Surprisingly, one of the most difficult budgets to stick to is the grocery budget. It’s rough standing in the checkout lane, watching nervously as the numbers tally up, realizing that you’ve once again missed the mark. But what can you do? How do you save money on groceries? You need food!
If the grocery store seems to stump you or if you simply wish you could spend some of your food money on something else, follow these 6 money saving tips and watch that grocery receipt shrivel up like a raisin!
1. Check the Junk Mail
Yes, it’s called “junk mail,” but no, it’s not always junk! Every week, you probably receive a mailbox-full of ads and coupons for various grocery stores in your community. Before you throw them in the trash, pull them out and take a good look. There are always good sales going on. Find the best sales and cut out coupons (small though the discounts may be – they can really add up)!
Coupon matching is another great way to save money on groceries. There are web sites out there, hosted by people who have done the coupon matching for you. Find a couponing site hosted by someone local and you could find yourself saving more than you every thought possible just by using your coupons in the right combination!
2. Choose Your Stores Wisely
Based on the ads you see and your experience exploring various grocery stores, you’ll eventually learn which stores have the best deals. Perhaps one is great for produce, and another rocks for packaged goods. If they are both conveniently located, shop at both.
Additionally, more and more stores offer price matching services. So rather than running from store to store for coupon deals, you can get all the best deals at one store by matching the prices. It can be a bit of a hassle at first, but it will be worth it once you realize how much money you are saving.
3. Make a List at Home
This is a basic rule to saving money on groceries, passed down from generation to generation. If you want to stick to a budget, you MUST make a shopping list at home, and USE it! No spontaneous buys, no on-the-spot treats. If that sounds too restrictive for you, make a solid list, but also budget $10 or so for “miscellaneous purchases” to spend on whatever catches your fancy.
No matter how organized you are, there will be times when you get to the store and realize you forgot to put a few essentials on the list. Budget a little more for those things, but be sure that you really need them!
4. Consider your Menu Options
Do you eat a lot of the same meals regularly? Great! Write down those meals you tend to rotate through on a weekly to monthly basis, and you pretty much have your grocery list covered. Don’t forget to include breakfast and lunch staples, and any snacks you or your family enjoy. Then, simply rotate through cleaning and toiletry supplies as needed.
Note: “snacks” are not necessarily “treats.” A great way to keep the budget tight and your family healthy is to be sure that “treats” are occasional, and “snacks” are healthy – like fruit, cheese, yogurts etc.
Ever find yourself struggling to come up with last minute dinners? Do the random contents of your refrigerator or pantry fail to inspire you in your culinary endeavors? Menu planning can be very beneficial here too, as it will help you use up what’s already in your home. Then you can plan for buying only those things you will actually use in the future:
- List the basic staples you and your family like to eat, for example; chicken, ground beef, pasta, vegetables, rice etc.
- Do an online search for simple recipes using these staples. You can even include parameters such as “low carb” or “fat free” etc.
- Save the recipes you like the most. Hint: they will use ingredients and flavor profiles you are familiar with and enjoy eating – in fact, you should already have at least some of the ingredients in your home! Save enough recipes to have at least a week’s worth of meals. You can add more over time.
- Use the listed ingredients for these meals as a basis for your grocery list! Add your other staples as needed.
5. Don’t Go Hungry
Another time-tested tip to save money on groceries is to never go to the grocery store when you’re hungry. Food at the grocery store is always displayed in ways that make it look appealing. And if you’re hungry – you’re a pushover for food related advertising, no matter how cheesy! Chips, candy bars, doughnuts, fluffy white rolls, colorful yogurt, and out-of-season fruit will all be calling out to you. Defend yourself against these temptations by shopping on a full stomach.
6. Save Gas as you Go
Although this doesn’t directly tie into “How to save money on groceries”, your gas budget will benefit greatly if you plan to go grocery shopping strategically. If you drive past a grocery store on the way home from work – do your shopping then! Don’t waste gas on a separate trip when you can do it all in one outing.
If you’ve made your lists and planned in advance, you can limit your shopping trips to once every week or two. So rather than running back to the store every day to pick up single items – try to do it all in one shot.
Sticking to a grocery budget doesn’t have to be hard. Just follow these 5 tips and enjoy a surge of saved money! Visit our blog for more family friendly articles and tips.