Are You EATING Your Financial Freedom?

Most people struggle to save money. There are so many urgent and important items that compete for every single dollar in our wallet.

The kids are constantly growing out of their clothes, something in the house is continually breaking down, and the car seems to have a ravenous appetite for money. These are all items that consume our money, but the largest competitor for savings in most people’s household is FOOD. In fact, when someone completes their first-ever budget, they begin to review their actual spending patterns and nearly always come to the same conclusion that they’ve been spending way to much on food. They summarize their discovery by stating something like:

“I’ve found out where my savings account is – I’ve been eating it!”

I discovered this truth when I did my first budget way back in July 2003! The realization is as stark today as it was then. I was literally eating my savings (and my future)!

There are many ways to reduce your food costs (and I would love for you to share your great ideas with us all in the comments!):

  1. Don’t go to the grocery store when you are hungry!
  2. Split a meal with someone else while at a restaurant.
  3. Use cash envelopes
  4. Shop the sales at the grocery store!
  5. Use coupons (but buy things you will really use!)
  6. Make dinners from scratch (healthier and brings family together!)
  7. Designate one week as a “We’re eating all our meals using stuff in the pantry this week!” (you will quite possibly have the most interesting meals you’ve ever had!)

Readers: What additional ideas would you share? Click HERE to share in the comments!

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  1. Faye Bryant on March 13, 2013 at 9:11 am

    Meal planning is HUGE! Just buying the stuff to have on hand can become as dtetrimental as buying convenience foods.
    I’m horrible at the planning, so I use an online service called eMeals endorsed by that *other* financial guy.

  2. Trish Crossley on March 13, 2013 at 9:17 am

    Another great way to stay in budget in groceries is ALWAYS shop using a list! It’s difficult to remember everything you need at the store and sometimes easy to buy impulse items. Using a list and sticking to it will help reduce shopping trips AND save money! 🙂

  3. Keisha Torian on March 13, 2013 at 9:24 am

    My family is Jamaican. We have an event called Ben Johnson day. It is one day of the week where you put together all your leftovers and make a new meal. This was great because food didn’t waste in the fridge. My dad was great at this, although you didn’t always want to ask what was in it. It usually tasted great!

  4. Sharron Blezard on March 13, 2013 at 9:45 am

    Eat lower on the food chain. Use meat as a seasoning rather than the main course. Consume more legumes. Shop the perimeter of the grocery. If a packaged product has more than five ingredients or ingredients that sound like they came from a science lab, choose something else. Invest in a used crock pot. Shop at ethic groceries. We regularly purchase items from Mexican and Asian groceries. Shop local and buy from farmers whenever possible. You may pay a little more on the front end, but you’ll likely eat healthier and develop relationships that help support your community. Finally, start a garden in your backyard or put a few pots on your apartment patio. Growing your own food helps you to make the connection between seed and table. We’re told in scripture that our bodies are temples, so we would do well to take more care about what we put into them.

  5. Thomesa Hutcherson on March 13, 2013 at 10:40 am

    In order to save money on your food bill avoid buying snack foods. Try to limit buying snack foods for special occasions like birthday parties or holiday parties. Limit yourself and your children to eating a serving of different foods. For example, if a serving of cereal is 3/4 cup, make sure you eat that amount. That will keep you from overeating and running out of cereal (and other foods) so quickly. I firmly believe that our food bills are so high because we overeat. We should eat to nourish ourselves not to comfort, cure boredom or please ourselves.

  6. Helen McIntosh on March 13, 2013 at 10:41 am

    I am now buying more grocery items at the Dollar Store or the MTF store and they are much less expensive than the regular grocery stores. I am also dieting so eating less certainly does help. I am fortunate that it is just myself that I have to prepare meals for.

  7. Mike Driscoll on March 13, 2013 at 10:52 am

    When eating out, if you can bare it, drink water. Encourage your family to do the same. at between $1.99 and $2.59 per drink (tea, soda, coffee, etc…), drink costs can really ADD UP!

    Also, an insider tip I got from a friend who worked in the restaurant industry, is when ordering steaks, if they have a few different sizes (6oz, 9oz, 12oz…), order the 6oz. She tells me there isn’t much of a difference between the 6oz & 9oz cut. It’s probably healthier for most of us to eat the smaller cut, anyway!


  8. Helen McIntosh on March 13, 2013 at 11:03 am

    No moderation required.

  9. Mike Driscoll on March 13, 2013 at 11:06 am

    Another thing that I do at home is buy fresh veggies from the produce department; don’t buy the bagged stuff or the plastic party trays. In the bags and trays, you get LESS food for MORE money, and the use MORE chlorine-based chemicals to preserve them, which is not healthy.
    Because veggies don’t really last more than a few days anyway, you can get MORE out of buying loose leaf lettuces, celery, carrots, radish bunches, peppers, etc… for a fraction of the cost. I can build a massive bowl of salad that lasts nearly one week for around $8 or less. Couple that with peparing a meal with 1 lb of ground beef, and I can eat at home for around $10 – $12 for an entire week, with enough food to feed between 2 to 4 people.
    Lastly, to save your leftovers more frugally, after cooked food cools, put it in individual freezer storage containers and freeze them. With just one pot of spaghetti sauce, I’ve made 6 to 8 meals to eat at a later date, and I just prepare new noodles each time (those should be eaten fresh anyway). In this same note, I individually wrap chicken breasts, pork chops and steaks, so that I don’t ruin an entire 10pk or 12pk of meat when making one meal. As soon as I get home from the grocer, I wrap my meats, first in wax paper, then in plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil, individually. So when I want a steak for dinner, I take one out a few hours before dinner, let it thaw, and I’m good to go! I didn’t waste more than one, or have more than a few to re-refridgerate and have to eat in the next day or so.

  10. Carrie Lott on March 13, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    A) Planning low-cost meals for a week to two weeks (depending on how often you shop) and B) making a list for those meals and really sticking to it will save money in the long run. More importantly, practicing these habits will enable you to be disciplined in stewarding what God has given you! Discipline and condistency in one area most always spills over into other areas of your life!

  11. Trisha Connor on March 13, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    Try for meal plans that match dietary needs and your favorite grocery store’s weekly deals. We save tons because we are on a plan that uses the sales and we don’t throw out food each week.

  12. Steve Minton on March 18, 2013 at 4:49 am

    Another good tip if you have kids is prior to going out to eat, do some research online for kids discounts at restaurants where you live. Many common places have discount night for kids every day of the week. For example on Monday night, it is kids night at Texas Roadhouse, meaning you get one free kids meal per adult entree purchased. If you get there before 6 pm, some entrees are reduced price. We will go there, my wife and I will split a chicken salad (huge!, anthem will happily split it into bowls for you for free), get one free kids meal, buy another kids meal, get water for my wife and I, eat all the free peanuts and rolls we want, and be full, all of us eating at Texas Roadhouse, including a 20% tip for less than $15. Plus, they usually have free ice cream, or other activities for the kids to do. Most restaurants have something like this, but usually on a different day. If you really want to go to Old Chicago, go on their kids night, check it out, it can save your family a ton of money!

  13. Tal Gur on March 24, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    Good post Joe. I think saving is important but with the low interest out there it becomes more important to invest (like building an online business on the side for example). That’s what I did and I managed to become financially free. It’s also much harder to “eat” your investments than your savings 🙂

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