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How to save money on groceries and waste less

For many households in the US food shopping is among the biggest expenses.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average household spends around $411 a month on food. Over the course of a year, that’s $4,932.

If you managed to shave $5 a week off your shopping bill, you’d save over $250 a year. Shave $10 off and you’d save over $500.

How weekly savings add up
Weekly saving Annual saving
$5 $260
$10 $520
$15 $780
$20 $1,040
$25 $1,300
How weekly savings add up
Weekly saving $5 $5
Annual saving $260 $260
Weekly saving $10 $10
Annual saving $520 $520
Weekly saving $15 $15
Annual saving $780 $780
Weekly saving $20 $20
Annual saving $1,040 $1,040
Weekly saving $25 $25
Annual saving $1,300 $1,300

Depending on your financial situation, you could use the money you save to pay off debts, build an emergency fund, or invest.

Skip to the tips to save money.

Reducing waste

According to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, 30-40% of the nation’s food supply goes to waste.

Food production and waste are among the highest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, which cause global warming and climate change.

Vast amounts of resources – including energy, water and fuel – go into the process of producing, storing, transporting and disposing of food.

So wasting less could save you money and have a positive impact on the environment.

Here are some tips to help you get started.

Tips on how to save money and waste less food

Here are some common reasons why we end up wasting food:

  • not keeping things in the fridge
  • not making the most of ingredients – for example, throwing out crusts and vegetable stalks or skins
  • letting food expire without using it
  • throwing away leftovers rather than eating them
  • serving bigger portions than necessary

1. Set a budget

Creating a budget is an excellent way to make the most of your money. Start by estimating how much you’ve spent on food in the last 3 months. Check your transactions and statements to help add it up.

Are you comfortable with the amount you’re spending, or do you want to cut back? If so, by how much? It helps to set yourself a goal.

Then, each time you make a budget – for example, once a month when you get paid – set aside a certain amount for food. Make sure it’s realistic – it’s fine to include luxury items as long as you’re spending within your means.

Learn more about budgeting and use our monthly planning tools at the HSBC Financial Wellness Center.

2. Plan your meals

Make a list of your main meals for the coming week, including any ingredients you'll need. Check which ingredients you already have and add the rest to your list.

If you’ve already got food, try to account for it in your plan – especially fresh food that could go to waste. Are there items you could add, or substitute, in to the next week’s recipes to save you buying more? 

Think about the types of ingredients on your list and try to include some cheaper meals. Is there anything you could batch cook to cover 2 dinners?

The main thing is to know why you’re buying each item and to have a plan for how and when you’ll use it – even if that’s just an afternoon snack or a late-night nibble.

3. Think about when and where you’ll shop

Shopping less often can help you think more carefully about what you buy and save you money. You may find it easier to stick to your budget if you shop once a week – whether that’s at one supermarket, or at several smaller shops.

And try to find the right shops for you – ones that have the types of food you want at prices that fit with your budget.

4. Go online

Shopping online is a good way to manage your budget, as you can monitor how much you’re spending with every item you add to your basket. Some shops offer a similar in-store experience, where you can add up as you go along.

Even if you’re not placing an order, you can check prices online to have a better idea of whether your shopping list fits your budget.

5. Store your food carefully

Check the best way to store different foods so they don’t expire before you get to use them. Check use-by dates too. If you don’t have a plan to use something before its use-by date, can you freeze it?

Batch cooking and freezing portions will also help you save money and preserve food. Then you’ve got a ready-made home-cooked meal even when you don’t have time to cook. Just don’t forget to defrost! There’s nothing worse than coming home after a long day to find your chilli’s still frozen solid.

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