Food & Finance — Money-Saving Tips

by in View All Posts, January 15th, 2009

Sweet Dollar Signs
Hi readers! Welcome to my inaugural Food & Finance post. While the mere arrival of the New Year is cause for happiness, the current economic situation is not. Since my role at Food Network is to save the company money, I wanted to share some handy tips on reducing your food bill.

Whether single, a couple or family of 12 – we all eat; and my guess is that most of us can do it for less. Every month, I’ll share suggestions for eating in, eating out, and even entertaining on a budget. I’ll answer your questions and provide a forum for you to share thrifty ideas with fellow readers. So let’s all eat amazingly well (perhaps even better than before) and save stunning amounts of cash – all without extraordinary effort.

Happy New Year and let’s make a plump, juicy bank account the most popular dish of 2009!

Yours in food frugality,

Money Saving Tips — Week of January 19, 2009

Write a Food Budget – the key to saving is knowing how much you have to spend in the first place. Once you’ve developed a monthly food budget based on your old 2008 reality, take a stab at chopping 10% – 20% off (yes, I said 10% – 20%). That new number is your goal budget. Follow my Food & Finance tips, track your spending and let me know how your new food frugality works out.

Use a shopping list — Once you have an ’09 monthly goal budget, you have a guide for creating weekly shopping lists (or for however frequently you shop). Unlike a credit card – which you should leave at home, frozen in a block of ice – you should never, ever leave home to shop without your list. Here’s what to do:

1. Compile. Write down everything you intend to buy. Put “want” next to things you want and “need” next to things you need.

2. Research. Write down the estimated price of each item, which should be easy after a couple of weeks of reading grocery circulars, checking stickers on the meat in your freezer and, here’s a big one…paying with cash at the supermarket. It only takes ONE event – like having the cashier scream, “Someone from seafood needs to come to checkout to pick up shrimp; customer doesn’t have enough money to pay” on the intercom – to get you to calculate prices. Remember to give yourself credit for any coupons. Then add it all up and write down the total you’ll spend if you buy everything on your list.

3. Compare the shopping list total with your weekly goal budget.

4. Balance. If your list is more than your weekly goal budget, start crossing off your “wants”. When the shopping list is equal to or less than your weekly goal budget, you’re ready to shop. One important tip: Never deviate from the list! If it’s not on there, it should not be in your basket.

Believe me, this pays off. Once you get to the cashier, present your coupons and unload your basket. You won’t sweat if you have enough cash to pay for it all. You also won’t be searching your bag for the credit card you de-iced last night. In fact, you may find that you have a few dollars and cents left over to supplement next week’s budget. At the end of the month, you’ve saved 10% – 20% over your oh-so-long-ago ’08 food finance drain! Your bank account is getting plumper by the minute.

Clip Coupons – sounds easy and obvious, I know.
Let’s separate myth from reality

Myth: “They’re all for packaged foods and I only eat fresh”
Reality: Au contraire! While there are more coupons for packaged goods than fresh foods, there are coupons out there for everything from salad greens to fresh chickens. Markets often have in-store coupons on fresh items as well, including produce and meat – though you may need to become a member of their affinity shopper program to get the discount. Also Fresh Foodie, clip coupons for non-food items to support your fresh food cravings by spending less on everything from razors to paper towels.

Myth: “I look for coupons in my newspaper, but there aren’t that many.”
Reality: Why limit yourself to 19th century technology? No excuses! The internet is nearing its twentieth birthday and you need to embrace it — coupon sites abound online and on manufacturer websites. Just search for what you want. There are coupons for anything (perhaps not foie gras), but who’s thinking about that in this year of austerity? Get online, print those coupons and use them at the store. Also check your market circulars for instant in-store coupons (again, joining an affinity program may be required), and scan grocery store shelves and your mail for special offers. Leave no page (paper or web) unturned.

Photo credit: dollar sign lollipops can be found here.

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Comments (28)

  1. Chris says:

    Some good advice here, but beware! Many retailers refuse to honor e-coupons. If you're savvy enough to find e-coupons, go the extra step to unearth your grocer's coupon policy. It should be online. Then, go armed with a copy the first few times you want to redeem those e-coupons. Happy Saving!

  2. Robin Koury says:

    Great tips Roni! First let me start by saying who would have ever thought FN had a coupon clipping department. Absolutely AWESOME! I’ve never went as far as writing a food budget but now that you say it a list makes total sense and plan to give it a whirl this week. When I was first married my husband and I went to the grocery store and purchased any and everything we thought we might want – need – or like. It wasn’t long before we realized our grocery bill was out of control and we were throwing away a ridiculous amount of food. By creating a grocery list we actually saved 50% off of our old grocery bill and saved a ton of time on extra trips to the market due to our previous poor planning. With the extra money we save now, I was able to start a vacation savings account. Once a year we empty the account and go on a fabulous vacation and best of all I don’t feel like I’m giving up anything I actually want! I hope you will post more cost savings tips during the year this was very helpful.

  3. miamic says:

    these tips are really going to spark me to pay attention and focus on saving my extremely valuable duckets. Thanks for sharing tips that will jumpstart my new riches in ’09

  4. Marcella says:

    Fantastic Advise! I remeber being a young mother on a very limited budget, applying some of these principles. My girls and I not only survived, by ate well every day. 20 much more comfortable years later, as my 401K dwindles away, I again am looking for ways to pinch pennies, saving them for my unknown tomorrows.
    Thanks for putting numbers on it, really put things into perspective!

  5. Edna says:

    Making a list of wants &needs is a great idea. Thanks for the tip. I usually go to get a few things and wind up with a full shopping cart. I’m sure I’ll find myself saving money.

  6. Donah says:

    Thank for sharing your tips Roni.


  7. Laurie says:

    Hi Roni. As I was growing up, we were on a tight budget, so I can relate to the stuff you mentioned. But what happens when you marry the pickiest man in the world? He only eats the best meats, wants name brands, and fresh veggies. I grew up buying store brand (most of the time, it’s cheaper). I did get him to buy a few items store brand, but not all. He sill wants his $15 steak, and his $4 paper towels (he grew up with a family that can afford this stuff). But I still shop at the dollar store … go figure (where I can get his paper towels $2 off … wink wink). Well, I guess I just answered my own question. Oh, that’s a good suggestion for the rest of you … Try the local dollar store. It is, most of the time, cheaper than most grocery stores.


  8. Dionne says:

    Great tips Roni! Relevant and extremely timely – I will share this will all of my friends! Happy Eating!!

  9. mlevine says:

    From Roni: “A word about online coupon use: I’ve yet to have a problem using online coupons, but make sure that you print the coupons using a high quality printer – if the cashier cannot scan the coupon, it is unlikely to be accepted.
    Also read the coupons to make sure that there are no stated restrictions on use that apply to you.”

  10. Phyllis says:

    there is a site called and you can put coupons on your store card. these can also be used along with a actual coupon. Whenever I find a good deal on something we use a lot, I buy a little extra and put back for when we need it.If hamburger or chicken is on sale just buy a extra package. you will be suprised how much you can save.

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