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Check your pantry, refrigerator and freezer for food you already have. Always do this before you go shopping. Many times, you will be able to live off previously purchased foods. If this is not the case, you should still note the food you already have. For example, if you already have a frozen vegetables, that is one less thing you'll have to buy at the store.
Check your local newspaper for coupons and sale schedules. If you have a coupon for an item, wait for the item to go on sale before you use it. This will help you save even more money, or sometimes even get the item free. Clip and use coupons for items you will actually use. For example, buying frozen carrots for 10 cents may seem like a good deal, but if you don't like carrots, you're wasting money.
Start cooking your meals from scratch. This takes more time but will save you money in the end. For example, a loaf of bread may cost a few dollars, but the ingredients to make homemade bread only costs a few cents. If you really don't have time to make homemade meals daily, cook meals ahead of time and freeze them for later use.
Stock up on cheap, filling foods. Beans, peanut butter, nuts, flour, eggs, noodles, rice, potatoes, pasta sauce and oil can make a large variety of foods while costing less than a dollar per meal. Many
of these foods also have the added benefit of being rich in protein and carbohydrates, which will help you stay full longer. You'll eat less food overall, saving money. These staple foods are also versatile, which will keep you from becoming bored with certain meals.
Buy expensive items, such as meat, fruit and dairy, only when on sale. You can easily spend $20 on these items alone, but by buying on sale, you'll reduce the cost significantly. When the items do go on sale, stock up and freeze any extras you may have. If you can't use an entire amount, divide it into smaller containers and freeze in separate bags.
Avoid buying processed food such as microwaved or fast food. If you only buy one item per meal from the dollar menu for a week, you would go over your budget of $20. That's not including tax, gas used to drive to the restaurant or drinks you may purchase. A dollar per meal may seem like a small amount, but prepared food is more expensive than cooking from scratch.
Avoid wasting food. Whenever you make a meal, start by giving yourself a small serving. After you finish eating, wait 20 minutes before having seconds or thirds. This allows the food to have time to reach your stomach. Even if you feel hungry immediately after eating, 20 minutes later you may feel full. Any extra food can be saved for the next day or frozen for later use.