Save Money on Groceries
In this article I am going to talk about 11 simple hacks you can do to save money on groceries and slash your food budget! You can follow these simple steps to save hundreds of dollars every month—and thousands of dollars every year!
Here are 11 simple things you can do every month to save money on your groceries budget.
11 Simple Ways to Save Money on Groceries
Food can be one of the biggest budget busters. It’s easy to blow $500 each time you shop. On the other hand, it’s just as easy to spend $100 or less each time you shop. That’s why food shopping is one of the expenses in your monthly budget that is the most variable. And that’s actually great news for you and me because it means that we have a huge amount of control over how much we spend on our groceries and eating out each month.
If you generally don’t go grocery shopping with a list—or if you regularly buy far more than is on your list—then you will see an awesome drop in your food spending once you get organized and start making a plan. For me, ever since I started spending more intentionally, I just can’t spend a lot of money on food. And the reason is pretty simple—even though I like food, I like financial security and long-term wealth building and family vacations and things like that even better.
This is the way I look at it—when you spend money on food, you are in a sense throwing money down the drain because you are spending it on something that is very fleeting. No matter how great the best steak tastes, as soon as you eat it, you have only a very slight memory of what it even tasted like a couple of hours later.
So I would just rather spend my money on things that have more lasting value. This is why we spend only about $300 to $350 a month to feed our family of two adults and three young children. It helps us be able to max out our Roth IRA and contribute a good amount to our 401(k) (enough to receive the full company match and then some).
It also helps to free up momey in our budget that we can use to make ourselves a car payment every month and pay off our mortgage early and do the other things that are slowly but surely moving us toward financial freedom. And we do all of that on one income! 🙂 Read on to learn how we save money on our groceries, and how you can too!
1. Plan your meals before you shop.
To help you save the most money on groceries, plan your meals before you shop, and reduce the number of times you go grocery shopping.
Depending on your current grocery shopping habits, planning your meals and making fewer trips to the grocery store may be your number one way to save money. I know it’s obvious, but the less often you shop, the less you will potentially spend. If you don’t plan your meals and you shop several time a week for food (or worse yet, eat out several times a week or get fast food on the way home or something similar), then you are spending way more money than you have to. That’s the bad news. But the awesome news is that that means that you can probably cut your monthly food spending by as much as 50 percent—or maybe even more.
By getting organized and using a simple meal plan, you can begin to save on your food purchases and put that money toward other important financial goals like paying off your debt, saving an emergency fund, and investing for retirement.
Here are even some simple and inexpensive meal ideas you can use (with recipes included) to get you started.
Sit down once a week or once every two weeks and write down all of the meals you plan to eat and the foods that you need to buy in order to prepare them. (If you can wait and go grocery shopping only once every two weeks, you can save even more money—because it’s almost impossible to go to the grocery store and come out with only what was on your list or what you intended to buy.)
If you have never really planned your meals very well, doing so may seem a little daunting at first, but I promise it’s not as difficult as it might sound. Most people basically repeat the same meals every couple of weeks, and you can definitely do that in your meal plan. To keep things simple these days in our family, we basically eat the same thing every week except for on weekends, when we have a little more time to prepare food.
Fill out the information below to receive the free weekly meal planner to help you get organized and reduce your spending on groceries.
If you feel overwhelmed at the thought of having to add one more thing to your to-do list, then an inexpensive solution for creating a meal plan is a service like Emeals or $5 Meal Plans. Emeals costs as little as $5 per month and $5 Meal Plans costs just $5 per month. With these services, they do all of the planning for you. They plan the meals you will eat and include the ingredients you will need to buy and the recipes you will need to follow to prepare them. Pretty cool.
With $5 Meal Plans, the dinners themselves also cost less than $5 per meal to make! And both come with a 14-day free trial, so if this sounds like a good option for your family, you can check out Emeals here and $5 Meal Plans here.
2. Become familiar with the regular prices of the items you routinely buy so you can stock up when they are on sale.
In order to save money on the items you routinely buy, keep a record of their regular price so that you will know when they are really on sale for a good price versus when they might be technically “on sale” (according to the grocery store signs) but really aren’t a great deal.
You can do this really easily by filling in the grocery price chart that I have created. (Fill out the info below and I’ll send it right away!) That way, you will know when prices really are low and it’s time to stock up on the items that your family loves and that you use regularly. (More on this in the next section.)
Fill out the information below to receive the free and extremely handy grocery price comparison cheat sheet to help you really cut your grocery bill by letting you know when your favorite foods are really on sale for a great price.
3. Buy the majority of your groceries when they are on sale.
To keep your grocery spending down, buy as much of your food as possible when it is on sale. This is huge when it comes to saving money on groceries!
Many grocery stores have a fairly predictable cycle of sales, such as every six to eight weeks, and so if you routinely shop at the same grocery stores and you use the grocery price chart and start paying attention to the prices (which you really need to do!), you will start to figure out when the foods you regularly buy go on sale, and you will be able to buy them in bulk when they’re at a great price.
4. Buy produce when it is in season, or buy produce items frozen.
Another way to save money on groceries is to buy your fruits and vegetables when they are in season. Even though blueberries and raspberries would be an awesome, nutritious treat year round, I just can’t stomach (no pun intended!) the thought of paying $4 or more for a little carton of them.
When your favorite fruits and vegetables are not in season, see if you can get them frozen for a reasonable price. And better yet, when they are in season and especially when they are on sale, stock up and freeze them yourself!
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5. Buy sales items in bulk.
Once you know what the good deals are for the items you buy, you will know when to stock up on them. A couple of things to keep in mind, though:
- Only buy as much of a particular food as you will eat in a reasonable amount of time before they go bad (however, know that you can safely eat most foods past the “best by” or “use by” date).
- Don’t fall into the trap of always buying more than you need just because it’s on sale. The best discount is the 100 percent discount when you never buy an item in the first place.
- Keep your pantry, cupboards, or storage room organized so that you don’t forget about the foods that you already have. This keeps you from buying too much and keeps your food from going bad.
6. Plan your meals around what you have and what’s on sale to save money on groceries.
When you sit down to plan your weekly meals and make your shopping list, do a quick inventory of what you have first in your fridge and freezer that needs to be used, and do the same thing for your cupboards and pantry. Then check the sale items in your local store ads. And based on what you have and what is on sale, make your meal plan for the week (or two weeks).
7. Eat less meat.
Meat is one of the most expensive items at the grocery store. To reduce your spending in this area and save money on groceries every month, buy more chicken and less red meat. Be judicious in your spending on seafood. Also have more meatless meals as part of your meal plan. When you do buy red meat, buy the less-expensive cuts (a roast versus a sirloin steak, for example). And know that you can often substitute a less-expensive cut of meant for a more expensive one in recipes, and the meal still turns out great!
8. Buy less junk food, juice, and soda to save money on groceries.
Cut down on the amount of junk food, juice, and soda that you buy. These items diminish your bottom line and expand your waistline. Instead of indulging every day or every meal, turn these items back into being a rare treat. Both your wallet and your waistline will thank you.
And if you drink, cut down on (or cut out) the alcohol as well. Doing so will be better for your budget and your overall health.
These simple cuts to your monthly budget can be a huge way to save money on groceries!
9. Limit the number of convenience items you purchase.
Love those nice platters of already-cut fruits or vegetables? The yummy-looking already-prepared lasagna in the frozen aisle? The sandwiches and fried chicken and salads at the deli? All of those items are convenient, but you also pay a premium for that convenience. Instead of purchasing these overpriced items, cut the produce yourself. Make your own lasagna, and double the recipe to have some left over that you can freeze. Make your own delicious pasta and potato salads from home. Spend a few extra minutes to cut your own fruits and veggies. 😊
10. Shop at discount or salvage grocery stores.
If you have a discount or salvage store in your area, take advantage of it! They have such amazing deals and can be a fantastic way to save money on groceries!
Moms and dads, if you have a salvage-type store (where they sell overstock, soon-to-expire, lost, or damaged items) in your area and you’re not shopping there, you are doing your wallet a huge disservice!
Soon after going to our local discount store for the first time I started doing the bulk of my grocery shopping there. The prices on some things are just incredible. Most of their produce is cheaper than anywhere else by far, and even though some of it is a little too ripe or bruised or is otherwise not worth buying, for the most part, it’s just great prices.
And they have great prices on a lot of other things too, like yogurt and meat and other perishables. Many of these items are close to or even past the recommended “best by” or “use by” date, but with everything we’ve bought there over the past two years, we’ve never found anything that looked or smelled sketchy or otherwise seemed questionable (besides some of the produce, as I mentioned).
For more information, see this article from Consumer Reports, which mentions how the “best by” and “use by” dates are more a matter or food quality than safety. (But, really, I wonder if it’s not also another way for the big food producers to make more money. The sooner food “expires,” the more likely you are to feel like you need to toss it and buy more of it.)
11. Use coupons or rebate apps.
The biggest savings on groceries will come from doing the things noted above—not from using coupons or rebate apps. But certainly use coupons and money-saving apps in addition to following the guidelines listed above. In addition to your local newspaper or circulars, you can find coupons on many manufacturer’s websites. And try Googling them, as well.
You really can slash your food budget to save money on groceries if you make some simple changes to the way you plan and the way you shop. If you want to find some room in your family monthly budget in order to put money toward paying off debt or saving for emergencies or investing for retirement, and you want to do it right away, your food budget is one of the best places to reduce spending because you can start doing it immediately and the savings really can be significant. You can (and should :)) also reduce your spending on entertainment and save money on transportation, as well.
You can find even more ways to reduce your spending and save more money here.
Invitation to Share
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