Does your grocery budget seem out of control? These tips will help you 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? Once you have a family, that’s no longer an option (and do you even want it to be?). Kids, and husband, need to eat and they’re going to want real food.
It’s easy for the grocery budget to get out of control but there are some easy ways to save…and still eat well!
How To Keep Your Grocery Budget Under Control
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 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. Then I’d go back home and realize that I already had plenty. That’s when food gets thrown away and money is wasted.
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
Meal planning is something else 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. This free printable makes it 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 or there’s no point in having a grocer budget. 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? 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
I actually like grocery shopping…when I’m alone! When the kids are in tow, it’s a completely different story. They beg for something new in every aisle…often something they’ve wanted “their whole life”! I try to stand strong but sometimes it’s easier just to give in, which of course leads to spending more money. It makes life so much easier, and is better for your grocery budget, to just leave them behind with dad.
9. Buy store brands
I buy plenty 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, usually you can just return it and get 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.
Save even more when you cut up your own meat. Learn how to cut up a chicken yourself and it’ll be totally worth it.
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. Sometimes you’ll find that you’re just saving a few pennies so it may not actually be worth 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 use a re-usable container. It’s cheaper and I can also determine how big a serving she gets. Some of the single serving bags actually contain too much and it doesn’t get eaten. 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.
Do you have a great tip that I left off the list? Feel free to share so we can save even more money!
Here are some of my other favorite ways to save money:
Easy ways to save money on things other than groceries…
Make your own birthday cakes instead of buying them from the deli…
Make your own gifts…