9 Tips to Stop Wasting Money on Food (And Better Manage Your Finances)

Break free from overspending on food in the UAE with our 9 expert saving tips.

We all know the feeling. You walk into a shopping mall and you're immediately bombarded with the sights and smells of delicious food.

Freshly baked bread, juicy fruits, and perfectly marbled steaks all seem to be calling your name, which is fine, but you’re left wondering how to stop wasting money on food you don’t need.

A lack of meal planning, unrealistic budgeting, temptation by sales and promotions, and unnecessary impulse purchases are all challenges we face when trying to stop wasting money on food.

However, if we can get them under control, then the simple savings we make can become part of a powerful long-term financial strategy. This article will help you do that, by exploring the following:

  1. Understanding the causes of food overspending
  2. Nine ways how to stop wasting money on food
  3. How to manage your food finances with MALY

[Stop wasting money on food, make saving a regular habit, and visually track the growth of your savings through MALY, the money management app made for the UAE market.]

1. Understanding the causes of food overspending

Before we try to fix overspending on food, it's important to understand why it happens in the first place. Many factors lead to unintended overspending that quickly becomes habitual, so if we can spot them and understand them, we’re on the fast track to saving money.

So, what are the main reasons that lead to overspending on food?

Well, it all comes down to a lack of money management skills and not being intentional enough about what we buy and how we prepare meals.

Impulse buying

Supermarkets use clever tactics to encourage impulse purchases. These include the strategic placement of treats at checkout counters, fresh bakery aromas wafting through stores, and eye-catching packaging on snack aisles: all are designed to push us toward unplanned purchases. Going shopping hungry also impacts our self-control and leads to impulse buys.

Even when shopping online, easy access to speedy delivery services is designed to push us toward spontaneous orders.

Lack of planning

Ever forget to buy something important at the store, only to realize you don’t have it when you're making dinner? Missing out on these important ingredients means we often fall back on fast food orders and expensive last-minute shopping.

We may also end up buying too much, leading to  leftovers and perishables getting tossed in the bin.

Inefficient shopping habits

We all have grocery shopping habits that are bad for our money savings.

Do any of these sound familiar?

  • Filling the cart without reference to budgets or lists
  • Failing to compare prices for equivalent items across brands
  • Overlooking deals in weekly flyers
  • Ignoring bulk options on shelf-stable staples

All of these bad habits add up cost over time.

Once we get home, storing food badly also results in significant food waste and takes a chunk out of our savings.

2. Nine ways how to stop wasting money on food

1. Plan and prepare your meals

Careful meal planning and preparation are crucial to reducing food waste and saving money. Too often, we let ingredients sit in the fridge until they spoil or let leftovers go bad before we remember to eat them.

Getting organized with weekly or monthly meal plans and intentional prep work helps us improve our grocery shopping, reduce waste, and save time and money in the long run.

To make an effective meal plan. set aside time to map out meals, check what ingredients are already on hand, and make a detailed grocery list so that you buy only what you need.

Meal planning leads to fewer last-minute takeout orders, less overpriced convenience foods, and less eating out, saving you big on your food budget.

Expert tips for efficient meal planning

Take inventory, make a list before you go shopping, and always keep leftovers in mind for easy launches or quick dinners.

Andrea Caprio, an expert in weight loss and emotional eating, explains how to stop wasting money on food and plan meals efficiently, “Plan ahead, check the weather forecast, or if there will be any upcoming celebrations. Check your fridge and pantry; what are the foods that need to be consumed immediately before they go bad, or which pantry staples do you need to replenish?”

how to stop wasting money on food

2. Create a budget for grocery shopping

Grocery shopping within a reasonable budget is vital for reducing food costs and waste.

We tend to just guess our food spending, which can lead to overbuying.Defining a weekly or monthly limit for groceries and sticking to it can help us prevent this.

Expert tips for establishing a realistic food budget

To create an accurate food budget, it’s important to examine recent grocery receipts and typical monthly restaurant bills to calculate current food costs for your household.

Use this baseline number to set a goal, like cutting 15% off expenditure, then budget in higher sums for pricier items like meat and fish and allocate the rest across staples and produce.

A general rule of thumb is to allot 10-15% of income toward food expenses.

Enter each grocery run with this limit at the top of your mind and track spending as you go with a calculator or budgeting app. Remember to reference the meal plan and list so impulsive splurges don't sabotage your budget.

Remember to check unit price labels to score the best deals, and skip impulse buys and pricier pre-packaged goods.

If you can do this, then you’ll find that hitting your monetary goal at checkout is very satisfying.

If you find this process difficult, then a savings app like MALY could help.

It’s designed to help people in the UAE build better money habits by offering budgeting tools, savings goals, and cashback rewards.

MALY has a multi-card capability that lets you assign dedicated grocery cards to simplify household expense tracking and budgeting. By linking a personalized credit card solely to a monthly grocery allowance, you can easily monitor spending on food without other expenses muddying the waters.

3. Avoid impulse purchases

Unplanned purchases caused by savvy store layouts, flashy sales signs, and clever product placement can demolish our grocery budgets, but you can beat retailers at their own game.

Somnath Mukherjee, an expert spending consultant, has some useful advice, “One common mistake is shopping on an empty stomach. When you're hungry, everything looks appealing, and you might buy items you don't need. Have a light meal or snack before heading to the store to help you make more rational choices.”

how to stop wasting money on food

Expert tips for making a shopping list and sticking to it

An itemized grocery list aligned to your planned meals significantly reduces your wandering aisles and tossing unneeded items into the cart.

To do this, list ingredients required for planned dishes and staple basics like dairy, grains, and produce.

Damien Roberti, CEO of Marketing Food Online, recommends, “Consider your family's eating habits and preferences. Do you eat a lot of fresh produce, or do you rely more on packaged and processed foods? Do you have any dietary restrictions that might impact your grocery budget?”

how to stop wasting money on food

Expert tips for recognizing and resisting marketing tactics

Stores often put popular processed snacks and sweets at the end of an aisle, expecting you'll snatch them up on the way to checkout. Recognizing this pattern and other strategic product placements makes it easier to reduce impulse grabs.

Varsha Jain, a marketing professor, says, "Urgency is a powerful motivator for impulse buying. By creating a sense of urgency, such as limited-time offers or low stock warnings, marketers can encourage consumers to make a quick decision.”

Going on Professor Jain’s warning, we must remember that just because something is on sale doesn't mean we need it, or that it's a "deal" if it busts your budget.

4. Buy in bulk

Purchasing larger volumes of shelf-stable essentials, or bulk buying, allows you to stock up while prices are low and also avoid waste.

A good idea is to focus bulk buys on non-perishables your household regularly eats, like whole grains, legumes, nuts, oils, and some snacks, then calculate and compare per-unit prices to ensure bulk deals truly beat regular prices.

Expert tips for understanding storage and expiration considerations

Before buying jumbo packs, ensure you have adequate storage space, ideally a dry and cool area.

Remember to reseal open packages or place them in airtight containers to maximize freshness. You could also label storage bins with the purchase and expiration date to promote first-in, first-out usage before anything expires.

5. Using discounts and coupons

Savvy shopping means jumping on discounts, deals, and coupons whenever possible to maximize your grocery budget. Tapping into apps and loyalty programs is a great way of doing this and helps you build savings over time.

One useful tip is to check store apps and online platforms in advance for available coupons, then scan offers before selecting items to redeem discounts.

Remember to never grab something solely because you have a coupon, but use coupons strategically to lower prices on items you'd buy anyway, and pay attention to expiry dates, terms, and conditions to avoid hassles at checkout.

Expert tips for taking advantage of loyalty programs

Grocery loyalty programs offer major perks for repeat customers, like automatic sale prices, fuel discounts, and personalized deals.

To make full use of them, make sure your account is set up and linked to the program for discounts to apply, then take advantage of bonus redemption days or targeted offers when available. The savings can add up substantially over a year.

Expert tips for timing purchases for sales and discounts

You can time your purchases just right to make full use of discounts with a little preparation.

Keep a price book or use apps (such as Kanbkam UAE or GoBazza) to track the costs of items you buy regularly. When something you usually purchase goes on discount, stock up to take advantage of the temporary deal.

Load up when cherries hit their yearly low, for example, or snag that cereal during the fall sale. Be careful, though, it’s easy to get excited and overbuy even sale-priced goods.

6. Shop smarter online

Online shopping comes with pitfalls, from sneaky fees to impulse click-and-check-out buys. However, when used strategically, virtual carts can help household budgets.

As such, you can compare prices across retailers for the best deals. Use sites like Pricena or Yaoota that offer your staples for less or sites like Coupon.ae to activate discounts.

Expert tips on using subscription services

Subscriptions and recurring order services save money by automatically fulfilling household needs like coffee, snacks, or laundry soap without the hassle of remembering to reorder.

Amazon Subscribe & Save, for example, offers significant discounts to members when you schedule five or more regular deliveries. Just remember to tweak orders if they need to change.

Watch out for sneaky service charges, surge pricing during busy hours, and delivery minimums that can quickly sabotage budgets. Also, remember to factor any fees into price comparisons when deciding if online prices are better than those in physical stores.

Finally, take care to review the final totals before clicking the ‘purchase’ tab.

7. Automate savings with multi-cards

If you find it difficult to stick to healthy spending habits in the UAE, digital saving apps make it easier for you to manage finances easily.

MALY is one example that helps you make smarter spending choices. It acts as your personalized finance coach, integrating with your existing bank accounts to offer a comprehensive overview of your spending habits.

In fact, MALY is the first multi-card savings tool in the UAE, empowering families and businesses to manage their finances better. The service provides users with multiple personalized Visa debit cards linked to a single account.

Benefits of using multi-cards for budgeting

Multi-cards encourage disciplined saving by automatically rounding up card purchases and allocating the difference to a dedicated savings pot.

Users can dedicate cards to different saving goals and spending purposes like groceries, vacations or employee perks, making budgeting easier.

Cardholders retain oversight of all cards via the MALY app, which allows them to track their balances and transaction histories. Key features include customizable spending limits, transaction alerts, and free instant money transfers between cards.

8. Support local farmers markets

Purchasing fresh produce, artisanal goods, and other food items directly from local farmers and vendors supports small businesses and community agriculture across the UAE.

When you buy directly from farmers, you avoid the markups typically added by supermarkets and distributors. Many farmers also offer discounts for buying in bulk, so the two factors can add up to an impressive saving.

As consumer interest expands, there are increasing numbers of farmers’ markets across the UAE. For instance, weekend farmers' markets like the Ripe Market at Zabeel Park in Dubai or the Heart & Soul Organic Farmers' Market in Khalidiya are an impactful way to boost the livelihoods of nearby farming families who grow seasonal fruits, veggies, herbs, and more.

Home cooks can discover and sample flavorful and sustainably cultivated UAE produce while getting to know producers from their area.

Building these relationships and spending money directly on regional food providers also means your food has less distance to travel to get to your kitchen, helping you reduce your carbon footprint.

9. Cut expenses on fast food and eating out

While cooking at home is the most economical option, an occasional restaurant meal provides a nice break from the kitchen, but how to spend less money on eating out?

As with grocery spending, it’s important to create a designated monthly allowance and then actively stick within the threshold through tracking.

One tip is to cut down on take-out orders delivered to your front door, which come with added delivery costs.

One more question: how to stop spending money on fast food?

Well, it’s  wise to research true cost comparisons. Homemade equivalents of burgers, pizza, and snack items are cheaper options than those prepared in a restaurant.

For busy weeknights, rely on homemade frozen meals, hearty sandwiches, salad fixings, and more ready-to-go options – all help minimize the temptation of take-out.

Control your spending and save money with MALY

UAE residents can benefit from the money management features MALY offers, including:

  1. Freelancers, solopreneurs, and microbusiness owners, who can separate professional from personal finances.
  2. Young students and teenagers can gain financial literacy with a personalized MALY card sanctioned by parents for weekly allowances
  3. Domestic helpers, who can have an insured savings account to store hard-earned pay more securely than cash.

Avoiding excess spending requires forethought and discipline. However, the payoff makes it worthwhile. Investing more energy into planning and preparation leads to bigger savings – without any impact on the quality of your life.

Using tools like MALY’s Multi-Cards puts you on the fast track to financial health thanks to automated savings features, designated savings pots, and personalized budgeting advice: all packaged into one free-to-use app.

[Do you want to learn how to stop wasting money on food? Looking to set up a weekly or monthly savings plan? Simply connect MALY to any UAE-based bank account and start tracking your savings as they grow.]

People Also Ask

How do I stop spending money on food?

While entirely eliminating food costs is unrealistic, many techniques exist to trim budgets.

Top strategies include meal planning to eliminate waste, price comparing rather than grabbing items, buying certain staples in bulk, skillfully using coupons and promotions, limiting dining out, and batch cooking to have leftovers ready.

How can I spend almost no money on food?

This is almost impossible and not realistic in today's society. However, modest budget adjustments can lead you to make bigger savings than you anticipated.

How can we reduce food spending?

The most impactful ways households decrease food expenses involve better planning habits – like mapping out weekly meals, generating aligned grocery lists, and monitoring waste. Bulk buying of shelf-stable items also yields savings alongside avoiding impulse purchases during shopping trips.

How do I stop being wasteful with money?

Avoiding overspending on food provides a template for reducing waste across all spending categories.

The key steps are planning, making intentional purchase decisions based on your needs, employing budgeting accountability tools, and monitoring waste triggers. What is tracked is more easily managed.


  • Be aware of supermarket tactics that encourage impulse purchases, and avoid shopping on an empty stomach to make more rational choices.
  • Careful meal planning and prep work are crucial to reducing food waste and saving a lot of money.
  • Establish a realistic food budget by examining past receipts, allocating funds for different categories, and using tools like MALY's multi-card capabilities to track and limit spending.
  • Compare prices across retailers, use online platforms for discounts, and consider subscription services for recurring purchases.
  • MALY's automatic savings enable users to save effortlessly while using their cards for daily expenses.
  • Take advantage of discounts, deals, and coupons to maximize savings on groceries, and use loyalty programs for additional benefits.
  • You can learn how to stop wasting money on food by following simple savings strategies and using money management mobile apps like MALY.

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