How to Save Money on Food (In Restaurants and at Home)

Committed to saving? Then it’s time to put your money where your mouth is.

The average American spends over $6,000 on food per year, yet American households throw out 150,000 tons of food every day. That suggests there’s a big disconnect between what we spend on food and the way we eat it. So why is food such a large expense?

Much of it comes down to habit.

Below, we’re taking a look at how to save money on food in restaurants and at home.

Kick Old Habits

The first thing to accept is that many of us have bad habits for spending money on food.

For many kids, fast food is a fixture of life. We all grew up with a favorite restaurant chain (this post recaps some of the favorites). But the awkward truth is that too many evenings dining out provides poor training for adult life.

You need to switch off the auto-pilot when it comes to food. When you head to the supermarket with no shopping list or eat out on an impulse, you need to stop and think: “Wait, am I being smart?”.

Switch Supermarkets

One of the simplest things you can change is also one of the most obvious. Switching up your choice of supermarkets could slice a huge fraction from the cost of your regular shop.

A store like Aldi, for instance, can save you 22% on your groceries. You’d be delighted if someone offered you a 22%-off coupon, yet many people continue to shop at more expensive chains.

Check out a list of the cheapest supermarkets in your area and find one that works for you. You could save a staggering amount on this step alone.

Shop Satisfied

When you head to the supermarket, don’t do it on an empty stomach.

Supermarkets use weaponized psychology to lure you in with fresh produce, bargains, and glitzy presentation. All of these work wonders on the hungry mind, which doesn’t make the same, rational decisions as a satiated one.

Hit up the store after a full breakfast or an evening meal to avoid the collusion between your brain and some devious marketing.

Prep Your Meals

If you cook a new meal every night, you’re probably going about things the wrong way.

Prepping your meals saves you money and time. You can batch make large, easily-stored meals, which means you can deploy economies of scale with your ingredients.

By storing easy leftovers in the freezer, you’ll always have a lazy meal on hand. That’ll save you from the impulse to order takeout or pick up a TV dinner on the way home from work.

Prepping your meals even has a few subtle bonuses. With meal planning, you’re more likely to have fresh foods to hand for snacking, like carrots or bell peppers. A healthy snack selection can avoid the need to binge on chocolate and store-bought sandwiches.

Eat With Others

While it’s common enough for couples to save money by eating together, many singletons overlook the power of communal cooking.

If you’re in any kind of shared living situation, consider having a talk with the other occupants about shopping and eating together. There will be more hassle upfront as you decide who eats what and figure out your shopping list, but you’ll save both money and time in the long run.

When you’re cooking with others, you can even split the work among multiple people. That could mean you have evenings off from cooking and cleaning. That’s some prime relaxing time — or you can use it to earn more money.

Drink Water

Here’s an awkward truth: sodas and fruit juices are actually treats. Our staple drink, financially and biologically, should be water. Even juice contains a great deal of sugar, so drinking anything other than water is both unhealthy and costly.

Cutting down on alcohol or dropping it all together can also result in massive savings. And that’s without touching on the issue of medical bills resulting from obesity or liver damage.

Drinking water when you’re dining out is the perfect chance to save money, too. This is where you’re more likely to splurge on alcohol, so switching to water can lead to dramatic savings on the check.

That may seem less fun at first, but consider that you’re more likely to enjoy the meal you’ve paid so much for when you’re not stuffed full of liquid calories. Leave the indulgence to the expensive meal and stick with water to wet your whistle.

Go Vegetarian

Vegetarianism was once considered as “out there” as veganism is today.

Times have changed since then, and vegetarianism has normalized so that vegetarian options are everywhere. Cooking with veg or vegetarian options is often cheaper than cooking with meat — and it’s better for the planet, too.

When you head to the restaurant, it’s common for vegetarian options to be the cheapest on the menu. That means you can still dine out without the pang of guilt and the empty wallet at the end of it.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing approach. Even switching to a few meat-free meals a week can cut down on your grocery bill.

Enjoy Life

When you try to save money on food, you need to avoid the Diet Problem: if you take it too far, you’ll only fall off the wagon. Trying to sacrifice too much will only cause you to fail and maybe even binge.

When you’re looking for the best ways to save money on food, you need to find the combination that works for you. That way you can maintain your quality of life while also saving cash. There’s no point saving money just to be miserable.

How to Save Money on Food

If you’re wondering how to save money on food, these tips could be a gamechanger. With a little forethought and planning, you can abandon expensive habits and replace them with ones that will save you money in the long term.

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