1. Go for less convenience.
You pay for convenience. Stop eating out or cut way back first. Then, decide what foods you can handle the "old-fashioned" way. For example, baking bread can be much cheaper than buying bread, concentrated frozen juice is cheaper than ready-to-drink juice, and foods that require more preparation and have less packaging are cheaper than eat-on-the-go and microwave-ready foods.
2. Switch to water.
Many families spend a large proportion of their food budget on beverages. In most places, the tap water is perfectly healthy to drink and costs much less. Get a pitcher and put in the refrigerator, as it tastes better chilled. You can even add a few drops of lemon for flavor. A little bit of juice and milk each day help round out the diet. For people who must have coffee or tea, there are often cheaper options available than their usual brand. But the primary beverage for the whole family should be water – it is healthy, calorie-free, and very inexpensive.
3. Change your proteins.
Substitute bean proteins for meat for big savings. Dried beans are very nutritious and inexpensive and can be used in many flavorful meals as a cheaper alternative to a meat course.
4. Buy fresh only in season.
Nutritionists say that frozen fruits and vegetables are negligibly different from their fresh counterparts. Frozen is cheaper in two ways: it usually is by unit price, and it usually lasts longer as well.
5. Plan your meals and snacks weekly and buy only exactly what is needed to make what is on the menu.
Take a list to the store, eat before you go, and set a time limit and a dollar limit. Pay attention to unit prices.
6. Go less often.
Many families can save money by limiting grocery trips to once a month, with one additional short trip to restock fresh milk and produce. At the end of the month, most families have plenty of food left; they just have to be a bit more creative in their meal planning. Fewer trips also save gas.
7. Buy with cash only.
People are much less likely to overspend if they use cash instead of checks or credit. Make a budget that does not exceed the income for every pay cycle, pay bills and savings first, then use cash divided into envelopes for other expenses, including groceries and spending money. Do not allow yourself to spend more than what is in the envelope for any given expense category.
8. Check out this website for emergency and daily very-low-budget grocery lists, menus and preparation guides, including many recipes:
http://www.hillbillyhousewife.com/index.htm . Scroll down to Beginner's shortcuts for a $45 menu and list for families of 4 to 6, as well as a $70 dollar plan and a list of best buys in the grocery store.
9. Buy less fat and less sugar.
Many naturally high-fat foods are expensive. You may not want to cut them out of the diet altogether, but you might be fine on less than what you normally have eaten. High-sugar foods are often high-processed foods and these tend to be costly in the long run even though some seem to have low unit prices. As an alternative, bake once a week at home, or stock up on instant pudding – a relatively inexpensive and satisfying treat.