Get 10 tips from meal prep expert Allison Schaaf on how to spend less on groceries, without sacrificing nutrition or taste.
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Do you ever feel like your grocery bill is out of control? Are you surprised again and again each week when the cashier tells you your total? Do you find mid-week emergency grocery runs adding up to a disturbing amount? Or perhaps your grocery bill is low…but that's only because you find yourself resorting to takeout more often than you'd like.
Whatever grocery challenge you're facing, I know it can be tough to keep grocery costs down, especially when you want to prioritize healthy food.
I've experimented a lot over the years with how to best plan and source groceries and I'm here today to share my best money saving grocery tips!
From how to plan enough meals to avoid takeout to how to find delicious healthy budget recipes, I've got you covered.
10 Tips on How to Spend Less on Groceries
1. Start with a Plan
Getting comfortable with meal planning is my #1 tip for cutting your grocery bill.
I like to meal plan weekly. At the start of the week, I plan out my family's breakfasts, lunches, dinners and even snacks! I always look at my calendar when meal planning so I can accurately plan the number of meals we need for the week.
Make sure to account for nights you'll likely have leftovers and any nights you plan to dine out or get takeout.
If you're new to meal planning, take a few minutes at the end of the week to reflect on how you did. Did you buy too much food and have to throw some out? Did you run out of fresh veggies mid-week and have to go back to make an extra grocery trip?
Jot down a few notes to keep in mind before making the next week's meal plan. It will get easier over time.
Not sure where to start? Download my Beginner Meal Plan for free!
2. Eat Seasonally for Healthy Food on a Budget
The best way to buy healthy produce with less money is to choose items that are in season. If you're buying strawberries or asparagus in December, they are going to be more expensive – and probably not as tasty.
If there's a recipe you want to make that calls for an out of season item, substitute with something that is in season.
Even better? Choose seasonal recipes! Our Prep Dish meal plans always take into account what's in season, helping you to get more beautiful produce for less money.
3. Consider Ordering Groceries
This one may seem counterintuitive. After all, many online grocery services charge a fee for ordering & delivering.
Still, you will likely save money by ordering online. Why? It eliminates impulse purchases! You can tweak what's in your cart until you're happy with the total. Plus, it's SO much easier to compare prices when you're sitting at home at your computer, rather than trying to get through the grocery store with your kids chiming in with various requests.
Many stores charge a smaller fee (or no fee!) for grocery pickup so consider that option to further cut costs.
And don't forget to consider alternative sources! One of my favorite recent additions to our grocery routine is Imperfect Foods. They offer many items, including produce, at a reduced cost. You can hear more about my personal experience with Imperfect Foods here!
4. Stretch Meat Further
Incorporating meatless meals into your rotation is a classic way to reduce your grocery bill. If that's not your thing though, try using things like beans and extra veggies to stretch meat further.
This strategy works really well with recipes like soups, casseroles, sheet pan meals and skillet meals. Basically, if your meal consists of meat + 2 veggies, people are going to notice a smaller portion of meat. But if the recipe calls for ground meat or bite-sized pieces of meat mixed with a bunch of other ingredients, you can generally decrease the ratio of meat to other ingredients to make the more expensive protein last for more servings!
Here are a few examples:
Turkey Taco Soup: Add a can of beans and a couple of extra carrots for a soup that's just as delicious, but will provide extra servings.
Gluten Free Chicken Enchiladas: Add 1-2 cans of beans to the enchilada filling mixture. This will give you enough filling to make more enchiladas! (You may want to double the sauce recipe to make sure you have enough.)
Lemony Sheet Pan Chicken Thighs: Double the amount of carrots and potatoes, two very budget-friendly ingredients, but leave the amount of chicken the same. This will help stretch the servings, while adding very little to the grocery bill.
5. Master Substitutions
The more comfortable you get with cooking, the easier it becomes to substitute various items in a recipe.
If you see a great-looking recipe for fajitas but it calls for steak, feel free to sub chicken instead if steak is too expensive at the grocery store that week. If a recipe calls for maple, you can frequently substitute its less expensive counterpart, honey.
We always provide substitution ideas in our weekly subscriber newsletter and encourage Prep Dish subscribers to let us know if they need help subbing an item for budget, allergies, or simply personal preference!
You can also check out my Guide to Recipe Substitutions! I include ideas for how to substitute for a variety of protein, produce and pantry items so you can make virtually any recipe fit your budget.
6. Breakfast for Dinner
Breakfast for dinner can be a really fun way to mix it up. It's also an excellent way to serve your family a nutritious, high protein meal that doesn't break the bank.
Eggs are one of the most affordable quality protein sources out there. There is absolutely no reason they need to be relegated to the breakfast table, especially when there are so many different ways to enjoy them.
Bonus? Eggs cook so quickly, they're perfect for a weeknight meal!
Try adding just one egg-based dish to your meal plan each week and your grocery bill will thank you. Here are a couple of my favorites that work well for dinner:
- Healthy Breakfast Sandwiches w/ Homemade Gluten Free English Muffins
- Green Shakshuka
- Moroccan Breakfast Hash
- Simple Sweet Potato Frittata
7. USE What You Buy
Throwing food away at the end of the week is the worst feeling…especially when you're trying to spend less on groceries! Don't beat yourself up though, it's hard.
You may buy all of those beautiful fruits and veggies with every intention of eating them. Then the chaos of the week gets away from you and you simply don't have time to chop or prepare them.
Or maybe you do your meal prep on the weekend and prep a bunch of meals for the week, but you forgot your kid has soccer on Tuesday and you have to work late on Wednesday and the meals go uneaten.
It takes time to develop a smooth system, to be able to look at the week ahead and figure out exactly how much food your family will need. Try to schedule a mid-week check-in. Peek in the fridge on Wednesday to see if anything is in danger of going bad. If so, is there anything you can stick in the freezer? Is there anything you can prioritize eating in the next day or so?
Another great trick for actually using what you buy? Wash and chop your produce right when you bring it home! It is so much more likely you and your family will grab those fruits and veggies if they're already washed and chopped. Trust me, this one makes a huge difference.
And if you want more help, our Prep Dish meal plans always make sure all of the items are accounted for in the meal plan. That means if one recipe calls for half a bunch of green onions, you can be sure the other half will be used in a different recipe that same week. No lingering odds and ends in the fridge!
You can also check out my tips on how to use leftover carrots, onions and celery here!
8. Keep a List
Do you ever find yourself staring at a blank page, unable to think of a single recipe to add to the next week's meal plan? Yeah, you're not alone.
Use a page in your planner or even a note on your phone to start a list of budget-friendly meals your family loves. If you make a pasta dish your family raves about, add it to the list! If everyone loves the black bean tacos you whip up, add them to the list! Over time, you'll develop a bank of healthy budget recipes to draw from each week when you meal plan.
Need some ideas to get you started with healthy food on a budget? Check out my list of 20 Healthy Budget Recipes. These cost around $8-$25 for 4 servings and, like all of our recipes here at Prep Dish, they're full of produce and protein.
9. Stock Your Freezer
There's nothing that will wreck your food budget more quickly than a night or two of unexpected takeout. So what should you do about those last-minute, emergency nights when you get home late and have zero time to make dinner?
Stock your freezer!
I love knowing my freezer is stocked with healthy dinners I can pop out at a moment's notice. I also keep a few breakfast, lunch and even snack options in there!
If you've never tried freezer meal prep before, check out my tips on how to get started and stock your freezer – it's easier than you might think! Also, make sure to try one of our most popular freezer recipes, freezer breakfast burritos.
10. Get a Little Help
Even with all of the tips in the world, planning meals that are both healthy AND budget-friendly week after week can seem overwhelming. Don't be afraid to ask for a little help. You are not alone in this struggle!
At Prep Dish, we do the meal planning for you. We provide our subscribers meal prep meal plans every week and we always keep taste, nutrition and budget at the top of mind.
We provide 4 meal plans every week: Gluten Free, Paleo, Low Carb and our 1-hour Super Fast meal plans. All subscribers receive all 4 menus every week – no need to decide! Along with the meal plans, we send out a subscriber newsletter every Friday that includes tips, substitutions and, yes, ideas for how to spend less on groceries for the week!
If this sounds like something that would lower your stress levels, make sure to check out our Prep Dish free trial!