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Food is expensive.
Along with housing and transportation, it’s one of our largest expenses. And since it’s necessary for survival, we have no choice but to spend our hard earned money on food.
I’m happy to say Mr. Taco and I have done a pretty good job at trimming down our housing and transportation costs. But food cost is the one thing that we still struggle with.
Right now we spend about $420/month on groceries. While we don’t think it’s out of control, we do think it’s an area of our expenses that could use a bit more attention.
I will mention that we love food and are ok with splurging. We enjoy and appreciate fresh veggies and fruit so we support our local food co-op and farmer’s markets. But that is not to say that there still isn’t room to spend less money on food each month.
Unfortunately, thinking about saving on food is overwhelming to us. So we don’t do it.
To save money we feel like we have to search high and low for coupons and shop at several different grocery stores to get the best deals. I mean, that is how you save money on food, right?
This sounds so time consuming and time is something we do NOT want to sacrifice just to save a few bucks. There has to be an easier way!
Then I started thinking about all the ways we “waste” money on food to come up with a plan for improvement. Then it dawned on me…
Jax, the cute 10lb dog that resides in our house, needs food like we do. But I don’t feel bad about how we spend our hard earned money on dog food. We barely think twice about that expense.
Why is this?
I started to think about how we can possibly learn something from how we approach buying dog food. Could this translate to human food?
I think we are onto something here.
Let’s first look at each of the ways we waste food at the Cash for Tacos headquarters.
Ways We Waste Money on Food
1. We throw food away!
This is one thing that drives me nuts each week. (Mr. Taco is a little more easy going than me)
I hate opening the refrigerator at the end of the week and seeing the rotting food that we didn’t end up eating. This happens often and it’s usually veggies we forgot about or meat we ended up not cooking. At least the veggies end up in the compost bin, but still!
We do make an attempt to plan our meals during the week. But we often forget about a weeknight dinner engagement or a lunch plans leaving us with extra food we didn’t end up eating.
I actually don’t know that this happens. Each week we look at our calendars and talk about what the week is going to be like, but we still miss shit!
And then there is the decision to eat out versus eating at home. We do our best to eat the food we bought or already cooked for the week, but some days we just don’t want to eat that leftover meatloaf.
The meatloaf then sits in the refrigerator getting slimy while we go out to eat chicken wings smothered in delicious sauce. I feel bad when this happens, as like I mentioned, I hate wasting food. But it’s a reality in this household.
Our lack of commitment to our plans results in throwing out food on a regular basis. And when food goes in the trash and not in our bellies, that equals wasted money.
2. We overspend on single food items
Grocery shopping is overwhelming. There are a ridiculous amount of stores to choose from. How do you know the best place to buy canned tomatoes?
It’s impossible—unless we want to spend an exorbitant amount of time making a spreadsheet to track the prices of everything we buy. Don’t get me wrong, I love me a spreadsheet. But I can tell you that I’m not spending our precious time together by keeping it up to date each time we grocery shop.
Here is what currently happens when we go to the grocery store: if we need pickles, we buy pickles, even though they may not be the best value. This is an easier approach for us and doesn’t require us to use any brain power on the purchase decision. It’s the path of least resistance and it’s what we’ve grown accustomed to.
Finding the best price is the most overwhelming aspect of grocery shopping to us. We want to spend our money wisely, but also don’t want to put a lot of time and effort into it.
How do we fix this dilemma?
Can Dog Food Save Us From Wasting Money on Groceries?
Now let’s think about dog food. In this house, we never feel like we waste money on dog food. Why is that?
For dog food; we have a plan, buy exactly what we need, and know where to buy it at the best price.
I know it’s a little easier with dog food. She eats the same thing every day and her food has a long shelf-life. But I still think we can think about think about this and use it to inspire some changes in how we buy human food.
1. We never throw dog food away
There are few reasons why we never throw away dog food.
- We know we need X amount of food for each day for breakfast and dinner to keep her at a healthy weight. This is our plan and we don’t stray from it.
- She absolutely loves her food so it never sits in her bowl untouched and later thrown away.
Mr Taco worked hard to find a food that Jax loved. It took a lot of trial and error, but he found one and never strays from it.
So the key takeaway here is to make a meal plan, fill that plan with food we love, then stick to the plan!
Right now Mr. Taco and I have a haphazard way of making our weekly meal plan so we miss opportunities to trim our grocery costs.
Our new plan is to intentionally sit down each weekend and make our food plan together. This way we can combine forces to ensure we use that entire bunch of cilantro before it turns into a slimy mess.
We are also going to make an effort to make delicious food that we love to eat. In our experience, we are less likely to go out to eat if we absolutely love the food we have at home.
When we look at Jax, she is so excited to eat each day. We want to feel the same way about the food we make for ourselves at home.
This will not only help us reduce our food waste as it will also have a positive impact on our “eating out” budget. Win win!
In addition to making a plan full of yummy food, we are going to make sure we don’t forget our plan.
To do this, we purchased a white board to place on the refrigerator. Each week we will write out of dinner meal plan for the week. It’s our hope that the act of writing out the plan, and also seeing it on a daily basis, will help us stay on track. Wish us luck!
With that said, step one in our mission to stop wasting money on food is:
Make a weekly meal plan full of delicious meals
2. We know where to buy dog food at the lowest price.
Finding the best price on dog food is easy—you only have to research one item!
Human food is a bit more difficult, as we buy so many different things each week. There is no way we will ever know the best place to buy every grocery item. And Mr Taco and I have no intention of spending our precious time running to five grocery stores each weekend.
But maybe we can still apply this principle. What if we only focused on finding the best prices on a few high price grocery items and our household staples?
As Mr. Taco and I talked about our food budget, we came up with a few ways to balance saving on food with living our lives:
- Use the weekly fliers to stock up on goods we know we will use, such as ingredients for the recipes we love. And then freeze perishable items using our Foodsaver.
- Buy pantry staples such as cooking oil, canned goods, etc. at stores like ALDI, where we know the value is good.
- Use only one coupon app to help us save a few dollars on groceries. Our grocery coupon app of choice is Ibotta.
Step Two in our mission to stop wasting money on food is:
Find a few staple items, get to know the prices, and buy wisely.
We Got This (and you do, too)
Our food budget is something that we haven’t given a lot of attention to in the past.
We attempt to buy things strategically using weekly fliers to plan meals, but we still ended up wasting food and not buying staples at the best price.
By thinking about how we purchase dog food, we were able to come up with a plan to hopefully clean up our grocery budget.
Our plan is:
1. Make a weekly meal plan full of delicious meals
2. Find a few staple items, get to know the prices, and buy wisely
I’m excited to implement some of these new strategies to see how much we can reduce our grocery spending while still buying the foods we love. Follow me on Instagram, @cashfortacosblog, and follow our journey.