Save on Groceries Before You Leave Home

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Save on Groceries Before You Leave Home

One of the easiest ways to save money on your grocery bill starts before you even leave the house. It’s no extra work, you don’t have to deprive yourself of anything and you don’t have to clip any coupons. What is it? Stop wasting food.

On average most families throw away 50% of the food they buy. If you have trouble believing that then watch your family’s eating habits for the next few days. How many times did your child eat only half of his lunch or dinner or drink only half of his glass of milk or juice? How much food gets thrown away when you wash dishes? How many fruits and vegetables have rotted and been tossed? How much meat have you thrown away because it is freezer burned? And what about those leftovers in the fridge or the cartons of sour milk?

If this is you, do you realize if you spend $400 a month on groceries you are literally throwing $200 of it into the trash? What would you think if someone you knew took two $100 bills and threw them away?!? That would make dumpster divers out of the most genteel among us.

Here are some ideas on how to help you to stop the waste:

  1. Only fill a child’s (or adult’s) glass half full if they normally don’t drink it all. You can always give them more when that is gone. If they do have left over milk or juice at the end of the meal put it in the fridge for them to finish at another time.
  2. When you get ready to cook a piece of meat like a roast or chicken, plan ahead. For example, when I take a roast out to thaw I don’t think, “Ok, we’ll have roast and mashed potatoes tonight.” But I think “I will have roast and mashed potatoes tonight, Bar-B-Q beef tomorrow and beef and noodles the next night.” That way you won’t find yourself three days later gazing guiltily at that dying leftover roast thinking, “I really should do something with this but what?” and then end up throwing it out a week later.
  3. Check your fridge the night before you go to the grocery store. That way you can plan your menus and choose what to buy based on the leftovers you have.
  4. If all else fails, make one night a week as leftover night. That’s when you set out all your odds and ends of leftovers for everyone to polish off. This is especially good if you do it the night before you buy groceries because this leaves your fridge empty for the new things you are buying tomorrow.



  1. Tami Tietsort says

    Good ideas Jill! Since it just my husband & myself @ home & we’re still working & taking our lunches, for years I had a heck of a time. Finally, I got fed up with wondering what to have & all of that last minute urgency that causes one to eat out or grab anything edible all the while paying too much for the low quality food due to poor or no planning. Now on Sundays I fix a week’s worth of lunches & dinners & pre pack everything that I can & then just pop it into the lunch packs each morning before heading out the door. The money,time, mess & stress saved has been a real blessing to us both. I did spend just a little money initially on some plastic containers from ziplock and other store brands, but to be able to divvy everything up into a week’s worth for lunches & dinners has allowed for smooth transition from frige to table & minimal cleanup during the week after work. I am a happier person not stressing what to fix for dinner, or grabbing anything for lunch no matter the cost due to hunger. Also I used to try to put things together in the morning when I was still half asleep & that had proved disastrous on more than one occasion & made me very grumpy. We didn’t like that either.

    • says

      Good ideas Tami. I liked too the fact you found doing it in the morning didn’t work for you so you started doing it on the week end. I’m a morning person so I will sometimes suggest doing this or that in the morning and will have people say that won’t work for me because I can’t do it in the morning but what they need to do is like you find out what works for them and then do it. Don’t just scrap an idea because the time or way won’t work, figure out how to make it work for you.

      • Sheri says

        I do my husband’s lunch at night. If there are perishables in there, I pack it with some ice. I do the prep for trips at night too. So the only variables in the morning is how quickly people can get their breakfasts and get dressed.

        I also buy lots of canned lunches, such at raviolis at a great price for those days/nights it doesn’t get done. My husband can grab a can, an apple and a cup of yoghurt on his own.

        When there is a refrigerator at work, he can put the half the can back for the next day.

  2. says

    Hi, your article is a really good way to think about saving. I find myself wasting food like fresh potatoes going to sprout, celery…So when I see that I’m not going to use them I decide to cook the potatoes and freeze. The celery I chop it up and freeze for use in cooking.

  3. Kelsey says

    I read through most of your grocery budgeting articles, and I found some great ideas that I really look forward to trying! However, I do have a question for you. How do you save on baby food for an almost 10 month old? I know he won’t be on the mushy stuff that much longer, but it would be nice to avoid this expense all together. Any ideas?

    • says

      You just cut up adult food into small pieces and give it them. I’ve had 4 kids and bought about 10 jars of baby total. All those were for trips.

    • says

      Kelsey, first it is really easy to make baby food. Tawra has always used one of those hand held grinder mixer things and just would open a can of regular say peaches with a small amount of juice drained and stick the grinder in the can and blend. You can do this with any canned veggies or fruits. You can also do it with anything you fix for a regular family meal. Say you cook peas,sweet potatoes, carrots, black beans etc. for dinner mash a few for baby. You can use a regular blender too for this Tawra just finds the hand held things quicker and easier to clean.

      You can then freeze them in small containers or ice cube trays and pop a couple out as you need them. As they get bigger you can even add a little broth or formula to chunks of meat and grind it up for them. It really isn’t as hard or time consuming as you think. It would take her 2 mins. to grind up a large can of fruit and would have enough for several days.

      If you want then you could buy just a few jars to keep for when you go on a trip or something like that if need be.

      She didn’t even buy any baby food for her last baby except a few jars which she had coupons to get them free.Baring special allergies, babies can pretty much eat what adults do as long as it is mush and they don’t have to worry about chewing or choking on it.

      One thing I notice with many young moms too is they get so use to feeding them baby food they forget within even a few weeks time they are big enough to try all kinds of adult food. I would forever be eating something and would feed it to the baby and would tell Tawra did you know he loves this and she would say no. Yogurt, rice, mashed potatoes, gravy on and on.

      • mildred lane says

        Jill, u could do this for the elderly also. Those who have lost their teeth etc. I hate to cook but I love saving money. Tp night my 14 yr old son has 2 friends visiting. I just put in one potato each into the crock pot and a doz eggs that I got for $1 on to boil. When they are done I will set up a potato bar instead of going to Papa John’s…..Have a good night…

  4. Don says

    I just started looking around today, and must say that I think this is a great blog, but just want to clarify the 50% number. The studies actually show that it’s 50% of produced food that is never consumed. In general households were found to throw out about 14% of what they purchase. Make no mistake this is still a high amount (over $600/year), especially since much of it was products that weren’t even opened.

    Once again, I’m really enjoying your tips, and look forward to reading more.

    • says

      Don so glad you are enjoying the website and all. Just to let you and everyone else know when I give a number or percentage I usually try to study it quite a bit before posting often what happens is there are about as many different percentages as there are websites or articles out there so I try to use as much of what I consider an average as possible and choose what are considered the most reliable sources if there is such a thing.

      I also study people and their habits and what I see goes along with those percentages more then anything. But even at that if you will notice I said watch your own family and study what you do because each family is completely different and that percentage may not apply to you at all.

      Also the main point I was trying to make with the article is to use the food you have and don’t waste it. Whether it is 10% or 80%. If I had said use your leftovers like you hear most people say many people think I am talking about that little plastic container of food in the fridge from dinner the night before. They understand they should use those but I wanted them to look in other areas like the whole lettuce leaf they toss just because there was a pinhead size blemish on it or that food buried in the bottom of their freezer and cans of food in the deep dark recesses of their pantry.

  5. Rob says

    Just wanted to pop a quick response in here. My wife and I have been married for 4 months. It has been challenging to fit cooking dinner around our work schedule. Also, making lunches in the morning was taking far too long for the two of us.
    So, as a solution, we started a monthly menu. We planned out the meals for the entire month, leaving room for a few new recipes and 2 Sundays with no plans. This allows us to do the bulk of our shopping right after payday and we can cut back on the number of trips we make to the store, because we seem to buy more than we intend everytime we make a visit.
    The only items we buy each weekend are produce and, on occasion, meat if we need more. As a rule, we are each allowed to add 2 items that were not on the list. This has helped not only cut back the number of “extras” we buy, but also helped us with what to do for dinner. It is already planned out. Whichever one of us is home first gets dinner started. And meals with extra prep work are prepped during the weekend, because we only have 2 hours to cook, eat , and head to bed in the evening.
    As for lunches, we have gotten in the habit of packing lunch the night before. This means we are not scrambling to get it and ourselves ready in the morning. Most lunches are leftovers from dinner in the last few days. There are only two of us, so we make a little extra sometimes to have for lunch later in the week.
    Thanks for the great tips on keeping house, living simpler, and saving. I have greatly enjoyed the site! Keep up the good work.

    Rob (& Erin)

  6. Kelsey says

    Thank you for the wonderful ideas! I look forward to trying them! Most of the time when I eat anything I notice my son giving me the “aren’t you going to share some of that with me?” look. :) My son will be 11 months on the 13th of March, is he at the age where he can just have cut up versions of what we usually eat? Or does he still need things like pureed meats and things? Thanks for your replies! :)

    • says

      Kelsey it pretty much depends on what he has for teeth. With my kids and grandkids as soon as the can chew things they can start eating “big people’s” food. The thing is some kids get teeth earlier then others. They don’t need them all either just a few.

      That being said even without teeth there is a lot they can eat. Mashed potatoes, pudding,small pieces of fruit, hamburger (like you would fix to put in a taco), tiny bits of chicken, peas or corn, scrambled egg, oatmeal, cream of wheat, crackers. The only thing is just whether they can choke on it and most things if cut small enough they will do ok.

      I let my grandkids try almost anything I am eating. Muffins, cinnamon rolls, ice cream, cookies (what can I say I’m their Nana) :) :) So go for it.

  7. says

    I used to give the boys the crust off a pizza when we had them. they made great things to chew when their teeth were coming in.
    I know people say they can choke on them but when they are sitting in the high chair arms length away I felt pretty safe.
    I am like you Jill. let them try almost everything you do. It gets them used to eating what you eat so it is easier when they get older. It also makes them more adventurous.

  8. halleycomet says

    Some kids are much better with getting the solid food to the back of the mouth and swallowing it. We use regular food cut small for kids/grandkids and in fact all of these guys have hated anything from a jar. Even small pieces of pasta—not the “baby pastena” which is too small to grasp –for finger food is great—they can grasp it and get it in their own mouth and that is an amazing thing for them.

    What you need to watch ios things that are too dry and fine—popcorn and crumbs, rice cakes etc can be INHALED and even if the kid doesn’t choke that can wind up in a lung with serious problems.

    ALSO they tell you not to feed a kid a HOT DOG—not because the hot dog is that bad for them once in a while but because some people just hand over a solid weiner and the kid takes a chomp and inhales or can’t chew and swallows and chokes on it. This is because the diameter of the hot dog is about the SAME as the throat opening of a child—and even some adults! So if you are going to give them anything like that even a tofu “dog” CUT IT LENGTHWISE AND THEN CROSSWISE into bits. Ditto even a cooked carrot “coin” or similar.

    When in doubt CUT IT UP

    I carry a Swiss Army Knife and there is little our kids/grandkids have NOT eaten after I cut it up—even lobsta!

  9. rose says

    my hubby, who has leukemia and stomach cancer, well he is on a regimented and restricted diet .. and even tho i cook him vegi’s and can puree, juice or even put them in a blender, and/or use a food processor (which i have many times using these items) . i have bought him organic baby food .. they are for back up and yes, he has eaten them .. granted they dont taste like i just made his vegi’s but in a pinch or an emergency (i bought several jars last summer when we thought we were going to be hit with a hurricane) .. and yes, he says they arent bad tasting at all (he prefers fresh).. but its organic and the ingrediants are whatever vegi listed and water .. they are small jars but for an emergency this is fine for babies and adults too ..
    i got these at walmart and the brands are gerber and beechnut .. they werent much different in price as the other ones that do not have the “organic” on the label .. and yes, i have given him the fruit too and the cereal (altho the cereal is not on his diet now; he cant have any carbs like pasta’s, rice, potatoes; its part of the diet for the cancer and leukemia .. nothing but fruits and vegi’s .. cage free eggs, grass fed beef .. etc) ..
    just wanted to share .. 😀

    • says

      Rose you are certainly lucky that you live where you do and not where I do.
      Organic anything is kind of hard to get in the summer and extremely hard in the winter.
      If I had to do your diet I would make up pumpkin pie custard. Exactly the same as pie filling made from scratch with an extra egg and less milk.
      It freezes well so you would have it on hand.
      Not even sure if they label beef as grass fed.
      We can get free range eggs but at $5. a dozen instead of $3. it isn’t worth it to most people unless it for a health or diet reason.
      The stores are starting to have more shelf items that are organic so if people are into organic it is getting easier.
      Thankfully the only foods I have to avoid for me is citrus and for Don pork.
      So he gets an orange in his lunch where I don’t have to see him eating one of my favourite food items and I can have pork when he is night shift for my dinner.
      Works out pretty good.
      You seem to have everything under control which is good as it makes your life easier and husband more comfortable.

  10. rose says

    so true grandma .. but it can be a bit of a challenge esp with the price of these things .. we eat alot of eggs .. but he doesnt .. i cant buy those eggs for me and my son bc its too high and to be quite honest, they taste and look the same as the regular eggs i buy .. except they are brown and mine are white .. its very frustrating bc even tho these things say they are organic and grass fed i sometimes question this .. the food looks and smells the same as the regular stuff i buy ..
    as far as the fresh vegi’s go, well we all get the same . i flatly refuse to pay $6/lb for organic tomatoes .. its not happening and well he doesnt like it but oh well .. i buy what i can for the fresh fruits and vegi’s and there are times we all eat frozen ..
    b4 for they had the organic meat in the supermarkets, i fed him the regular meat in the stores (the supermarket) but not the meat from walmart .. u can definitely taste a difference .. and i told hubby that if i am short and cant get what he wants oh well .. he will have to deal with it .. my son and i have to eat too ..
    hubby would like to have a garden .. thats all fine and dandy but not where i live now .. i wont and cant handle that .. we have issues with the mice now in the nieghborhood .. and well with all the farmers markets here we can just buy the vegi’s .. in fact when we move (hopefully we will hear if we are approved later this week!) i can walk about 2 blocks and go shopping.. so this will save money too ..
    and thats so true grandma .. i do try to have things under control and try to make him as happy and comfortable as possible ..
    his dr’s dont help at all by changing his diet every time u turn around .. but i told him he needs to make himself happy and well he has enuff to deal wtih ..
    in the new apt we will have to get rid of our pets .. this is making him very sad .. we knew the dogs would have to go down sooner or later bc of their health issues but our cat, we have had him for almost 14 yrs .. i am going to see if the dr will sign a form for the cat to be classified as a service pet .. with hubby’s disease, he is prone to depression and well the cat does seem to keep him entertained at times .. our other cat used to sit with his and let hubby just vent .. and now this cat does this too .. so hopefully we can take the cat .. it will be good for hubby to have him around .. esp at nite .. the cat normally sleeps wiht me but there are times he curls up next to hubby too ..

    • says

      I’m like you Rose, I can’t tell one bit of difference in the taste of organic or not organic things. I even had chickens at one time and got fresh eggs each day and couldn’t tell any difference in the taste of them like so many say you can. I think sometimes we hear or see something enough that we actually start believing it. I buy my grocery stores cheapest ice cream and it is so creamy and the flavor is so good. One day I was at a store and they were having a blind taste test on ice cream between my cheap stuff and another very very expensive brand to see which they liked the best. Every single person there chose the cheap brand over the expensive saying it was way better. They could not believe it because a bunch of them before they started said their brand (the expensive one) was so much better and would win hands down.

      Part too is just what you are use too. For years I had heard people go on and on about a certain expensive chocolate and the first time I tasted some I thought I was in for a treat. Now I won’t say I didn’t like it because I don’t care what form it is in I will eat any chocolate but I didn’t like it as well as my good old Hersheys with almonds. That is what I was raised on though so I think I liked it best because it was familiar. In the same way some like Hershey’s chocolate over Nestles quik in their milk, neither is bad it just is what you are use to.

  11. says

    A lot of health officials are now saying organic is not as good as it was first thought.
    Way too expensive for the hype and if you wash your vegetables and fruit properly you get any residue off so you don’t need the organic.
    Last year I was getting fresh eggs for a bit cheaper than in the store so was going once a week to get them. I wouldn’t make a special trip but we had to pass by when we went to get cigarettes. They were exactly the same in taste that you get in the store but there was usually a couple blue eggs in the tray. Also there was no way of picking out sizes so some mornings I ended up using 6 eggs to make scrabled eggs for breakfast as all the eggs were tiny.
    Every once in a while my husband goes on a healthy eating kick. Last year it was brown and rye bread.
    Today I called my neighbour who bakes a lot and asked if they wanted a pail of whole wheat flour and two containers of rye flour. Don decided he didn’t like the taste of it homemade and it has been sitting sealed on shelves in my kitchen.
    I am trying to get the shelves cleared off as they are open and we are having the downstairs painted next week so it has to be cleaned and taken down.
    Good excuse to get rid of stuff. Food bank won’t take it because they have been opened and I hated the thought of throwing it out with the price of flour what it is. So now someone who can use it can have it.
    I like it when something goes right.
    Newly painted kitchen less stuff to stare at and my neighbour benefits.
    He is about to take our snowblower and get rid of some of the 15 – 20 centimeters we are now in the process of getting.
    I like my neighbours.

  12. megan says

    This is an older comment thread but just wanted to say that depending upon the vegetable or fruit, it DOES make a difference whether it’s organic or grown with pesticide/herbicides because some of the chemicals are systemic rather than topical. This means that if it’s topical, washing the fruit or veggies will wash off some/most/nearly all of the chemical. If it’s systemtic it doesn’t matter how well you wash the veggie or fruit–the chemical is through the entire veggie or fruit.

    I get eggs from a local farm, and yes there are different sizes. I pair up the largest with the smallest eggs and find that usually works well for me.

  13. Chris says

    I’m especially fond of doing your #3 “Check your fridge the night before you go to the grocery store” & #4 “If all else fails, make one night a week as leftover night” suggestions.

    I believe those 2 practices really make a significant dent in your food budget if you do them regularly. With leftovers, besides letting folks choose what they want – you can also revinvent them by adding just a couple of ingredients or a different side dish, thereby creating a whole new meal.

    • says

      I agree Chris. I have studied this over and over and still find that the average family throws 50% of the food they buy away. Can you imagine spending $600 a month on groceries and throwing $300 of it away. Even if it was only $100 that is still a lot. I don’t know about anyone else but I just can’t afford to throw $100 let alone $300 in the garbage.

  14. says

    Most families don’t realize it but food that gets wasted can end up denting the finances. Plus, I believe all these are actually handy tips that can work effectively.

  15. Veronica Tidd says

    I recently read the label on name brand jam and the first ingredient is high fructose corn syrup and the second is corn syrup. At the same time I saw an advert for an automatic jam maker and brought one at what I consider enormouse expense. I usually buy these kinds of rarely used appliances at thrift stores but this one is too new. There are very few recipes that come with it but the ratio seems to be 2 2/3 cups of fruit to 3 1/2 cups sugar. It only makes about 4 cups at once but only takes 20 mins and stirs itself. I had never used pectin before and would prefer not to as it is so expensive and will experiment further. So far I have sucessfully made sweet orange marmalade and dried apricot jam both sucessfully without manufacturers recipes I have not dared calculate the cost but know the quality. The top manufacturer lists the price per pound as over $4. The manufacturer stresses that you must use their recipes and products for sucess but i am will to be left with a few jars of fruit sauce if that’s what it takes. Hopefully other readers will have recipes to share

  16. Julie says

    Organic isn’t about the taste. It’s about if pesticides are used or not . If they are used the skin of the vegetable or fruit retains the chemicals regardless of how many times you wash it. If you can’t buy all organic then only but organic on the fruits and vegetables that you will be eating the skin or rind and not peeling.

  17. Alice says

    One thing I didn’t see here is, if you are pregnant now, please consider nursing your baby instead of using formula. It can cost over $100 a week for formula, and it’s not nearly as nutritious as mother’s milk. This will also keep the baby healthier, and help Mom lose weight.

  18. Mary Jane says

    To avoid wasting food, I have made large batches of cookies for lunches, and then frozen them two at a time in lunch baggies, and keep them in the freezer. My husband takes a frozen bag with him every morning, and by lunch time, it is thawed and ready. We are empty nesters, but I always cook supper for three people. The husband takes a portion in his lunch the next day. We don’t eat up a whole loaf of bread, or drink a whole gallon of milk before it goes bad, so now I freeze the bread in half loaves, and divide the milk up into 1 liter (or 1 quart) containers and freeze them. I take out a liter as I need it. Most home economic books say that frozen vegetables in the freezer will only last 6 to 9 months at most. I have found that most home raised food will last up to 2 years in the freezer, if it is carefully wrapped. Even veggies that are a wee bit freezer burned still can be used in pot pies, stews soups and casseroles, without most people noticing. So wrap your food well. If something comes from the store, don’t be afraid to over wrap it again, especially if you don’t expect to use it up right away. Most home canning will last up top two years on the shelf, as long as lids are intact, and they are protected from extremes in temperatures, and direct sunlight. If you do find outdated stores in your larder, you can use older, unusable meat (either freezer burned or canned) to serve larger dogs instead of expensive dog food. Outdated fruits and vegetables can always go into a garden compost heap if you have one, or to feeding poultry or pigs. It is not as good as eating it yourself, but it is better than just tossing things into the garbage.

  19. Victoria Gibson says

    After reading this I sat down to watch how much food we throw away as a family of seven. I was shocked to find out it was less than a cup each day. I give the children a little less than I think they’ll eat, that way I can always add more. Also, what is not eaten that night (no fridge), goes into a container in our big freezer, and we have soup or stew from that when it gets full. Leftover bread, biscuits, or cornbread go into the microwave (think old time pie safe style), and are eaten for breakfast in the morning. Usually what is thrown out is on the plates (I’ve seen people recycle food off of that has been eaten out of, but I don’t think that is for me.) It’s nice to be able to realize that you are doing all you can to save. And btw, the extra bits of meat (when there are any) go to the dogs, and the veggies go into our compost heap as we have no chickens right now.

  20. EB in MO says

    I just have to put in my 2 cents worth on freezer burned meat. There were times that I would have given almost anything for even meat in that condition. Freezer burn isn’t spoiled. It’s mainly a cosmetic result of improper wrapping and storage. But, I have to admit that we eat as much with our eyes as we do with out mouths, so I disguise the meat. Soups, stews, “slumgullion”, sandwich filling, spaghetti with meat sauce. In our family, meat would have to be spoiled before it would be discarded. My husband and I both were raised in homes that barely scraped by at times. As a single mom of 3 boys, I HAD to stretch a dollar until you could practically read through it. Olds habits die hard and with the price of groceries right now I’m glad I still know how to work at keeping costs down.

    • says

      This is true. Freezer burned something is not spoiled. The flavor is just different. Also true for canned goods. They can go way past expiration date and it doesn’t spoil. The flavor is not quite the same but not bad either. I think we throw away way to many canned goods when they are perfectly fine. I have also noticed that when they first started having expiration dates they would be 5 years and even more that you could keep them. Gradually over the years that number has gotten smaller and smaller so now many can goods with the same type of product in it is only 1-2 years. Hummm???? Why wouldn’t the companies do that? They will do anything to get you to buy more of their product. They are feeding into people’s”food fear” (does it have sugar, preservatives, fat, sodium, gluten…)and one of those fears is is it spoiled. Most people 35 and younger have no idea what it was like to live in a world without labels and expiration dates. You never threw out food and often kept it for years.

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