Even if you're not a starving artist, the cost of living even a moderate lifestyle can get pretty steep. One of the smartest ways to be thrifty and boost your bank account is by lowering the cost of your weekly grocery bill. Many people don't realize how much money they waste weekly on overpriced food and often times unused food. With savvy shopping, you can buy a variety of nutritious food for only $20 a week.
For tips on how to cut back on cleaning product costs, check out this article on cleaning your entire house using only vinegar.
Take stock of the food you already have on hand. You may be surprised to find what's hidden deep in back of your pantry, fridge and freezer. Always do this before you go shopping. Many times, you'll be able to get by with previously purchased, forgotten foods. If this isn't the case, still note the food you already have. For example, if you already have a frozen vegetables, that is one less thing you'll have to buy at the store.
Couponing: yes it's time consuming; a practice not for the faint of heart, but it can save you tons. Check your local newspaper for coupons and sale schedules. If you find a coupon for an item you need, wait for the item to go on sale before using the coupon. This will cut down on the price big time, and may even get you the item for free. Clip and use coupons ONLY for items you will actually use. For example, buying frozen carrots for 10 cents may seem like a good deal, but if you don't like carrots, you're wasting money.
Start cooking homemade meals. This adds time but will save you money in the long run. For example, a loaf of bread may cost a few dollars, but the ingredients to make homemade bread cost only a few cents. If you don't have time to make home-cooked meals daily, set aside a few hours on the weekend and try meal prepping for the week.
Stock up on cheap, filling, but nutritious foods. Beans, peanut butter, nuts, grains, eggs, noodles, brown rice, potatoes, pasta sauce and oil can make a large variety of foods while costing less than a dollar per meal. Many of these foods are also nutrient dense-- rich in protein, carbohydrates and vitamins-- which will help you stay full longer. You'll eat less food overall and save money. These staple foods are also versatile, which will keep you from becoming bored with certain meals.
Purchase expensive items, such as meat, fruit and dairy only when on sale. You can easily spend $20 on these items alone, but by buying them on sale, you'll reduce the cost significantly. When the items do go on sale, stock up and freeze any extras you may have. If you can't use the entire amount, divide it into smaller containers and freeze in separate bags.
Avoid buying processed foods like microwaveables or take out. For example: let's say you purchased only 1 item per meal from the dollar menu, you'd go over your budget of $20 before week's end. That's not including tax, gas used to drive to the restaurant or drinks you may purchase. A dollar per meal may seem like a small amount, but prepared food is more expensive than cooking from scratch.
Avoid wasting food. Whenever you make a meal, start off with a small serving. After you finish eating, wait twenty minutes before having seconds or thirds. This allows the food to have time to reach your stomach. Even if you feel hungry immediately after eating, twenty minutes later you may feel full. Any extra food can be saved for the next day or frozen for later use.
If $20 is your budget, stick to it: avoid going to the grocery store with more than that amount, if you have more money, you'll be tempted to spend it.