How to Stop Overspending on Your Monthly Food Budget

couple shopping at the grocery store

Food is one of biggest monthly expenses in many households. According to Business Insider, the average family in Denver spends around $758 each month on food, including groceries and dining out. We all know food is an essential part of life, but by creating a food budget you can find ways to cut costs. Here are some common mistakes to avoid so you don’t overspend.

Going out to eat

Dining out is the number one way people overspend on food. According to Forbes, on average it’s almost five times more expensive to order delivery from a restaurant than it is to cook at home.

It’s easy to get into the habit of going out to eat for lunch when you’re at work. You might think it’s easier to go through a drive-thru and grab a quick bite, but it might actually take you less time to put together a similar meal at home. If you prepare your lunch ahead of time, you’ll not only save money, but you’ll have more time during your lunch hour to read a book or relax.

Keep track of how many times you’re eating out each week. If you’re eating out every day, start trying to cut that back by half, and then see if you can manage to cut back even more.

Shopping without a meal plan or list

Creating a meal plan for the week before you go to the grocery store will help you know exactly what you need to buy. Once you’ve written out your meal plan, make a list of all the ingredients you’ll need. Also write down any other essentials you might need for the week. When you get to the store, make sure you only buy the items on your list. Impulse buys add up quickly and before you know it, you’re overspending.

Choosing brand name over generic

In some cases, you may prefer a brand name item to generic, but generally with food, generic is just as good. Brand name food usually costs more because those companies pay more to advertise their products. The next time you visit the grocery store, try buying a few generic brands instead and compare for yourself.

Meat for every meal

Some families like to have meat with every meal. Substituting other protein sources like tofu or beans can end up saving you money.

Getting prepared food

Meal kit services are the new favorite trend. This is when a company sends you pre-portioned and partially prepared food kits that you use to prepare meals at home. According to Forbes, if you’re using a meal kit service as a shortcut, it’s almost three times as expensive as cooking from scratch. While meal kits might save you time, it’s not the most cost-effective way to prepare meals.

Shopping when you’re hungry

We’ve all been guilty of shopping on an empty stomach. When that happens, you’re more likely to make impulse purchases, especially because everything looks so good. Remind yourself to stick to your list and eat a snack if you’re hungry before heading to the grocery store.

Avoiding these common mistakes and sticking to a food budget will help you stop overspending each month. If you need help creating a food budget, use our free online personal financial management tool, My Financial Partner. It’s a great way to establish realistic budgets and track your spending.