Eliminating Food Expenses – How Saving on Food Costs Help Reach Your FI Goals
As you start your path to FI, you’ll notice that you can dramatically accelerate your progress if you cut your spending, one of those areas is in eliminating food expenses. When you look at your budget, food costs could be a large item that is just waiting to be slashed. As one of the big 5 expenses, food costs can be a major obstacle on your path to FI.
Today, we will dive into the different ways that you can cut your own food costs.
Food costs can add up
When you think of your food budget, you may not feel like there is room to cut out expenses. After all, you eat your three meals a day and the costs just add up. Unfortunately, the costs do add up quickly. The average American household spends a total of $7,923 on food each year!
In many cases, the major culprit is food that you consume outside of your home. If you are like many Americans, then the thought of eating prepared food a few times a week is just a normal part of life. In fact, 38% of Americans eat at a restaurant or take out at least 3 times a week. With the average American household spending $3,459 on restaurant food, it shows that there is room for food costs to be reduced.
How to eliminate food expenses
If you want to cut your food costs, it is completely possible. However, you should not expect yourself to cut your food bill in half overnight. Although it is tempting to slash costs to the bone, you might have better results if you treat this like a long-term lifestyle change instead of a fad diet.
Consider my top tips for cutting your food budget below.
If you plan your meals ahead of time, you’ll be less tempting to ‘pick something up’ after a long day. With a meal plan in place, you’ll be able to come home to a quick meal at a fraction of the cost.
Don’t beat yourself up if you cannot stick to your meal plan every week. Instead, make a contingency plan. I always have a few quick meals ready to go in the freezer for the inevitable days when I simply cannot bring myself to cook.
Try the 2 dollar rule
Sticking to a monthly grocery budget can be difficult. After all, sometimes there is a sale on one of your staples and it makes sense to stock up. With the sales changing each month, it is likely that your grocery budget will swing up and down.
Instead of trying to fit your grocery budget into a uniform goal each month, consider the two-dollar meal rule. With this, the goal is for your meals to cost 2 dollars per person. So if you have a family of five, the goal is to feed them each night for $10. Of course, there will be some nights that are more expensive than others. However, this way of thinking can help you to anchor yourself to a reasonable cost per serving which can save you money over the long term.
Try a new grocery store
Grocery store chains vary around the country in both price and quality. However, you likely know which grocery stores in your area are more expensive than others. For example, Publix is known for a great shopping experience but it comes at a price. On the other hand, ALDI is known for great prices and reasonably good food.
Take a look at the grocery stores in your area and try to mix it up. You might be surprised how much this simple switch can save you.
Learn to cook
If you are eating out every night because you don’t know how to cook, then you need to learn as soon as possible. The best part about learning how to cook is that it is much easier than you think it is. If in doubt, then try an InstaPot or Crockpot. Both are designed to help you keep your time in the kitchen to a minimum while creating great dishes.
An added benefit of learning to cook is that you’ll be able to control what goes into your food. You might find that you are able to build a healthier diet simply by cooking at home.
Don’t starve yourself
If you are thinking of going on a diet in order to save on food costs, please don’t. You shouldn’t have to starve yourself to reach financial independence. Instead, find creative ways to reduce your food costs.
Cut back on restaurants
When you pay for a meal at a restaurant, you are paying for more than the cost of food. You are also paying for the staff that prepared and served it to you. You stand to save a significant amount of money if you start eating more meals at home. Even if you only eliminated one night out per week, those savings would add up quickly.
You don’t need to completely eliminate restaurants from your diet. Instead, make sure to be intentional about your restaurant choices to ensure that you are actually enjoying the experience.
Eat your leftovers
Shockingly, many people are opposed to leftovers. While I understand the sentiment of not wanting to eat a meal several days in a row, it can be incredibly wasteful to toss your leftovers. If you can’t stand the thought of eating the same meal more than twice in one week, then simply freeze your leftovers to enjoy on another day.
How I’ve cut my food costs
We strive to keep our grocery bill to around $400 a month. Ubereats is the main culprit behind my high monthly food expenses. When I get busy with a new real estate project, I rationalize that it is quicker for me to order food than it is to shop, cook and sit down to eat. This always kills my food budget. I took the simple step of deleting the app to help eliminate food expenses in my budget. Then I have focused on making a meal plan, shopping in advance, and then trying to prep as much food as I can. In addition, I do a liquid breakfast. On days I run, its a simple green juice drink. And then on days when I lift weights, I do a recovery shake.
The bottom line
As you look for ways to eliminate the Big 5 expenses from your life, food is an easy place to start. Take time to focus on eliminating food expenses like eating out. Even small changes to your food consumption habits can compound to amazing savings in the future. Check out the next article in our FI series: https://fibyrei.com/optimizing-tax-expenses-is-critical/