Effective ways to save on food budget.
Food budget is one of the expenses we can control. Here are some things that I do to actually lessen this family expense.
1. I make a meal plan and grocery list.
It takes a bit of planning but this saves a lot on grocery. I try to use leftover food for next day recipes. Jamie Oliver has lots of cheap recipe guides to choose from. So when I do my grocery shopping, I know exactly what to buy and will be less likely to buy things that would just spoil.
2. I buy perishables in near expiry dates and freeze.
Usually perishables like cheese, meat, fish, vegetables, etc go on sale when they near their expiry date. I just buy Swiss meat here in Switzerland because I feel that they have better quality than meat from Germany or Italy but that is a personal preference. Swiss meats are twice more expensive than others so what I do is that I buy them when they are 50% off. That means also that they expire on the same day that I bought them. I just buy and freeze them for later use. For vegetables, I pre-cut them and freeze in bags. The same goes with fruits.
3. I anticipate what will go on sale and plan my meals accordingly.
I had a weekly subscription from Aldi, Lidl, Migros and COOP so I know which will go on sale for the following week. The downside is that I had lots of paper garbage so what I did recently is that I cancelled all subscriptions (they were free by the way) and just check the sale on their websites. This technique is very beneficial when buying perishables that cannot be frozen like yogurts and also items that can be bought in bulk like toilet papers, cleaning materials, etc.
4. I go to the border and buy most of my monthly grocery.
I know that this is not good for Swiss economy but I have to save on my expenses and things are just horribly expensive in Switzerland for minimum wage families like me. I know of couples with no kids spend close to a thousand franks for monthly food and if we do that, we can have no more leftover money for saving and investing. The non perishables and also some perishables are usually twice cheaper in Germany. For example, a bag of store brand pasta in Aldi here costs 89 chf while I can buy the same bag in Germany for 39 euros. If I buy 10 pcs then I already saved a lot. The same goes for shampooes, razor blades (husband uses a TON), detergents, cleaning supplies, bags of muesli, butter, cookies, etc. My husband needs snack items like nuts, chocolates, yogurts, cookies, etc and I just buy them in bulk as much as possible because once I ran out of these, I would be forced to pay Swiss price here. We have a freezer so I can also buy frozen pizzas, frozen vegetables or other frozen foods to store. A branded pizza here costs 5 chf already where I can the same brand in Germany for barely 1 euro. I usually just pop up pizza when I am too tired to cooked after work so this is staple for me.
5. I do meal preps.
My husband brings his lunch and snacks to work lest he will be forced to spend 12-15 chf per day on restaurants. Since it is most often uncomfortable to wake up early to cook his lunch, I usually plan his whole lunch on a weekend and freeze them. I just thaw overnight in the freezer and he just microwaves them at work. I also cook in batches and freeze in portions for those nights that I have no energy to cook.
I write ALL my expenses.
Whenever I go shopping, I always write what items I bought (exept when we go to Germany where I just write the amount spent). This helps me clearly see and remember where the grocery money goes. This helps me track which kinds of food I end up buying in Switzerland so I could adjust the amount of items I need to buy in Germany. For example, after 2 weeks a 5 bags of muesli is gone so I am forced to buy expensive muesli here in Switerland. So I tell my husband to buy more when we go in Germany. The same goes with milk or butter, etc.
I set a budget and try to spend less than the amount.
I admit that this is the hardest. Last year I had an average grocery expense of 257 chf per month. This year however, in just 4 months my average monthly expense is already 270 chf. This is still very much cheap compared to other couples I know but this is above my target budget of 250 chf per month. A realistic budget would be 300 chf per month but 250 chf is my desired goal.
I could easily half my food budget by eliminating unnecessary expenses or by simply buying less meat but the reason I cannot do so is because my husband eats mostly meals with meat and reaches out lots of non essential things in the store. He also wastes lots of food like half eaten yogurts, cookies, bags of nuts, etc and I already gave up being mad at him.
But anyway, we work to be able to please ourselves so at the end of the day, money should just be a side issue if we can actually afford a wiggle place, why not buy food that will even temporarily make us happy.