For many families, food is one of the biggest expenses each month. Right behind housing and transportation costs, grocery store and restaurant expenses are a large budget item. Fortunately, there are many ways to cut the budget as well. Read on for the top ten ways to save money on food.

  1. Cook from scratch. We live in a time when convenience is king. Prewashed salad greens, precooked rotisserie chickens, and a multitude of processed items are just some of the food conveniences for which we pay. The more you can buy food in its most natural state and prepare it yourself, the more money you'll tend to save. The bonus is that food you prepare yourself is usually healthier as well.
  2. Use coupons. You don't have to become a slave to coupons in order to have them help you with your food budget. Clipping even a few coupons for things you regularly buy can save you several dollars each week. Combine those coupons with sale items and you'll save even more.
  3. Keep a price book. Take some time to jot down the prices of items you routinely purchase and stock up when you run across a good sale. After a while, knowing these prices and good deals will become more second nature to you.
  4. Shop loss leaders. Grocery stores run sales each week designed to get you in the door so you'll buy more. These are deep discounts and once you recognize them you can take advantage of them to stock up. You can also plan your meals around certain loss leaders.
  5. Shop seasonally. Buying fruits and vegetables in season will help cut your food costs. Like with loss leaders. plan your meals around these seasonal items.
  6. Check out Angel Food Ministries. Through this program, which is available to anyone, you can receive low-cost boxes of food which you pick up at host sites in your area. While you don't have control over what is in the box, the food is offered at very affordable prices and the website has recipes and meal suggestions for you to use.
  7. Buy local. Not only does buying local support farmers in your area, it is fresher food and helps the environment by eliminating long transit times. The lower transportation costs and seasonal produce will save you money as well.
  8. Eat less meat. As Americans, we are used to getting our protein from meat, but substituting a non-meat entree even once or twice a week can translate into big savings at the grocery store.
  9. Eat out less. It goes without saying that restaurant meals are usually significantly more expensive than those you eat at home. Cut down your eating out and you'll reap the savings.
  10. When you do eat out, eat less. Sharing entrees, skipping appetizers and desserts, ordering water with meals, and using restaurant coupons are all ways to cut down on your restaurant bill.