9 Tips to Stretch Your Food Budget

There’s no getting around it: Food is expensive right now. It may be hard to stick to your budget, but there are many ways to be resourceful with what you have without feeling as though you have your head just above water. The tips below, from four budgeting experts, can help you maximize your food budget.

Focus on Cooking

It should go without saying, but cooking at home is almost always cheaper (and healthier!) in the long term than going out to eat or ordering in. To make it even easier on yourself, keep your pantry stocked with essentials to make quick, simple recipes: a fast pizza with store-bought dough, a stir-fry built on frozen vegetables, 15-minute quesadillas. Having a collection of recipes you love to make can curb the urge to call for delivery.

Eat Less Meat

Toni Okamoto, who runs the blog Plant-Based on a Budget, recommends cutting out meat at least one or two times a week. It’s the “one thing that comes up over and over again,” Ms. Okamoto said, in the budget cookbooks she has read, both vegetarian and not.

“If you can go meatless a couple of times per week, you can definitely save,” she said. Hearty eggs, legumes and tofu can all serve as sources of protein. And not only are they cheap, they often last longer in the fridge than the average piece of meat, meaning there’s less of a chance that they’ll go to waste when life inevitably gets in the way of dinner.

Avoid Wasting Food

Speaking of, several experts noted that wasting food is basically throwing money in the trash. “It always breaks my heart,” Ms. Okamoto said. Reframing it as such may have you thinking twice before you buy more than you need, or simply let something languish. If you’ve never given a lot of thought to curbing your waste, here are a few good places to start:

Repurpose your odds and ends into something else, like pizza and soups, frittatas and tacos. Beth Moncel, who runs the blog Budget Bytes, calls them “anything meals.” She plays around with putting different ingredients together in a bowl and thinks of it as a fun experiment. Many recipes also have a bit of flexibility when it comes to proteins or vegetables, so feel free to improvise — you may find just your next favorite dish. My colleague Margaux Laskey made a habit of making something she called “kitchen sink pizza,” topping it with whatever was left in the fridge at the end of the week: dal, pot roast, pasta alla vodka. “All manner of leftovers,” she said, adding, “you’d be surprised what tastes great on pizza.”

Be mindful of what you have. Get in the habit of checking what’s in your fridge, making a mental note of what you tend to throw away most, and either use it up or buy less of it moving forward. And don’t discount frozen produce. It’s picked at its peak, washed and chopped for ease, and doesn’t expire as quickly, meaning it’s fine if you can’t get to it immediately.

Back to top button