Food prices have been hit hard by inflation of late, with the worst increases in about 20 years. Meat, milk, bread, eggs, produce all cost more than they used to. It’s getting harder and harder to feed a family healthy meals.

food budget

Fortunately, it’s not necessarily impossible, merely more challenging.

One of the simplest things you can do to help your food budget is to cut waste. Here in the United States tremendous amounts of food are wasted by most families. If you work harder on using up your leftovers you can save a significant amount of money.

For example, pack up dinner leftovers for lunch the next day. You can eat them yourself or send them with an ice pack with the kids to school if it’s something that tastes good enough cold. A thermos bottle can help with foods that should be eaten warm. Just make sure you heat the food hot enough that a good thermos will keep it over 140 degrees F.

Think also about what you’re eating. If you can cut back on the amount of meat you consume in a meal and/or have the occasional meatless meal you can save quite a bit. Beans, rice, lentils and such can be significantly cheaper than meats. Vegetarian meals can be quite tasty.

Similarly you can reconsider the cuts of meat you buy. Cheaper cuts can still taste quite good if prepared correctly. Crock pots are great at making even cheap meats tender.

With chicken, buying a whole one can have advantages. It’s enough for 1-2 meals, depending on the size of your family, and you can make soup from the leftovers for yet another cheap meal.

But much of your savings come down to how you shop for food. Start paying close attention to the flyers that come from grocery stores near to you. You won’t save if you’re driving too far, but if you’re lucky you will have at least a few stores to choose from. You may as well shop each for the items they have at good prices.

Keeping a price book can be a big help. You can do it alphabetically or by the order of the items in the store you shop most, but know what regular prices are and what standard sale prices are. This helps you to figure out if it’s an unusually good deal that you should stock up on if you can, or if you need to figure out an alternative that week.

Coupons can also be a help if, and I emphasize IF, they are items you would be buying anyhow. If you weren’t going to buy it, you can end up spending more money and ending up with things you aren’t going to use up.

Plan your meals around the coupons and deals that you find each week. By planning ahead you can buy only what you need and reduce your food waste still further. It also helps to limit your spontaneous purchases if you can tell yourself you aren’t going to use it.

For those who have the space and a sufficiently green thumb, gardening is another option. A good garden is exercise combined with a food source. It’s also great for teaching children about where their food really comes from. And of course homegrown produce simply tastes better.