Buzz: Your tips for a frugal food budget

Sep. 7, 2012 at 10:19 AM ET

You’ve got to eat, but – as many of our readers have learned – you don’t have to break the bank doing so.

This week in Life Inc., we featured a story on how one woman saved $600 a month on her grocery bill by making a few basic changes to planning and shopping for food.

The post prompted a number of readers to share their own tips for saving money on food. Here are some of our favorites.

1. Don’t shop based on sales or coupons

That’s right, you read that correctly. Several readers said coupons and sales can actually end up being a waste of money if the good deal lulls you into buying pricier foods or items your family doesn’t normally eat.

“Most sale items (with the exception of fruits/veggies) are packed full of preservatives. Eating for less shouldn't mean you stop eating healthy. I rarely plan my grocery trips around circulars, but I do check to see (and compare) if what I usually buy is on sale,” one reader wrote.

2. Do consider store brands.

Several readers said they have switched to generic or store brands for staples, saving a bundle without losing out on taste or quality.

“What really saves money is to try store brands. I've found that store brands of some food items are every bit as good as the name brand, and a whole lot cheaper (even if you have a coupon for the name brand),” one reader noted.


3. Make and serve food your family wants to eat.

Planning meals on a budget can have some unhappy consequences: Unappetizing leftovers, huge vats of soup your picky eaters won’t touch or big piles of ingredients no one has time to cook on a busy weeknight.

Several readers offered tips for planning ahead to make sure your frugal food plans don’t go awry. Here’s one we loved, for avoiding the monotony of eating what you cook in bulk:

“I freeze a lot of our leftovers so we're not eating them a couple days in a row. I need a little variety! And when there's a busy day with no time to cook, just thaw and re-heat,” the reader wrote.

4. Learn to cook.

OK, this may be a longer-term goal for some people. But many readers noted that prepared meals can be a lot more expensive than making things from scratch. Homemade food can also be healthier and tastier.

“If you don't know how to make tasty meals from about anything, you are paying a cook. You paid the cook that put it in the box or can before it went on the shelf. If you can't afford a private chef, you need to learn how to cook,” one reader wrote.

Do you have tips for being a frugal foodie? Share them in the comments below.

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