Saving Money When Buying Food

Save money on your food bill by planning before you go to the store.

Planning includes keeping in mind your family's needs. The basic needs to remember are:

  • What does my family like?
  • How many of us will be eating?
  • What do the kids or older people need?
  • Is it too hard to make?
  • How much money do I have for food?
  • Will we be eating away from home, so that I should buy less food?
  • Will friends and relatives come over for meals?
Another important part of food shopping is planning the menus for your family meals. Here are some tips to follow when planning a menu:

  • Your family needs
  • Good nutritious foods
  • Variety of foods keeping in mind texture, color, flavor, and temperature
  • Consider wise use of leftovers.
  • Weekly specials and seasonal food, such as fruits and vegetables.

Using a shopping list saves you time. It helps you control your spending. It also helps you remember all the items you need. Here are some helpful hints for making a shopping list:
  • Keep paper and pencil in the kitchen. You can write down things you need when you think of them.

  • Check your kitchen cabinets and refrigerator as you make your list.

  • Organize the list the same way the grocery store sections are laid out. You will save time and avoid forgetting items when you shop.

  • Look at the newspaper and ads for sales and coupons.
Here are some other helpful tips to get you through the grocery store without going broke:
  • Eat before shopping for food. Hungry people tend to buy more food than they planned on.

  • Know the current prices of the foods you buy most often.

  • Read food labels to learn about: contents, nutrition, quantity, number of servings, steps to prepare, serving and storage tips, and other useful facts.

  • Buy the amount of food that fits your family's needs and your storage space.

  • Buy larger sizes of items that won't spoil. It may be cheaper.

  • Buy the quality and size of food that fits how you will use it.
Compare your costs seven different ways.


  • prices of different brands.

  • cost of frozen, canned, fresh, and dried items of the same food.

  • number of servings in each food package.

  • prices at different stores.

  • prices of similar foods, such as fresh peaches and pears.

  • larger packages and two smaller ones of the same product to get the better value.

  • the cost of convenience foods vs. the cost of making it from scratch.
Prepared by Katherine J. Reuter, Consumer & Family Economics Educator, University of Illinois Extension.

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