10 Ways to Save Money on Food Expenses When You're Low in Budget

Life is certainly difficult for a lot of Filipinos at this time. It's no joke that an Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) is enforced because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people can't go out to work or just go anywhere. Most are stuck at home. But there's no other choice because life is at stake.

A common complaint is not having enough food on the table since many have no money. If they don't work, they get no pay. Since the majority of businesses are shut down now, it follows that many also do not earn any for food.

Although the local government and different government agencies are distributing food packs and cash assistance, some people still do not have enough to feed their families. We always include them in our prayers and help those we can.

How's your situation in your family? Do you have the same dilemma? I think that the COVID-19 pandemic is teaching most people, if not all, to think about the way we spend money. It is making us think of how we could stretch our budget, especially our food budget.

People need to do something to cope with the situation. Even if you can afford to buy food, it is still wise to know what to do to save some as you don't know when the situation will be better, when people could go out and work again.

Here are some of my suggestions as a mom who takes care of a family of 7. I try to always be mindful of how to save on our food expenses and I would like to share some tips here:

Smart Shopping

1. Plan your meals for the week before you go shopping.

It would be good to use a simple meal planner to know what you need to buy for the week. If you don't do this, you might end up just having chocolate cookies and canned goods in your pantry.

  • First, list what you plan to cook or prepare for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Include snacks as well. 
  • Second, take an inventory of the food items you still have at home. 
  • Last, list the items that you need to buy. 

Buying too much or too little is not good. Buying too much food could mean spending more unnecessarily and there's a probability of wastage. You might end up throwing away some of the perishable foods.

Buying too little would mean that you need to spend extra time, effort and transport fees to make another trip to the market.

2. Stick to your list. 

The best way for you to stick to your budget is to stick to the shopping list you made. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. In case there's an unadvertised sale on a product that you use frequently, you can buy it even if it's not on your list. Otherwise, buy only what's on your list.

3. Choose where to shop.

You can go to the grocery store or supermarket and conveniently buy what you need. If you can find out which store offers the cheaper price for similar items in general, go shopping in that store. Consider buying from the wet market as well as it is usually cheaper to buy fruits and vegetables there than in the supermarket.

4. Use coupons, or redeem reward points.

In some countries, couponing is very popular. People just need to sift through the newspaper every Sunday and cut out product coupons. They could buy advertised products a lot cheaper and even save more if the item is on sale.

Here, couponing is not as popular. What is usually offered in the supermarket is a way to earn points via a loyal shoppers card. Accumulated points can be redeemed as a discount for items you buy in the store.

By simply shopping smarter, you can save some cash on food every week. So, don't forget to make your list and bring it when you shop. Doing so will help you keep your budget.

Smart Meal Preparation and Consumption

5. Cook in bulk.

If you cook, cook in bulk to save on cooking gas and preparation time. You can cook meals in big batches (2-3 times a recipe) and divide the cooked food into several serving portions. Pack and freeze the other portions for later consumption. I really love the fact that we have freezers nowadays. Freezing foods is a good way to preserve food to consume later.

6. Use leftovers.

I know some people do not like to eat leftovers but think about it. If you throw leftovers away, you're throwing money away. If you don't like leftovers, make sure to prepare only enough food that your family can eat. Otherwise, learn creative ways of using leftovers to make other dishes and save food from wastage. For example, if you have some leftover roast chicken, use it to make soup, "sinangag" (fried rice/chow fan), or some other dish. If you have leftover pancit (noodles with vegetables and meat), you can use it to make lumpia.

7. Limit meat consumption.

When I shop, meat is usually the most expensive item in my shopping cart. Therefore, I try to stretch the use of meat whenever I cook meals.

For example, I don't use one whole chicken for just one dish. I use the chicken meat to cook 2 to 3 dishes. I fillet some of the breast meat and cook them like chicken nuggets or cordon bleu. I take the bony parts and make chicken soup. Then, I take the rest for a dish with sauteed vegetables or tomato sauce.

Also, I try to prepare meals with more vegetables. Aside from the fact that vegetables are very nutritious, they are a lot cheaper, too.

8. Practice food rationing.

We are 7 in the family and so we practice food rationing among family members. It means that after I could the dishes, I tell them more or less how much to eat. Most of the time, my children are the first to ask how many of the viand they can get (that's because they know already about rationing). For example, they can have 4 pieces of chicken nuggets each.

Sometimes, I just tell them to be mindful of others and get a small portion of the viand first. They could just get some more again if there's any left.

It's my duty as a mom to make sure that everybody gets to eat their meals. Sometimes, we eat less because we have less food on the table. But what's important is everybody eats. My children are very family familiar with the saying, "kapag maiksi ang kumot, matutong mamaluktot" (if the blanket is short, learn to bend your body).

9. Try a change of diet.

If you really want to save on food expenses, you might like to try changing how you are eating. You can try a vegetarian diet or go intermittent fasting. You get your bonus if you're also targeting to lose weight plus the diet might actually help you to feel better. (This is not for the kids, of course).

10. Grow your own food.

A wonderful way to save on food is if you can grow your own food. Seeds are not expensive, and you'll be serving fresher and healthier food to your family.

I'm actually glad that we have some plants in our backyard like malunggay and kamias, so we could just pick some when we need. And then there's our neighbor who is very kind to share with us the fruits of his Indian mango tree. Yummy!

You don't need to have a big garden to grow some vegetables like tomatoes, okra or pechay. You can try container gardening and vertical gardening. Engage your kids who might actually love gardening. 

I hope that you can take some of these tips on how to save money on your food budget and use them not just during this time of COVID-19 emergency but even beyond.


I agree with all you've mentioned. Sometimes we need to change our diet in order for us to save. I also watch for those with coupon deals.
Kristine Nicole Alessandra said…
I always recycle left over food. Whatever we have not finished becomes a "new" dish the next day. I wish I had a bigger space in my backyard. A vegetable garden would be a big money saver!
Kathryn said…
My family loves leftovers when we have them! With 9 of us we don’t always have them.
Natalie said…
Great tips. Very doable. I follow most of these tips everyday not just when money is tight.
Jocelyn said…
I really need to work on being better at smart shopping. I often will just go to the store, and while I do have a list, I often still add to it. So that'll be my goal to work on.

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