Groceries are EXPENSIVE! Here are some tips for smarter shopping that will help you save money and stick to your grocery budget.
If you are like most people, a large portion of your budget goes to groceries each month. That’s definitely the case with us! It’s pretty easy to get carried away with groceries and end up spending more than you meant to. Until the past six months or so, I had a hard time really sticking to our monthly grocery budget (but honestly, I wasn’t trying to hard.)
Since we’ve been trying to save more money and just be more frugal in general, I have found that making and sticking to our grocery budget makes a big difference. Now that we have a new little person in our family, it’s even more important that we are careful with our money. Even though our family grew, our income sure didn’t!
If you are like me and have trouble sticking to a budget (or maybe you are just looking to start a grocery budget), here are a couple great ways I’ve found to help stay on track with our grocery spending each month.
Make a List
This is the simplest thing you can do – make a list of what you need at the store. While you may still be tempted to vary from it, I’ve found that when I make a list – rather than just walking aimlessly around the store – I spend less, buy less impulse/unnecessary purchase, and my grocery shopping trips are quicker and more efficient.
I try and keep a notepad on our counter or a magnetic one on our refrigerator so I can write down items that we need to buy. If you meal plan, making a list of all the items you need to get is even easier!
This is a great program that you can sign up for to learn how to maximize your grocery budget. It’s only open a few times of year so keep an eye on it (it opens April of 2017 – go signup for the waitlist!).
I don’t need to tell you how much I love Ibotta – well, if you have read many of our other posts, that is 🙂 If you don’t at least look at it after you go grocery shopping, you are making a mistake. I often save a few dollars on each shopping trip without even trying.
They also frequently have rebate incentives – for instance, I recently saw that they
Shop only once a week
The less you go to the store, the less you’ll spend! I’m not the best at this, because when I’m bored, I like to go to the store. When I don’t meal plan or make a list of what we need that week, I often find myself heading to the store multiple times a week to pick up items I forgot on the last trip.
By committing to only going shopping once a week, you not only will save time but money on gas as well. You’ll be able to avoid impulse purchases and buying more than you need. To only shop once a week, I do think it’s important to meal plan and make a list!
Create a Pantry List
I’m not the best at remembering if we have a certain product at home. Often times I’ll be at the store and remember I wanted to make something that uses brown sugar (or something like that), and I can’t, for the life of me, remember if we have the item. So, I end up buying it, and 9 times out of 10, we already have it.
By creating a pantry list, you can always keep track of what you currently have in your pantry and what you need to buy. When something is running low, just add it to your grocery list. Have an inventory of everything you currently have in your home can make it easier to meal plan as well.
Prepaid Debit Card or Gift Card
Awhile back, my mom told me that each month, she puts a certain amount of money on a gift card to her local grocery store. She does this at the beginning of the month, and it helps keep her spending in check. I’ve always felt like this was a great idea. Unlike having a debit card attached to your bank account, there’s just a set amount of money you can spend each month.
I’ve thought about doing this with a gift card, but since we shop at a couple of different stores, it wouldn’t be the most advantageous solution. However, there are now prepaid debit cards which I think is an even better way to do something similar.
Meal Planning Service
One of the best things you can do is shop sales and use coupons…but if you are like me, this ends up being something you mean to do but never get around to. I found a website a while back called Deals to Meals (you can get a free two-week trial from that link). I have heard good things about it.
However, I LOVE the Six Sister’s Meal Plan service. It’s only $5 a month, and each week, you get a meal plan with all your dinners for the week, a few sides and desserts, as well as a list of all the things you need to buy. It has seriously saved me so much money and time – especially when I use it with Walmart Grocery Pickup. All the recipes are easy and very family friendly. I highly recommend it.
Grocery Delivery/Pickup Services
This is something that is becoming increasingly popular – I see stores all over the place starting a pickup or delivery service (such as Walmart – free pickup, and they often have coupons.) You can do all your shopping online, place your order, and you can either pick it up or even have it delivered in some cases.
Walmart Grocery is free for pickup and, I believe, $3 for delivery. However, I’ve found that when I combine this with the Six Sister’s Meal Plan, I save almost 50% each week when I use the Grocery pickup service. A word of warning though – always double check the sizes. I’ve bought a few products in too large or too small of quantities a few times!
Ground turkey is cheaper than ground beef. Certain cuts of chicken are cheaper than others. Beans can be an excellent substitute for meat altogether. When you are wanting to stick to a budget, it can be difficult with grocery prices constantly rising. Finding alternatives to expensive ingredients can make a big difference in your budget.
Buy in Bulk
If you are only buying for yourself and maybe one or two other people, it doesn’t always make sense to buy things in bulk – especially if it is an item that will go bad quickly. However, if there are items that you go through a lot of, or you are just feeding a lot of people, buying in bulk can save you a bundle. We always buy meat in bulk, because it’s usually more cost-efficient.
I love buying our chicken from Zaycon Fresh, because it’s very high quality, and it’s the cheapest price around – usually around 1.79 a pound. I actually just wrote a whole post about buying meat in bulk – and our experience with Zaycon.
If you buy frozen food in bulk, I recommend purchasing an extra freezer. We recently just bought a standup freezer, and I’m so excited. Our freezer in our house is always just jam packed with things, and it makes it
I also recommend buying a high-quality vacuum sealer. We just got the FoodSaver, and I cannot wait until we can use it next time we buy meat in bulk. It helps keep the food fresh, for longer, and it helps to avoid freezer burn (which is no fun).
You can read more about freezer food storage here.
Discount/Day Old Section
Most grocery stores have some kind of discount section – usually more than one. For instance, at our local grocery store, there’s a discounted meat section, discounted bakery section, and then a discounted non-perishable goods section. You can also find other discounted stuff in other sections (such as cheese – great for freezing!).
Usually, the items that are non-perishable just have damaged packaging or are no longer in season. For instance, awhile back, the discount section had these huge containers of vinegar for about 50 cents – they had been branded in Easter packaging though, and since Easter was over, off to the discount section they go!
Make sure to ask your grocery store if there is a particular day that there are more discounted goods. I remember at one grocery store in Provo, every Wednesday they put out all their discounted meat. Discounted meat isn’t bad or expired – it just needs to be frozen quickly or used faster if you refrigerate it. It’s a great way to get a discount.
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