dislike fruits and vegetables

30+ Ways to Recession-Proof Your Family Food Budget

CoachMel Lifestyle 33 Comments

We all love money to spend on life’s little luxuries, don’t we?

The problem is, life’s little luxuries don’t keep us living and breathing, and they certainly don’t put food on the table.

Those of you who do the food shopping for your homes, will no doubt have noticed the difference at the checkout over the past 12 months. To be quite frank…it stinks!

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When we moved to Tasmania a few months ago, I began to notice a massive difference in our food bill. There’s only two of us to feed, and when I returned from ‘Woolies’ (the local supermarket) a couple of weeks ago, I had to announce to my husband that our shopping bill had come to…


I know that isn’t much when you’ve got a few smaller mouths to feed, but for two people who eat quite moderately, it’s just not on! Couple that with the current economic meltdown, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster (pun intended).

Since then, I’ve been on the hunt for the best money saving tips from around the web! I hope you find these ideas useful, I certainly did!


#1 Use a cash envelope system from Blissfully Domestic
“Create a budget – once you have your budget, you simply figure out what parts of your life you want to handle as “cash-only”. For most, this will mean everything except housing, utilities, and loan/credit card payments.

We use envelopes for:

  • Grocery
  • Gas
  • Clothing
  • Entertainment
  • Babysitter
  • Gifts
  • Church
  • Dining Out
  • Mad Money

The envelopes get refilled every two weeks and once the money from one envelope is gone, that’s it for that category until the next pay day.

In the midst of all of this, the credit and the debit cards are out of your wallet. You are paying cash now!”

#2 Shop less often from Get Rich Slowly
For the past 25 years America’s cheapest family, Steve and Annette, have practised once-a-month shopping. This means they only go grocery shopping 12 times a year. This stuffs pretty mind boggling!

If you’d like to give it a go, check out the book: America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money: Your Guide to Living Better, Spending Less, and Cashing in on Your Dreams

#3 Eat everything in your cupboards first from Happy Lists
“Eat all your food.  Before you go hard-core grocery shopping, try eating every single thing in your cupboards.  That might mean getting a little creative with a few meals, but why go grocery shopping when you still have food to eat at home?  Only go buy the weekly milk, bread, and eggs and see how long you can go by just eating what you already have.”

#4 Use a master grocery list from Rice and Beans
“You’re not going to save real money unless you get organized and get a plan.  It doesn’t have to be my plan…it just needs to be an organized and consistent way to go to the grocery store, and get out of there without going over budget.  My suggestion is to make a master grocery list.”

Check out Lorie’s post for more info how to create a master grocery list.

#5 Plan your meals from Saving Advice
“Meal planning and bulk cooking are both wonderful techniques you can utilize and modify to fit your families needs…cook, and or, prepare your meals ahead of time and then preserve them by either freezing or refrigerating them.

Also, with meal planning you can cook one large meal and get 2-3 other meals out of it! The key here is to make every meal you cook count!”

#6 One dollar meal challenge from Happy Lists
“Challenge yourself to plan a couple of meals each week that cost only $1 per person.  Get creative and have fun with it.  Include other members of the family as well. Challenging your child to prepare a meal for $1 per person will teach them the value of money as well as get them to creatively solve problems.”

Special deals

#7 Take advantage of shopping incentives from Credit Card Compare
“If your store offers a frequent shopper program, sign-up to receive advanced notice of special offers, and other money saving information. You should also keep an eye on local newspapers and flyer’s for specials, particularly on costly items such as meats, fruit and veg.”

#8 Make the most of supermarket specials from The Simple Dollar
Wondering how to work the supermarket specials into your menu plan? The Simple Dollar suggests using FoodieView where you can “enter combinations of the on-sale fresh ingredients that sound interesting…these ideas provide the backbone for several meals throughout the week.”

What a great idea! Try it out and let us know what you think.

#9 Play the Grocery Game from Being Frugal
“I signed up for a trial of The Grocery Game.  The trial is only a dollar for four weeks, so that should be ample time to decide if it works for me”

When you play this game you get a weekly list of the lowest-priced products at your supermarket matched with manufacturers’ coupons and weekly specials. So, the game does all the hard work and research, and presents it to you – job done!

I contacted Lynnae to find out what she thought of The Grocery Came after her 4 week trial, here’s what she said:

“I think The Grocery Game could be useful after the 4 week trial, but I live in an area where coupon rules have really tightened up…So in my area, the deals really aren’t that great any more. For someone who lives in an area where stores routinely double and triple coupons, though, I believe The Grocery Game would definitely be worth the price you pay for it.”

At the supermarket

#10 Study store cycles from Wise Money Matters
“This takes some time, but you can study when certain produce is in season and out of season. You can study when certain products have coupons. Every store has it’s cycles. You just need to be aware of them, and then you can position yourself to purchase certain items when you know you will be getting the best deal.”

#11 Keep a price book from Wanting What You Have
“I’ve kept a price book for about 10 years. If you’re serious about getting control over your budget, a price book is absolutely necessary. It allows you to buy only the cheapest items at each store, and provides the information you’ll need to evaluate unadvertised sales and unexpected sources.”

So, when you see an item on offer, you’ll immediately know whether it’s a good deal, or not. You’ll want make a record of the date, store, item, size, price, unit and sale price.

#12 Bring a calculator from Happy Lists
“Take your time and calculate the total cost of your purchase as you go.”

I know this is a laborious task, but it’s easier than calculating the prices in your head, and will definitely help you stick within your assigned budget.

#13 Check out own brand products from Ez2Shopmall
“Most of us purchase items at the grocery store based on a name brand we are familiar with. Have you ever stopped to compare the price with store brand? If not, you really need to, as you will be shocked at the price difference. Yet in most cases the store brand of a given item is every bit as good as the name brands.”

When you purchase the store brands that come in plastic bags instead of the boxes you will find you get twice as much cereal for less cost. I pour those larger bags into airtight storage containers so they stay fresh.”

It’s also wise to check out what’s on the higher and lower shelves, supermarkets often place the more expensive items at eye-level – very sneaky of them!

#14 Look out for reduced items from This is Money
“If you shop towards the end of the day…a lot of the fruit, vegetables, bakery and various other perishable products are reduced to very low prices. Just be sure you can eat all your bargains within their sell-by dates.”

#15 Save on meat from Frugal in Virginia
“Our family only eats meat for dinner once or twice a week usually. Substitute other items into your menu that are high in protein such as eggs, cheese, and beans.

Instead of having beef burritos, why not have bean and cheese burritos instead at half the cost? Remember, your daily protein intake doesn’t have to come primarily at dinner like most Americans either. Incorporate high protein snacks into your day.”

#16 Buy cheaper cuts of meat from Hillbilly Housewife
“Regular ground beef is the most economical, it also has the most amount of added fat. There are ways around this extra fat though, so that we can eat the cheapest ground beef, and still consume the least amount of fat possible.”

Check out Hillbilly Housewife’s article to find out how.

#17 Check out the ‘bruised’ can section by Chef Maven
“I find nothing wrong with buying a dented can of canned corn or pumpkin both for 25 cents, that I can use in chowders. As long as I can open up the can, it does not matter to me that the can has been dented.”

#18 Don’t pay with your credit card by Chef Maven
“Stop paying groceries with your credit card immediately…why pay for groceries years from now that you bought and ate years earlier? That simply does not make sense. Personally, I have not had credit cards for over five years and have been paying for my groceries with my debit card or cash ever since.”

Alternative stores

#19 Shop around from Smart Money
“Supermarkets aren’t the only place to go for groceries. Here’s where to look:

  • Drugstores and pharmacies for milk, over-the-counter medications and personal-care items.
  • Superstores for snacks, cereals and cleaning supplies.
  • Online stores, such as Amazon, who are gaining traction as a grocer, thanks to its free shipping policy and discount prices on bulk quantities.
  • Warehouse clubs for prescription medications and pantry staples.
  • Discount grocers for anything.
  • Surplus stores for dry goods.

However, a word of caution: “Buying the bigger size isn’t always the best deal. The Federal Trade Commission found that bigger sizes of tuna fish, peanut butter, ketchup, coffee and frozen orange juice were often pricier per unit than smaller counterparts. Crunch the numbers before you buy.”

Great advice!

#20 Visit your local Farmer’s Market from Dietriffic
“You can buy local produce in peak season, and therefore cheaper. Remember it’s cheaper to purchase produce from the country you reside in, rather than something that’s currently not in season, and therefore imported.”

#21 Buy from roadside markets from This is Money
“If you can’t grow your own, you can still get better deals if you go to markets where you can bargain, and where stallholders will compete. Supermarkets on the other hand only have fixed prices.”

#22 Shop at your local health food store from Dietriffic
“If your health food store has a bin section, you’ll save money by not paying for expensive packaging, and you can buy as little, or as much as you need.

Also, check out shops that sell ethnic foods, they often have a good selection of foods which they sell at very reasonable prices.”

At home

#23 Plant a veggie garden from Will’s Blog
“Plant vegetables and freeze or can enough for the winter. No green thumb? Buy in quantity at farmers markets, or at pick-your-own sites.”

Growing your own produce can be fun, therapeutic and cheap. If you don’t have a garden, renting an allotment may also be an option, or you could grow a few small items in pots on your windowsill.

Not only will you have the pleasure of eating home grown food, over time you’ll save heaps! Check out, Green Fingers: A Recipe for Good Health?

#24 Eat at home from No Credit Needed
“Instead of buying lunch, prepare a lunch at home.  Instead of going out to eat, start eating at home.  I can promise you that two things will happen:

  1. You’ll spend more time with your family, sitting around the supper table, actually talking.
  2. You’ll spend less – much less – on food.”

#25 Go co-op crazy from Gwapa
“Form a meal co-op with friends and neighbours – each family takes a night to make dinner for everyone. This saves time, builds community, introduces children to a broader variety of foods, and saves money by allowing participants to buy food in bulk (without having to eat the same food for weeks straight).”

#26 Switch to tap water from Will’s Blog
“Stop paying for bottled water. Get a refillable container and use tap water.”

Get Rich Slowly suggest comparing the price of water on your tap water bill, to that of bottled water for a reality check. You’ll probably notice quite a difference in favour of tap water! If you don’t like the taste of tap water, invest in a filtration system, such as Brita.

#27 Make your own baby food from Wanting What You Have
“I simplify cannot justify the cost, or the waste of resources to manufacture all the tiny little jars, bottles, and tubs. When your baby is ready for solids, you can make your own baby food very easily, and with minimal expense.”

Check out Wholesome Baby Food for recipes and tips.

#28 Make your own latte from The Legal Pad
Instead of ordering expensive coffee away from home The Legal Pad suggests, “Invest in a good-quality machine and make your own brew at home – that $4.00+ cup at the coffee shop costs you at least $120.00 per month, and more than $1,400.00 per year.” WOW!

#29 Bring your own lunch from The Legal Pad
“Compare a home-made lunch to the $6.00 per day spent at the sandwich shop, or fast food restaurant – you’d be surprised how much you can save in a month. Bring your leftovers for lunch from last night’s dinner.”

#30 Reduce your meat portion size
Don’t make meat the main attraction at mealtimes. A serving of meat is the size of a deck of cards, or 3 ounces – pretty small in comparison to the serving sizes most people are used to.

Replace meat with healthy foods such as eggs, nuts, beans, legumes, dairy, and soy products.

Now, I’m not suggesting you should become a vegetarian, but reducing your meat portions, and going meatless once or twice a week, will be beneficial to your health, and your pocket.

#31 Add extra bulk to your meals from Dietriffic
You can do this easily by including inexpensive beans, peas, or lentils to stews, soups, and curries. If you have the time, dried beans and peas are even cheaper.

You can also extend your meals by adding extra vegetables, and grains. For example when I cook spaghetti bolognese I substitute half the meat for beans, onions, and carrots; this saves money and makes the dish healthier.

#32 Don’t waste fruits and veggies from AB Baby Boutique Blog
“I realized how much money I would save if I purchased all of our fruits and veggies at the market instead of our usual large chain grocery store. Unfortunately a lot of those veggies went to waste if we didn’t eat them fast enough, so the whole idea of saving money was well, just a good idea. Until my mother-in-law introduced me to Debbie Meyers Green Bags.

The bags absorb the ethylene gas that is released by the food, which prevents the gas from staying in the fruit, and thus helping your food stay fresher longer.”

Check out these great little bags: NEW Debbie Meyer Green Bags – As Seen On TV! Set of 20!

#33 Over 100 cheap recipe ideas from Two Blonds Home Garden
“100 recipes that utilize some inexpensive, but nutritious, items from the grocery store. Browse these suggestions for recipes to help you save money and make an easy, budget-friendly dinner tonight.”

Check out my previous articles along the same lines:

What are your budget saving tips?

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Comments 33

  1. Melanie

    Hi Fooducate,

    Thanks for the link. I particularly like this one:

    “Drastically cut down on sugary, salty, and fatty snacks. Limit yourself to 2 or 3 items per grocery trip. If your children protest, practice a revenue share model with them – for every dollar in grocery bills saved, they keep 50 cents.”

    Healthier, and you save money!

  2. Lorie

    This is a great post. I’m going to add you to my sidebar when I update. You have so much useful information. Uhhhh, not that you’ll get lot of traffic from my blog:o) Thanks for mentioning me.

  3. Melanie

    Hey Lynnae,

    Glad to include you!!

    Hi Lorie,

    It takes a while to get blog traffic, doesn’t it? It’ll get there though if you just keep writing. Thanks for linking to me as well!

    Hi Michele,

    Ah yes, I hadn’t thought of using Foodieview to find recipes for the older stock in my cupboards…what a great tool. I will add it to my links page as well.

    Wise Money Matters,

    You’re welcome, hope to see you around here more often!! 🙂

    Hey Suzannah,

    LOL yes it’s quickly becoming one of my favourites as well with everything that has been happening! Do you have any other tips to add – what has worked for you?

  4. Suzannah

    A couple of ideas we find useful are these.

    (1) We don’t drink soft drinks ourselves very often. We’ve found that although cans work out to be more costly per unit than bottles, every time we open a bottle of soft drink (even when we have company) there tends to be a lot wasted, since we won’t finish it ourselves. Instead, we put out cans when we have company over, so there’s very little wasted. In the end, we save a lot more money because we’re using all that we pay for.

    (2) Our son likes fruit juice, so as soon as I open a large bottle of it, I immediately pour half into another container and dilute both half-and-half with water. He doesn’t notice a difference, and it’s far healthier. Also, it takes away from having to dilute the juice every time you pour a glass.

  5. Melanie

    Hey Steven,

    Have you tried to write a 7-day menu plan before? I used to think it would be too much hassle, but I find it really effective.

    The good thing is I don’t have to think, “what am I going to eat?” every night, which I find very annoying. Another benefit is after you’ve got one or two months of menus you can recycle them. So no more hard work!

    Hi Suzannah,

    Very good tips, thank you!

    I think you’re wise to avoid soft drinks as much as possible in terms of health and cost. Fruit juice is one of those sources of calories people don’t realise they’re having too much of, so it’s definitely good to dilute it and make it last longer.

  6. Michele

    Thanks for these great tips! And thanks for mentioning FoodieView. We are glad you find the site useful. In addition to using FoodieView to help you make shopping lists for fresh, on-sale ingredients, you can also use it to clean out your refrigerator and cupboards. Just type in the names of the food items in each place and FoodieView will come up with recipes for them. Happy Saving!

  7. marci

    Linked from being frugal 🙂

    Good list! Thanks!

    A great site for using up odds and ends in your kitchen is superchef.com. Type in the items and it will spit out recipes using those foods. I’ve used it a lot and really enjoy the variety and new ideas.

  8. Melanie

    Hi Marci,

    Thanks for commenting. I couldn’t find the site you mentioned, can you confirm the address? I’d be interested in checking it out too.

    Hey Jennifer,

    I know what you mean, it’s such a trap. I find it’s the unhealthy food that’s more appealing when I’m hungry too..not good!

  9. marci

    CORRECTION to above: site is http://www.supercook.com

    that’s cook, not chef… sorry! my apologies!
    What was I thinking?? 🙂

    It’s a great site for using up odds and ends in your kitchen.
    Type in what you have and it will give you a list of recipes using
    those ingredients. It will also give you a list of recipes that use those
    ingredients, but also use other ingredients, by saying, ‘if you also have these…. you can cook this….” Great site!

  10. Melanie

    Hi Marci,

    Thanks so much for clarifying! I love the site, will have to add it to my favourites, what a great way to come up with new ideas!! 🙂

  11. Melanie

    Hi Blake,

    Good to hear from you again; glad you liked the list! 🙂

    I’ve found menu planning is now essential for me. I honestly don’t know how I got on before, I must have been wondering aimlessly around the supermarket not sure what to buy!! I know for sure I had to shop more often before. Now it’s only once a week.

  12. Melanie

    Hey Leah,
    I’m glad the article was useful, it was a nice piece of work for me to do at the time. It seems the economy will take a while to sort itself out, perhaps more on this topic would be good!

  13. Jackie

    Great list…thanks very much. We found we saved money on our child’s breakfast food. She would eat frozen waffles everyday and it was getting expensive! So now we feed her eggs or oatmeal a few times a week and our breakfast costs have gone down alot!

    1. Melanie

      That’s excellent. What a healthy change from waffles to eggs or oatmeal… good work on both cutting costs and on making healthier choices.

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