When it comes to ways to save on food bills, there are sales, coupons, meal planning, loyalty cards, and eating leftovers. You can also stop eating out and brown bag your lunches. But the best (and least used) way to save money on food is to simply eat less. Why is this strange? Because no one seems to think of it. People complain that their food costs are out of control and they go crazy trying to find ways to cut the grocery bill. Yet the fastest and easiest way to cut the bill is to stop eating so much.
In this country this is truly a strange idea for most people. Food is so plentiful and relatively cheap that we eat way too much of it. Portion sizes are outrageous, too, with restaurants routinely serving two to three times the recommended serving sizes. And no matter where we go, we’re surrounded by food. It’s the centerpiece of most social gatherings, it’s at every cash register (even in stores that have nothing to do with food), and there are shops and cafes on almost every corner. Food is so easy to get in the US that we forget that it’s not this way in many other countries. In many places, eating less isn’t a matter of saving money, it’s just the way things are.
The easiest way to eat less is to pare down your portions. If you’re in a restaurant, eat only half or even a third of what is served. Take the rest home and eat it the next day. You’ll get two or three meals for the price of one. Or, you can order from the kid’s menu which offers much smaller portions and smaller prices. At fast food places, don’t get the combo. Just get the sandwich and a drink.
At home, if you make a dish that you normally cut into four servings, try cutting it into six or eight. See if you can get more meals out of one dish. Eat half a sandwich or bagel instead of the whole thing. This will stretch a loaf of bread or bag of bagels twice as far. If you usually eat a whole bag of popcorn with your Saturday DVD rental, try eating half the bag. Experiment with your meals and snacks to see if you can cut your portions down. You might not miss the extra as much as you think you will.
Beyond watching your portions, you can eliminate certain foods from your diet altogether. If you’re used to eating a sandwich, chips, and cookies for lunch, try eating just the sandwich and some carrots. Drop soda in favor of water. Dropping soda alone will trim your food bill substantially. If you put cheese on your sandwich every day, try using cheese only twice a week or not at all. If you usually serve three side items at every dinner, try serving two. Or drop the rolls/biscuits. Look at what you put into each meal to see if you can eliminate it or reduce it.
Finally, you can try to use less of certain ingredients to stretch your food dollars. If a recipe calls for a cup of cheese, see if you can make do with half a cup. If you’re supposed to use a pound of ground beef in a casserole, see if half a pound will do. Can you substitute something else that’s less expensive like adding in an extra vegetable? If you use less of an ingredient for one meal, you’ll be able to get another meal out of the left over ingredients.
There are a couple of other tricks that can make eating less easier to take.
- Put your food on smaller plates. This visual trick makes it look like you’re eating more than you are.
- Eat slowly so that the full signal has time to reach your brain. When you pound the food down too fast, your brain doesn’t register fullness until you’re way past that point.
- When you’re at a restaurant, ask for a takeout box as soon as the food comes and immediately put half or 2/3 in the box. If you can’t see it, you’ll be less tempted to eat it.
Eating less has many benefits besides saving money on just food. Studies show that 68% of the American population is overweight or obese. Eating less would do most of us some good. The healthier you are, the lower your insurance and health care costs. If you lose weight, you’ll lighten the load in your car and save on gas. You might have more energy to get things done. At the very least, you’ll cut that food bill down without having to spend time clipping coupons and tracking sales.
Note: If you are already underweight or have a tendency toward any kind of eating disorder, do not attempt to eat less. Find other ways to save on your food bill. This article isn’t directed at you. It’s directed at the average American who could easily eat a little less
and save money in the process.