5 Small Ways to Save on Food Costs

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5 Small Ways to Save on Food Costs

We’re trimming the sails this month. We got another hit from the Money Pit aka our rental property in Missouri. The previous tenants trashed the place and now we’re unloading thousands of dollars in repairs on a house we don’t want in a town where we don’t live.

So, it’s beans and rice for this house — and all kinds of other ways, big or small, to cut costs. Here are five ways that I’m saving money in the kitchen:

1. Cook simpler meals at home.

Wherever possible, I’m trying to avoid eating out. Kids’ birthdays get a pass as do certain days when craziness trumps all else. But, for my birthday, we cooked and ate at home. When not cooking for the cookbook, I’m trying to prepare simpler meals with fewer ingredients. 

5 Small Ways to Save on Food Costs

2. Purchase spices in small plastic bags or in bulk.

Most of the time I buy large containers of spices at Costco. But, Costco doesn’t always have big containers of the spices I want. Since I need them really fresh for recipe testing, I fell into the practice of buying small jars. At some grocery stores these run $5 to 10, but at Sprouts they are a bargain at about $3.50.

This week when I needed to replenish a couple different ones, I found the small packets of spices for $1.25ish. Boom. Saved a couple bucks right there.

5 Small Ways to Save on Food Costs

3. Pack milk and cereal for lunch.

FishPapa has been grabbing lunch out for about a year or so now. He never spends a ton — but it’s that little bright spot in a crazy day of work. Lately to curb costs, he’s been buying a half gallon of milk and packing a few boxes of cereal to take to work. Supplemented with fresh fruit, he’s got a mid-day meal that costs about a buck a serving, if that.

Cereal is one of his comfort foods, so he doesn’t mind it, and co-workers have joined him so it’s serving as a community builder, too.

5 Small Ways to Save on Food Costs

4. Buy in bulk from Amazon.

Recently, I found out that I could get some regular grocery purchases for cheaper on Amazon — with free shipping. I ordered a case of rice cakes and am rationing them so we don’t eat the whole box in a week. We’re saving a few bucks and it’s one less thing for me to go buy.

5 Small Ways to Save on Food Costs

5. Back to beans.

Beans and rice make a great meal. Cooking beans from dried instead of buying cans is much cheaper. Beans are back on the table, boys!

These aren’t the most brilliant ways to save, nor are they saving us thousands, but every little bit helps. 

5 Small Ways to Save on Food Costs

This is Frugal Friday. In an effort to make these weekly financial discussions more interactive, I’m no longer posting a link-up. Feel free to leave a link in the comments. But better yet, chat with us on today’s topic.

How have YOU saved money recently?

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  1. Perfect post this a.m. We are in the same boat with a $1000 car repair and the month of July without 2 paychecks. One other idea is to dig deep in the cupboards and freezer. It’s amazing what you can throw together.

  2. Hi Jessica, We are always looking for ways of saving on food and really anywhere else. I am determined this summer to make more beans and rice, too. Prices just keep rising!

  3. Hang in there. We eat LOTS of brown rice, beans, and roast veggies around here, along with oatmeal and a number of breakfast and snack foods built around it (muffins, baked oatmeal, etc.). We’re a one income family living very modestly in Southern California. Our occasional splurges are Costco for dogs and pizza (and yogurt, of course!) and the local Indian food place where the server heaps our trays with 2 days’ worth of food! Hubby takes his lunch every day but sometimes lacks inspiration beyond sandwiches (made on homemade bread). I’ll be sure to pass along the idea of eating cereal.

    1. Oh, we’ve been here before. We paid off our debts back in 2009 by eating LOTS of rice and beans. 🙂 The budget has been looser for awhile, but now it’s time to buckle down again.

  4. #6. Eat what you have. – for lunch today my daughter made a pb sandwich from bread heels (it’s actually her favorite part of the loaf, so don’t feel bad for her) and I threw our last two eggs together with the remnants of quesadilla night. Everything in the fridge was at the point where it needed to be used or thrown out, so win, win! No extra cost, and no waste. 🙂

  5. We have been pinching pennies the past few months as we pay off medical bills. We ate at home on Mother’s Day and plan to do the same for Father’s Day. Even a simple meal out for a family of five approaches $50 by the time you pay tax and tip. I can splurge on steaks at the store and still come out WAY ahead by cooking it at home.

    Presentation can elevate a simple meal to something extra special. Using card stock, I made up menu’s for a fancy lunch including tea sandwiches, fruit plate and punch. I used a set of small cookies cutters and made tea sandwiches in the shapes of flowers, hearts and stars using the same ingredients as the humble PB&J. The punch was lemonade with strawberries slices floating among the ice. The fruit plate was apple slices drizzled with honey and sprinkled with coconut . I set the table with the linens and glass lunch plates and used the “good” glasses for the punch. My kids were thrilled with the fancy meal that cost very little. Sometimes its all about the attitude.

    1. That’s how we did the FIshMama Trifecta this year. I wouldn’t have enjoyed eating out very much knowing we should be saving money.

  6. Perfect timing for our family on this post also – we got hit with large unexpected bill and I was just thinking that I needed to cruise your bean recipes 🙂

  7. I’m so sorry to hear about your rental! I can’t imagine what a stress that is, but you seem to have a pretty positive attitude about it – good for you! Simple meals, not eating out, buying spices in bulk, packing lunches, and of course, rice & beans are all frugal habits in our home. You’re right, they aren’t brilliant and don’t save thousands, but they definitely help the bottom line weekly, monthly, and yearly. Great post! Best of luck with the rental. I sure hope you can get some wonderful renters in there next time (or sell?)

  8. How do you screen your renters??? If I recall correctly, this has happened a few times. Will you still be able to make it to England and France, or will this set you back a season or two?

    1. We have a great management company who screens tenants. However, the last few have had extremely low incomes. They have had government assistance which covers their rent but not the damages. It’s complicated. And needless to say, we wish we had never bought the property.

      I’m not sure how the trip will pan out. We are hopeful to get things shipshape soon.

  9. We have three rental properties and there is always something. This summer we have to replace the roof on one of the houses, and in another a tenant is threatening to leave because the upstairs tenant keeps slamming her door. We have had two of our houses trashed in the last five years to the tune of 12,000 each. We tried to get money from the first tenants and they were ordered to pay but because they were on government assistance there was no way to garnish wages to get the money. The second tenants both lost their jobs and were moving home to their parents house with three little kids so we knew there was no point in going through the court process again. So I completely understand where you are coming from. Our rentals take a lot of our emergency fund and sometimes I wonder if it is worth it, but my husband is convinced that it is and he does most of the work. Having properties is like having another job on the side. I hope that the repairs are done quickly and you either get some good tenants or are able to sell. I know the market in some parts of the US are very low, so selling is not an option for a lot of people. Good Luck


    1. Yep. You know our story exactly. It gets frustrating that HUD offers no recourse. This same tenant lost her benefits and can go move to another state or city and get HUD benefits there. The lack of accountability makes it so disheartening and is unjust to those who truly need a helping hand and don’t take advantage of the system.

  10. It saddens me that those tenants trashed the place and are costing your family so much stress and money!
    I read over on Tammy’s recipes that she’d been serving up fresh corn tortillas with beans, and the kids were helping to make the tortillas! I thought that sounded yummy to have the two together.
    I’ve been saving by shopping at my local 99 only store. I’ve been able to buy that Zulka brand of sugar (it’s got the Non GMO label) 2 lbs for 99 cents. They’ve also had pur vanilla in stock. They carry multiple fresh friuts & veggies. A gallon of milk, dried beans and rice are all cheaper there than our grocers and even Walmart. Often I can find organic tomatoes or even soup there also. I like to buy EVOO, wine vinegar (red & white) and rice vinegar there too. In addition to their own brand of bread, buns bagels & the like they often have Sara Lee & Home Pride too!

    1. Oh, we get frozen friut for smoothies there too, but we can only get frozen blueberries and peaches at the Dollar Tree.

  11. You’re a great inspiration. Good luck with everything . I’m sorry about the rental. 🙁

  12. Selling our rental house right now, looking forward to never being a landlord again!

  13. Yep, I am with you on eating more beans and simpler meals. I created our meal plan this week by looking back at some of our old meal plans. We were on an outward curve, but turning back in the right direction. Ready for July and the pantry challenge and turning up the creativity.

  14. I’m making Rice and Beans tomorrow. Comfort food. Love mine with fresh tomatoes and onions chopped up and put on top. I need a pantry challenge too. Hubby is out of town so I’m organizing and making a “meals/ ingredient” list from the freezer and cupboards. Let’s do this!

  15. I hope you can make the necessary repairs on your home in Missouri without too much trouble. With the change in the market, perhaps you could even sell the house now???? I know long distance land-lording is very difficult.

    1. We are hoping to sell and just pay the difference out of pocket. The market hasn’t recovered enough. It’s about half what it was when we bought it. So, we will lose, but we will gain freedom.