How to save more than $1,000 on food in 2020


New Year's resolutions are often about food. That makes sense, because what you eat can affect both your health and your bottom line.

"When Americans every year come up with their top goals, they're usually in two buckets," says certified public accountant David Almonte, a member of the AICPA Financial Literacy Commission. "Make more money, save more money. Or get in shape and eat healthier."

Making more of your own food helps you succeed at both goals: Food from your kitchen tends to be both cheaper and healthier, according to Yummy Spoonfuls founder and certified nutrition coach Agatha Achindu. When you cook for yourself, Achindu says, you can better control portion size, as well as how much butter, oil, and salt goes into your food.

Here are two ways experts say you can save a lot of money on food this year.

Make more of your own meals

Why it's important: When you create meals you enjoy, you have more control over what you eat while saving yourself money and time. Food blogger Cathy Erway, for example, saved $7,800 by not dining out for two years.

You don't have to go cold turkey on restaurant food to see big results, though. Just bringing your lunch to work can save you more than $1,600 a year.

We tried meal prepping and buying lunch to determine which method is best

Video by Jason Armesto

Neal Stern, CPA member of the American Institute of CPAs' National CPA Financial Literacy Commission, says bringing his own food is a great money-saver, particularly when traveling, since food in airports and on the road can be pricey. "You can put together a quick lunch of a sandwich, bag of chips, and a bottle of water, and bring it along in a cooler pack, reclaiming the time you would have spent in lines or drive-throughs while watching the savings add up — with [a] trade-up in food quality as an added bonus," Stern says.

Where you can learn it: Check out YouTube for demonstrations of meals that cost under $2 by chef Frankie Celenza, host of the Tastemade series Struggle Meals, as well as quick and healthy meals from Buzzfeed's food channel Tasty.

How much you can save: Stern says he spends about $3 to $5 to create a lunch, compared to an average fast casual meal at $10 to $12. "Using this strategy about three times per week saves me over $80 per month, more than enough to cover my entire cellphone bill." Saving $80 a month will mean you pocket $960 over the course of a year.

And you can save even more money if you do more of the prep work yourself, too.

Chop your own ingredients

Why it's important: You will have the confidence to buy produce knowing you can cut it to the right size without the extra charge. Some shoppers buy pre-chopped goods to save time, but if you practice and strengthen your skills you'll be able to work quickly and be done before you know it. "I always find myself chuckling in the produce section when I see those pre-chopped vegetables," says Jennifer Perillo, founder of In Jennie's Kitchen and recipe developer for meal-kit developer Marley Spoon. "As long as you know how to do a proper chop, chopping is chopping." And it'll save you a lot of money in the grocery store.

Where you can learn it: The online Milk Street Cooking School offers an Advanced Techniques: Vegetables course for $39. Perillo offers a post on chopping an onion here. You can also find knife skills videos featuring chefs Jacques Pepin and Jamie Oliver on YouTube.

How much you can save: A 12-ounce pack of sliced mango at a Manhattan Trader Joe's was priced at $3.49 in mid-August, while a typical mango, yielding a little more than a pound of fruit, cost only $1.79. A 1.5-pound container of sliced celery went for $5.99 at Westside Market in Manhattan, whereas you could get almost 3 pounds, unchopped, for $5.

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