Simple Ideas To Help You Stop Spending All Your Money On Food
It’s a fact that Australians are incredibly spoilt for food choices. Being a diverse melting pot of cultures affords most Australian cities world-class restaurants, pubs, bars and even take away options. But this often means that at the end of a working week, our bank balance seems lower than we’d hoped and we didn’t even realise it was happening (again).
Here are some tried and true ways to ensure you don’t wind up spending all your money on food.
#1 Plan, plan, plan
The only real way to curb your spending habits is to be to be a little more organised. If you’ve been to the shops and packed a healthy lunch, you’re less likely to blow the bank on a $15 sandwich on your lunch break.
Sick of spending too much money on produce at the supermarket? Plan some time to head to a cheap fruiterer or market. For the price of the aforementioned fancy sandwich, you can buy enough fresh fruit and veg to feed two people for a week.
#2 Cook meals at home
Lauren Sherritt recently revealed some of her key money saving tips and unsurprisingly, more than a few related to food consumption. The average cost of a restaurant meal varies from $12-$30, while a meal at home is around $4. It seems like kind of a no brainer when you put it like that, but apparently it isn’t, with millennials spending more money than any other generation on eating out.
Lauren also makes a point of mentioning that entertaining at home shouldn’t be seen as as a sacrifice. “As an extra benefit, I’ve found that entertaining at home is more relaxing for me than going out. There are no strict reservation times or fights for tables, I don’t have to worry about transport or traffic, I can always hear the conversation and don’t have to shout over a crowd, and I can make sure the music and food are to my tastes.”
#3 Don’t waste food
We’re all guilty of it. Buying too much at the shops or market and having to say goodbye when beautiful produce turns bad. Aside from the fact that this is a huge waste for the environment, it’s also extremely hard on your wallet. Plan meals around what you have, and don’t forget to pack leftovers. There’s nothing sadder than having to bid adieu to food for lack of forethought.
#4 Create shopping lists
Without a proper list in front of you, heading to a neon-lit supermarket or a bustling city market can seem not only overwhelming, but outright impossible sometimes. A lack of list is also the number one cause of overspending (especially dangerous if you go shopping on an empty stomach).
When making your list for the week, instead of trying to cover every single base, try figuring out what you’re likely to cook and eat. You’ll probably find that are quite a few overlaps in ingredients, or that you can switch a few things up to make for a more economical list. Without a defined idea of what you need for the week ahead to guide you through those treacherous aisles, you can end up spending a lot more than you need to.
#5 Buy things on special and in season
Once you’ve mastered the art of the shopping list, you’ll be ready to begin basing your meals around what is on special and in season. For example, it’s best not to attempt a mango smoothie in the dead of winter. Price and seasonality go hand in hand. Also, buying fresh means your food is more likely to be sourced locally, which is much better for the environment.
#6 Purchase generic where possible
See that lovely logo on that $8 jar of pasta sauce? Yes that one. Now let your eyes follow the shelves down to find the same sauce for a quarter of the price, sans pretty label. Save your coins for presenting the actual dish in style. The money you save by buying generic, means there’s more cash available for things like fresh herbs or other garnishes.
#7 Wait until the end of the day
Don’t feel bad about hitting up bakeries and supermarkets later in the day to scope to specials. It’s not just markets and independent retailers either, even big-name supermarkets put the price of things like bread, meat and fish down at the tail end of service hours. Don’t be afraid to ask!
#8 Loyalty cards are your friend
If the thought of giving up your daily coffee to save some bucks is simply too much to ask, then consider asking for loyalty cards at your local cafes. If you’re purchasing a coffee or two per day, you’re likely to be entitles to a free coffees or so per week.
#9 There’s an app for that
Take advantage of other people’s bright ideas. There are countless apps that can give you recipe ideas, let you know what’s on sale at your local supermarket and even tell you where the nearest happy hour is! Our picks are Ethical Shopper, and The Happiest Hour. By doing a little bit of research you’ll be eating $10 pub meals and sipping on $3 wines in no time.
h/t: The Financial Diet
Esther is a freelance writer, editor, publicist, content maker and dog patter. She has written for Interview Magazine, New York Press, The Village Voice, Rolling Stone, and local titles Broadsheet, Beat and Tone Deaf. Please tag her in photos of dogs @esthersaurus.