26 Foods to Cut Out of Your Food Budget If You're Saving for a Big Purchase

By   

View as:

woman paying for groceries with money at checkout
Photo credit: gpointstudio/istockphoto

DOLLAR MENU

You want the big-screen TV in time for the next Super Bowl, or are saving for the down payment on a new car. The trade-off is that you'll eat burgers instead of premium steaks on the grill this summer. Cutting back on a food budget can be painless once you realize you don't really need Champagne, infused oils, coffeehouse drinks, name-brand sodas, and more. A bit of creativity — and keeping a goal in sight — can go a long way.
Filet Mignon
Photo credit: mphillips007/istockphoto

FILET MIGNON

Top-of-the-line cuts of beef are a luxury best reserved for splurges at the steakhouse. When it's time for the summer barbecue, stick to burgers. No will feel cheated if there are some creative, "outside-the-bun" toppings.
can of coca-cola on a bed of ice
Photo credit: urbanbuzz/shutterstock

NAME-BRAND SODA

A 12-pack of Coca-Cola, 7UP, or Pepsi can top $5. Instead, go for plain seltzers that are often half the price, andadd flavor with an ounce or two of a favorite juice. Your wallet — and sugar monitor — will thank you.

blueberry cheesecake
Photo credit: archmercigod/istockphoto

RESTAURANT DESSERTS

Eating out can be pricey. If you can't eliminate a fancy meal out, at least end it after the entrée and come home for dessert. It can save as much as $8 to $12 for a slice of premium cheesecake or other elaborate confection.
Haagen Dazs Vanilla Ice Cream
Photo credit: memoriesarecaptured/istockphoto

PREMIUM ICE CREAM AND GELATO

Even basic grocery stores carry premium ice cream and gelato, and it's fun to look at the exotic flavors and imagine the creamy goodness. But check the price: Typically more than $5 a pint. Mass-market ice creams can taste just as good, especially buried in some inexpensive toppings.
Artisan cheeses
Photo credit: Pat-swan/istockphoto

ACCENT CHEESES

If you're creating a cheese board, then yes, you want to show off a diverse selection of premium cheeses. But when it's something to slap on a sandwich, stick to the basics. You can forgo the aged Parmesan or smoked Gouda in favor of slices of basic American, cheddar or Swiss. (Trader Joe's can also help build a cheese board that seems gourmet, but at reasonable prices.)
Saffron
Photo credit: stockstudioX/istockphoto

SAFFRON

Even the casual cook has heard about saffron, that super-expensive, super-exclusive spice that you must use sparingly. Try turmeric as a replacement, as suggested by experts such as The Spruce Eats.
ready to eat fresh tropical food salad
Photo credit: anouchka/istockphoto

CUT FRUITS

It's a luxury to have strawberries hulled and quartered, the kiwi peeled and sliced, and the oranges deseeded and chopped, but as anyone who's had to bring the fruit salad to a party knows, you pay dearly for those services. Buy the fruits, prepare them yourself, and savor the savings.

almond butter with almonds
Photo credit: bhofack2/istockphoto

'FANCY' NUT BUTTERS

Peanut butter has competition. Now you can have almond butter, cashew butter and many more, and the more unusual options often carry a bigger price tag. The more affordable, basic peanut butter may be the way to go, especially if options such as a light or low-sodium spread is wanted.
Lump Crab Meat
Photo credit: Courtesy of cameronsseafood.com

LUMP CRAB MEAT

When not on sale, premium lump crab can set you back quite a bit — a recent grocery check-in showed lump crab at nearly $25 a pound. Instead, go with the faux, as in canned or surimi, a paste made from fish that's sold refrigerated in sticks or flakes. In a pinch, it makes a tasty substitute in a refreshing crab salad.
champagne pouring in two glasses
Photo credit: Mariyana M/shutterstock

CHAMPAGNE

Yes, you can buy cheap Champagne — but the faces of those trying to sip it usually give your thriftiness away. When Dom Perignon's three-figure price tag is not an option, turn to the trove of more reasonably priced sparkling wines, proseccos, or the will-the-trend-ever-end rosés instead.
Starbucks coffee mug with cappuccino
Photo credit: John-Kelly/istockphoto

COFFEEHOUSE COFFEE

It's almost clichéd as a budget tip: The $5 to $6 cappuccino, latte, or other fancy sip is a wasteful but daily reality for many. If you simply must have the foamy treat, look at Keurig options, where even brands such as Gevalia routinely sell a six-pack for less than $10.
olive oil with herbs
Photo credit: Dario Lo Presti/istockphoto

INFUSED OILS

We've become a gourmet nation. Why have plain ol' olive oil when you can be drizzling a version infused with Tuscan herbs, roasted garlic, smoky bacon, or Persian lime? You pay the price, though. An easy alternative is to make your own, as Bon Appétit shared.
cold pressed juices in bottles
Photo credit: VojnovicS/istockphoto

COLD-PRESSED JUICES

The cold-pressed juice trend can put pressure on pocketbooks, too. The health benefits are still debatable, so, if you need to save money, opt for the fresh fruit itself or make a smoothie.
black green olives with soft cheese
Photo credit: SStajic/istockphoto

PREMIUM OLIVES

A jar of imported Greek olives can give you sticker shock. Unless needed for a very specific recipe or a cocktail party to impress the boss, pass on garlic- or blue cheese-stuffed olives in favor of basic green and black.
ready to eat healthy salads for sale
Photo credit: anouchka/istockphoto

PRE-MADE SALAD KITS

They are easy. They make a quick lunch. And they can even be healthy, depending on the dressing and toppings. But in the end, pre-made makes you pay more than you need to for a salad. Buy a head of lettuce and some other veggies and make your own. (You can even skip the lettuce.)
mashed potatoes with melted butter
Photo credit: Fudio/istockphoto

REFRIGERATED MASHED POTATOES

It's easy to take a tub of pre-made mashed potatoes and toss it into the microwave. But the price per serving can leave a homemade version looking like the bargain of the century.
Wild Garden Hummus to Go Traditional
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

INDIVIDUALLY PORTIONED SNACKS

Single-serve cups from guacamole to hummus are tossed easily into a lunch sack. But it's not much more complicated to buy the larger size and invest in inexpensive reusable plastic containers.
buffet hot bar
Photo credit: Kondor83/istockphoto

PREPARED FOODS/HOT BARS

Scoop up a main course and side dish from a grocery store or bodega hot bar and you face a $10 to $15 tab for just a portion. Cook your own pork chop and side dish vegetable and pocket the difference.
three slices of skinless boneless chicken breast and spices
Photo credit: ChristianJung/istockphoto

TRIMMED CHICKEN CUTLETS

No one can deny the ease of premium chicken cutlets, where all the skin and fat is trimmed away. But in the end, the taste is the same. Once again, if you do the work, you can save the pennies. (Go for drumsticks and you'll save a bundle).
macadamia nuts
Photo credit: dewpak/istockphoto

PREMIUM NUTS

Unless you're making a specific recipe, stick to cheaper nuts — the versatile peanut instead of macadamias, the world's most expensive nut, for example.
fresh twig of rosemary
Photo credit: Volosina/istockphoto

FANCY HERBS

A sprig of rosemary, a pinch of cilantro, or some other fancy herb may be all that's needed for that one recipe, but consider buying bigger bunches and freezing them. The ambitious can take it a step further and start an herb garden.
selection of craft beers at brewery
Photo credit: bauhaus1000/istockphoto

CRAFT BEERS

You don't have to replicate a craft brewery at home. Six packs of craft beer can add quite a bit to your budget, so stick to good "regular" beer for most drinking.
almond milk on wooden counter with almonds
Photo credit: bhofack2/istockphoto

SPECIALTY MILKS

If you have dietary restrictions, it's not really a choice — but if you're simply buying chocolate almond milk or vanilla soy milk or even coconut milk just to mix it up, stop. You can survive on regular milk and save these non-dairy delights for another time.
Oat Flour
Photo credit: Tatyana Aksenova/shutterstock

EXOTIC FLOURS

Again, if you have health restrictions — having to be gluten-free, for example — special flours such as rice, chickpea, oat, or coconut is a pricey necessity. For those simply indulging, go with the tried and true. Take baking to the next level later.
homemade granola
Photo credit: Mizina/istockphoto

ELABORATE GRANOLAS

If you're a corn flakes kind of family, stick to what you know. Cereal's pricey as it is, so don't suddenly start trying all kinds of elaborate granolas, which often feature expensive ingredients such as nuts and dried fruits. If you must have it, try making your own, such as Saving The Crumbs' promisingly named Easiest Cheapest Granola Recipe Ever.
mineral water bottles at grocery
Photo credit: mediaphotos/istockphoto

BOTTLED WATER

Besides the constant expense of bottled water, there are environmental concerns to all that plastic. Invest instead in a reusable water bottle and make a real statement.

Cheapism.com participates in affiliate marketing programs, which means we may earn a commission if you choose to purchase a product through a link on our site. This helps support our work and does not influence editorial content.