Does your grocery budget seem out of control? Use these tips to save money on groceries so you’ll have more to spend on other things.
Remember “way back when” (most likely the college days) when you could live for a week off Ramen noodles and frozen pizza? Well, now you probably have a family to feed and they’re not going to let you off that easily! One of the biggest expenses that families face each month is the cost of groceries. However, there are ways to cut the cost of your grocery bill without resorting to Ramen noodles again! Let me just say that I have two kids so I don’t want to spend my time couponing. If you’re able to do that, you are awesome and I am always beyond impressed when I hear about people buying $100 worth of groceries for less than $2. However, I’ve found that there aren’t enough coupons for the things that we eat to make it worthwhile anyway. I also don’t have the time to visit more than one store each week to get the best deals at every one. It’s hard enough when I have to bring the kids to one grocery store. There would be an uprising worthy of Game Of Thrones if I told the kids that I was dragging them to two grocery stores in one day! If you want to save on your monthly grocery bill so you have more money for shoes and wine, you may want to try some of these tips…
1. Make a budget
Believe it or not, I never did this until recently. Sure, my hubby and I had talked about budgeting for groceries but then I’d go to the store and get whatever looked good. Many times I didn’t even know exactly how much I’d spent. I started budgeting (REALLY budgeting this time) and though I sometimes go over, I’m much more conscientious about how much I spend. I’m also less likely to put unnecessary items in my cart.
2. Use what you have
Before you start planning what you’re going to buy, check out what you already have. If you have a freezer full of meat or a pantry full of good stuff, use some of that up first before you buy any more.
3. Make an inventory before you shop
This is much more than just checking to see how much wine you’ve got left! I’ve recently started doing this and it definitely makes a difference, especially when it comes to perishables like produce. I’d get to the store and would have no idea what fruits and veggies I had left in my fridge. Of course, I’d buy more only to go home and see that I already had plenty. Then I would end up having to throw rotting food away when I didn’t use it all. My friend Hannah at Eat, Drink & Save Money does a weekly post called Food Waste Friday and now I always have her in the back of my mind when I do have to throw something away. I’m trying hard not to let you down, Hannah!!!
4. Start meal planning
This is another thing I’ve recently started doing and it’s made a HUGE difference in my shopping habits! I try to plan out my meals on Saturday, shop on Sunday and start my meal planning on Monday. Use this free printable to make your planning even easier! I know exactly what I’ll need which in turn keeps me from buying a lot of extra food to have on hand “just in case”. I also don’t have to make a lot of extra trips to the grocery store during the week since I’ve stopped planning things last minute (see #7)
5. Make a list
Make a list and stick with it! Since I’ve been meal planning, I know what I’ll need to have on hand for dinner each night. I also keep pen and paper on my kitchen counter and add things as they come up. I can’t tell you how much easier this has made my life! I no longer get to the store and wonder what I’m forgetting and it keeps me from making return trips during the week (#7 again).
6. Check the sale ads
I don’t spend a lot of time on this but I do check the sale ads that come in the paper. Sometimes there are awesome deals that I might not have noticed at the grocery store. Just be careful not to buy things just because they are on sale. If you’re the only one in your family that eats watermelon, an amazing deal on whole watermelon won’t do you much good!
7. Shop once a week
This is another thing I started when I began meal planning and following a budget and it’s AWESOME!!! Why in the world did I wait so long to do this? Don’t get me wrong, I actually like grocery shopping…if I’m alone! However, 99% of the time I have two kids in tow and then it turns into a completely different experience. If you have kids, you know EXACTLY what I mean. I’ve been trying to plan my shopping when hubby’s at home to take care of the kids, make one big trip and not go again until the following week. I spend so much less than when I’d stop in several times a week just for one thing and end up spending $30. I highly recommend this tip!!!
8. Shop alone
When you bring children along, there’s something they want in every aisle…often something they’ve wanted “their whole life”! It’s easier just to leave them home if you can. You’re much less likely to throw that bag of Cheetos in your cart. This goes for husbands too! My darling hubby is always throwing in candy bars or other things that I wouldn’t have bought otherwise. The problem is that I can’t tell him that we already have it at home…he’s on to me!
9. Buy store brands
I buy a lot of store brands and most of the time can’t even tell the difference. If you do buy the store brand and don’t like it, just return it and they’ll give you your money back.
10. Chop/wash/prepare your own food
I’m guilty of this and often splurge on the prewashed spinach or other salad mixes, though it does cost more. However, I never buy the pre-chopped veggies or the prepared food in the deli. Not only is it cheaper to chop your own veggies, I personally feel like they’re more flavorful when they are cut fresh. Plus, all you have to do is take a look at the price tag on the prepared food and know that you could make your own portions twice that size for half the price.
11. Buy in season
Everybody knows that you should do this but the problem is that most of us don’t actually know what’s in season. I’m going to make a concerted effort to do this more often! To help figure out what to buy and when, I found this great post by Wisebread that lists what produce is in season month by month.
12. Grow your own herbs
We use a lot of rosemary in our cooking and before we moved to Florida, we had a huge rosemary bush in our backyard (it loved me too…it was the only plant that never died under my care). It pains me to pay $3-4 dollars for a few sprigs of rosemary and I need to hurry up and buy another bush already. However, this time I’m going to grow basil and other herbs too so that I never have to buy them at the grocery store again. Doesn’t it taste better when you grow it yourself anyway?
13. Make your own seasonings
Making your own seasonings is yet another way that you can save money and I found a comprehensive list of seasoning recipes (seriously, you won’t believe how many there are) at Knowledge Weighs Nothing.
14. Stock up during sales
This is the one time I don’t feel guilty about straying from my shopping list. If there is an item that I buy regularly, I will stock up if it’s a good deal. Sales usually occur on an 8-12 rotation so I will buy enough apple juice or Cheerios to get me through to the next sale. Make sure you know how much the items originally cost though so that you can be sure you’re getting a good deal. Peek under the sale price if you have to. I did that last week and saw that the sale price on a $4 item was only about $.10 less…definitely not worth my while to stock up on it.
15. Shop the top and bottom shelves
The priciest items are placed on the middle shelves at eye level so be sure to check out the items on the top and bottom shelves (so THAT’S why boxed wine is always on the bottom shelf)!
16. Don’t buy single serving foods
You probably already know this but it’s much more expensive to buy items in single serving bags. I sometimes put goldfish in my daughter’s lunch box but I buy the full bag and then just use a re-usable container. It’s cheaper and I can also determine how much she gets. Some of the single serving bags actually contain too much food and a lot of it ends up getting thrown away. As a former teacher, I saw this happen a lot, both at snacktime and at lunchtime.
17. Buy meat in bulk and freeze
This is especially true for those of you that shop at the warehouse stores but I still do it even though I’m only going to the grocery store. When those big packages are on sale, you’ll save even more money buy separating them into portions and freezing them.
18. Double check 10 for $10 promotions
Usually these are good deals but not always. Make sure you check the original price of the item to be sure it’s actually a bargain. You also probably know that you don’t actually have to buy 10 to get this deal.
19. Wait to buy toiletries at Target or Walmart
The toiletries always seem to be more expensive at the grocery store so wait until you get to Target or Walmart to buy your shampoo and deodorant.
20. Get a rain check
If the grocery store has a great deal on something, it can go faster than beer at a frat party. Go to customer service and get a rain check so that next time you come in, you can still get that item at the advertised priced, even if the sale is over. I left out the obvious tips such as not shopping when you’re hungry. I also read a funny one awhile back about how you should wear headphones with upbeat music because the stores play slow songs to make you shop longer. You probably won’t catch me doing that although it would drown out the noise of my girls begging for that jumbo bag of Cheetos! Do you have a great tip that I left off the list? Feel free to share it with us so we can save even more money!
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