the need for meat. Goes really well with my intentions to lose weight and helps our food budget tremendously, because vegetables and fruits are a lot cheaper than any kind of meat.

5. Check out our stocks
I am a bit of a prepper. I don’t really believe that the Apocalypse is coming, but I’d hate it if it did and I had nothing put aside. So I’ve packed a fair share of cans and bags of rice and a few more cans. I’ve decided to check them out and found quite a few where the expiration date was in early 2014. As a result, we’ll have free food (well, kind of, but you get the point) for at least 30 days. We won’t go on a can-eating marathon, but they will definitely help. Hopefully the Apocalypse won’t come soon, because my stocks will be lower. Ha!

6. Check out the sales and discounts and offers
Basically, until now, we used to go to the shop and if there was something that we wanted to buy available for a special price, we’d get it. If not – tough luck. We’ve decided to change that strategy a little bit and we’re now keeping an eye (thank you, internet) on the flash discounts that last just a day or until the product’s out of stock. We’ve scored some amazing deals already and that helped us a lot with our budget.

7. Completely eliminate unhealthy snacks
We were saying that we were going to do this since we’ve met, but we always had some pretzels, bags of chips, cakes and candy and other crap that we don’t really needed since it offers nothing but calories for a huge price. We haven’t purchased any in the past couple of weeks and world didn’t end without them. I am sure that our health says “Thank you” and even though it’s probably the most difficult thing on this list, we’ll keep doing it.

So following these seven simple steps on the list, we’ve already managed to reduce our food bills for the month by 25% and we’re still eating healthy (maybe even healthier than we used to). This doesn’t cover the 50% loss in income that hit me earlier this month, but it’s certainly a huge improvement and combined with other measures, it will result in expenses reduced by more than 50%. Because we have to.

Photo by altemark

17 COMMENTS

  1. This sounds like a great plan of attack! And like you said, your body will thank you too. Number 1 is good, especially for non perishable items, we used to do that, and still do for dog food etc. number 7 would be hard for me too. I find l am getting worse with that as the European cakes/ chocolates are so much better than in the States. I have to check myself often. Hopefully, things will start looking up soon.

  2. I am late to hear the news about your income, C, as I’ve been away and haven’t been able to keep up with your blog. I’m sorry to hear that. But happy to hear that you are using this as an opportunity to cut expenses. Necessity is the mother of invention, and my guess is that you guys will be healthier on the other side of this challenge. Great tips!

  3. C, I just love how you guys are taking the bull by the horns, so to speak, and kicking tail with this income thing! One of the things we’ve found in dealing with financial setbacks is that you’ve got to know what your enemy is (the financial setback), and kick its tail by doing things like cutting down on grocery costs. I just love how you guys are standing and fighting for your financial well-being, instead of going on a long-term whine fest. Excellent work, my friend!

    • Ah, we’re whining too, but we’re doing it in private :)) I am relatively new to the who personal finance world, and if this had happened one year ago, we would’ve been doomed and disoriented and falling harder day after day. Now I am happy that we can stand up and fight with the big bad bull!

  4. Great article! I love yogurt, too! Is that you looking so sad, in the picture;-)
    How does “baby the Romanian” fare on his diet? I know baby food (or toddler food) can be expensive. Do you have a blender so you can make less expensive food for him, too?
    Anyway, congratulations on a more budget-friendly menu.
    “T the American”

    • Hello Teil! No, that’s not me, I’m behind the dumpster, scavenging for food :))

      Fortunately, Baby Romanian is still breastfed even though he’s getting close to his 8th month of existence. We do have a steamer/blender combo to prepare all his purees and food and we prefer to do it at home not because of the costs, but because of the ingredients (almost all baby food has a lot of sugar and salt – two of the things little babies don’t need). We have an unwritten deal – my wife and I – that we will continue to give Baby Romanian only the best we can so he’s not affected by our budget cuts 🙂

  5. Hi C.
    You have done well in reducing your food expenses. Another way to stretch your food a little more, by freezing your leftovers. You could save some money that way. For example, if you like pasta, and it does go a long way, you can freeze it for another dinner down the track. Keep up the good work. I am sure that with your determination, you will be able to swing things back in your favour.

    • Thank you. We did experiment with freezing a little bit and it was generally successful: we cooked in large quantities in the autumn when vegetables were cheap and enjoyed those meals over the winter. They’re all gone, but certainly freezing leftorvers and reducing waste is a good way to save money!

  6. Serf the internet for good cheap food ideas. Garden?? Dried goods have very long shelf life and taste great. Become a real cook and learn how cheap..good and long lasting soup can be. I think you can cut more if you stay focused on it. We have chickens and a garden and could possibly self subsist. I have not tried it, but your writing has me thinking we could.

    • Oh.. and be extra careful with those large quantity buy’s. I have found I buy a lot cheap and then end up throwing it out as it goes bad before we can eat it. Now that is a budget killer.

    • Yes, if we could grow some of our own stuff, that would be amazing – it would be even healthier since we wouldn’t add any chemicals, too.

      Just last week we threw out two bags of sauce which expired so indeed, you have to be careful with the buying in bulk scheme not to do like us 🙂 But normally, we arrange the food based on expiration date and end up eating everything before they spoil.

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