How to Save Money on Food

I made the decision to say good-bye to a steady income 2 months ago. Now, I’m following my dreams of being a freelance writer and attending massage school in order to enter the health and wellness scene.

Sure, I’m much happier in my day-to-day, but the lack of consistent income is definitely a blow to my sense of security. I’ve always been frugal, which is how I saved enough to take this leap of faith. I will share my frugal tips with you.

Photo by Katie Smith on Unsplash

Buy fresh produce on sale.

Get to know standard prices for food, and then you will learn to recognize the good deals. Kale bunches for $1.50, a pound of carrots for $1, cauliflower for $1.99 per pound. Fresh produce is nutritionally dense and cheaper. Farmer’s markets can have great deals too.

Use every part of the food.

When I buy carrots, I try to buy them with the carrot tops on. I love making a good carrot top pesto, or you can chop them up into a salad. When working with kale, I rip off the leaves and massage them into a salad, but don’t throw away your ribs! Instead, I chop mine small and freeze them. The next time I make a smoothie, I throw these bits in and hide them with the deliciousness of sweet bananas and berries. Hidden nutrients for the win!

Don’t let food go bad.

Food that hits the trash makes the food sad and makes me sad. There is no reason you shouldn’t finish the food you have lying around! If you get bored of leftovers, add some rice, pasta, olive oil, lemon for freshness, anything you have on hand to liven it up. Wilty arugula? Throw it in a skillet with some lemon, salt, and pepper. Freeze everything else you can’t use in time. Food should live in our bellies, not in the trashcan.

Take advantage of app deals.

I’m talking all those delivery services that offer $15 off your first order: Caviar, Allset, UberEats, and more. Use ’em to your advantage! Refer your friends and family, and usually you both will get more money off. Groupon has great cash back deals that you can link to your credit card. Groupon and Restaurant.com also offer deals, such as $10 for $20 worth of food. Every bit counts.

Couponing!

It’s not just for moms or Extreme Couponers. There are plenty of websites to find deals at your local grocery store. Google your grocery store + “matchups this week”, and you are likely to find great deals highlighted with the work done for you. The dangerous side of couponing is that you may end up buying things you don’t want or that are unhealthy because you can get a deal on it. Be wary of this trap!

Have friends over for dinners or potlucks.

Have a fancy meal you want to cook? Food is better when shared with friends, and they can help bring some ingredients to offset the cost. Potlucks are great too, because then everyone gets to share something they put their heart into creating, and you can try a variety of food while enjoying the company of all your dear friends.

Freeganism.

I’ve been looking into the practice of being a freegan lately. I walk around my neighborhood and pick up trash to clean the streets, and I often find things that people leave out on the sidewalk. Sealed bags of food, unopened jars of salsa. The sidewalk gods have rewarded me often (beyond just food). I’m not into dumpster diving, but people throw away plenty of sealed and perfectly good food all the time.

Outside of some sidewalk grocery stores in the Mission in San Francisco, there are boxes of fruits and veggies that are not beautiful enough for the shelf. An apple with a small bruise may not be good enough for the store, but it’s perfect for me! Just wash it and cut away the bruise. Sometimes, if I find opened food, I will leave it somewhere safe and visible for a homeless person to find. Food is food, and everyone needs it to survive!

Forage in nature.

Please take this suggestion with a grain of salt. Know exactly what you are eating if you are plucking it from the wild. For instance, some hikes near me have blackberry bushes, and I have spent the good part of an afternoon eating my fill of delicious, ripe blackberries. But plants are smart with natural defense mechanisms, and not all are generous with their fruits. Some are dangerously poisonous, so get a book or a plant ID app before embarking on this quest.

Bring food everywhere you go.

If you know you’re going to be out for a whole day, bring along something to keep you sustained. Then, instead of popping into a store for an expensive, artisan frozen yogurt, you will remember you have a refreshing orange with you. Bring lunch every day if you work or go to school. 30 minutes the night before could save you $15 on the daily, $75 weekly, and $300 monthly, AND you get to sharpen your cooking skills. Think about it in the long term!

Buy in bulk.

Maybe you don’t need 5lbs of oats. But do you eat oats from time to time? Do you make banana-oat pancakes, overnight oats, granola, etc.? Bulk is always cheaper, and for things that don’t perish, it’s a nice way to be able to look through your pantry and get creative to use what you have. It’s always a win when you can get through a day without spending any (new) money!

Recognize that money isn’t everything.

Money is a dangerous trap that breeds greed, desire for new things, and dissatisfaction for what you already have. We don’t need to spend to be happy. Take a walk around your neighborhood or find free events near you. Money is necessary for basic survival, but beyond that, it is excess. Once you take this oath to not let money control your happiness, you will instantly feel liberated.

These are some of my many money saving tips for food. It honestly adds up a lot, and implementing these tips while I had a steady income gave me a safety net to feel comfortable escaping my work prison (It really wasn’t that bad, but I just felt so apathetic).

Whatever your reasons are for saving money on food, you will be doing good for yourself or for the Earth. And that feeling alone is priceless! ;)

Written by

Stephanie Zhu, CMT || Software Engineer ~> Body Engineer || Cannabis Wellness + Reiki || Check me out @ themysticdreamer.com (IG, FB)

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