How I’m Saving over $20 a Week on Food

Food purchases can be a budget nightmare. Specifically, impulse food purchases can really wreak havoc on your budget. For me, pizza, burgers, and smoothies are three of the foods I consume on a regular basis, so I recently set about reducing how much I spend on my favorite items. How? By planning. Simply planning your meals ahead of time can save you money.

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How do impulse food purchases cause our food budget to go off track? The seemingly simple things like waking up late and grabbing breakfast on-the-go, a last-minute lunch with a co-worker, or a quick meal after a long day can add up financially. Each of these fast food purchases will cost you more than if you prepared them yourself and brought them with you to work. This doesn’t mean that we can never enjoy a meal out, but more often than not, we eat out far more often than we actually intended to. Looking at the meals you consume on a weekly basis, and then planning to eat those meals (instead of acting surprised that you frequently end up at the drive-through) is the key to plugging this financial leak. Planning and preparing your regular meals also enables you to enjoy the meals you do eat out, instead of being left with a bittersweet, love-hate relationship with your favorite restaurants.

With this goal in mind, I carefully examined my recent food purchases over the last few months. I quickly discovered ways to save money by simply planning to eat the things I’m regularly eating, and avoiding impulse buys. The following is an example from my food purchases. This is where the pizza, burgers, and smoothies come in. Before paying close attention, I was buying pizzas every couple of weeks from Hungry Howies, enjoying the occasional burger from a fast-food or even sit-down restaurant, and often grabbing a large, fruit smoothie from a popular chain. When I began to prepare those items myself, I was amazed at how much I had been paying for mere convenience! So I made the switch, and this is what I saved:

  • Pizza: A Tombstone 4-meat pizza (on-sale) is only$2.99, while a Hungry Howies pepperoni pizza is $6.18. Savings: $3.19 per pizza
  • 1/4 lb, Hamburger: A 1/4 lb. of grocery store beef is only $0.70 + Bun $0.27 + Cheese $0.14 = $1.11. But at a sit-down restaurant (without fries) , a burger is about $6.00. Savings: $4.89 per burger
  • Smoothie: A homemade blueberry & banana smoothie is about $1.25 to make, while a comparable smoothie at a restaurant is about $5.00. Savings: $3.75 per smoothie

Since each week I have about four smoothies, eat a pizza, and a hamburger, I can save$23.08 per week by making them myself! While your own food preferences may be different from mine, I guarantee that the principle still applies: You will save money when you plan your purchases as opposed to impulse-buying your food!

Take a look at your own food purchases in the past few weeks. Are there areas where you can save?

How do you keep your food costs down without giving up what you enjoy?

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