If your food budget is no longer cutting it, gone are the days of careless grocery store shopping. Now, it is time to be smart and we have some simple ways to do that. Here are some tips that can help you grocery shop on a budget without making sacrifices.
1) Stop Wasting & Start Planning
As Americans, we can be very wasteful people and this spills over into our grocery shopping. It is estimated that people waste as much as 30 percent of the groceries that they buy. That means that nearly a third of the money you spend could be going into the trash can.
Luckily, there is a simple way to stop this and it is called meal planning. Here is how meal planning works.
First, you need to sit down and write out a list of all the meals that you want to make in a week. This list should include every breakfast, lunch, dinner and even snacks. With this list of meals in hand, you can make a very accurate grocery store shopping list with minimal waste.
Once you have your shopping list, cross reference it with what you already have in the refrigerator or pantry. Cross off the items that you already have and you are ready to go grocery shopping.
Meal planning is a very helpful tool that can allow you to save anywhere from 10 to 30 percent on your grocery bill. As an added bonus, with your meals planned out, daily life becomes a bit easier as well.
2) Take Advantage Of Curbside
One of the greatest changes to the grocery industry on recent years is curbside grocery pickup. You might think that this is just because of convenience, but it can also save you a good deal of money. This is because curbside pickup allows you to skip all of the merchandising going on inside of a grocery store.
Grocers are masters at getting you to spend money. Every item on a shelf is in a particular position for a reason. Name brands are positioned at eye level, complimentary items are placed strategically and candy bars are at the checkout. Nothing is placed randomly.
By taking advantage of curbside pickup, you can avoid all of this merchandising. Without that temptation, you will save money on impulse buys, so if you are not already ordering your groceries online, start doing so.
3) Read The Circulars
Every week your grocery store will release a new circular with prices that typically start on Wednesday. On the front page of this circular are what is called “loss leaders”.
Loss leaders are items that are priced very competitively, sometimes even at a loss. The idea is to encourage you to come into the store where you will ideally shop for more items. To make up for the loss on a few items, you will be encouraged to spend freely with creative merchandising or product placements. Sometimes they even hike the price on complimentary items. For example, hot dogs go on sale but the price on buns increases.
Take advantage of loss leaders but be disciplined. Make note of what is on sale and only shop for these items. If something can be stored or frozen, consider stocking up on the items if the price is good enough. Then, do your regular shopping online at your normal grocery store.
4) Buy In Bulk, But Smartly
Do you have a discount club membership? If not you should probably get one, especially if you have a family. AARP estimates that warehouse clubs can save you over 10 percent on the cost of groceries. For the average family, that could be over 900 dollars in the course of a year.
It is all about the power of bulk buying which can save you drastically if you are smart about it. Being smart means buying the right items in bulk.
Only buy in bulk what you can consume over the period of several months and only items that will keep well for that amount of time. Things like produce are certainly off this list but many of your regular staples are acceptable.
When buying in bulk, think about items that can be stored long term like canned goods, pasta, beans and rice. These are common staples that you can pick up very cheaply in bulk and can be used to make hundreds of different dishes.
5) Buy Rice & Beans
Rice and beans are some of the cheapest foods that you can buy. A prepared serving of rice, for example, costs just 18 cents per serving. Used as a base for a meal, you can feed a family for just a few dollars.
Beans, when made from dry beans, are just as inexpensive with a serving of beans costing roughly 15 cents. Beans are also a fantastic source of fiber and protein, making them a good substitute for meat.
Now, don’t read this as a suggestion to only eat beans and rice. While you could do that and save big, that is no way to live. Instead, think of ways to use rice and beans as a base for a meal. Add your favorite vegetables and/or a light serving of meat and you can come up with dozens of inexpensive and easy to make meals.
6) Skip The Portioned Snacks
If you have kids, snacks are a big part of what you buy and they can be a problem when grocery shopping on a budget.
Those grab and go bags of cookies or chips might be easy, but they are costing you a lot of money in the name of convenience. Switch to buying your snacks in regular size containers and then breaking them down into portions.
Breaking snacks down yourself does several things for you. One, it allows you to buy in bulk but still give your children the convenience of single serve snacks. Another thing it does though is allow you to switch to a generic product without anyone knowing it. Without the individual packaging, your kids will have no way of knowing who made their snack so they will complain less about the swap, hopefully.
7) Do Your Own Food Prep
Any time human hands touch your food, the price goes up. This goes for everything you buy because labor is not cheap, especially when it is done at the grocery store. Learn to do your own food prep and save big.
The biggest offender in this category of food budget waste is the prepared meal. If you are buying prepared meals, start prepping them yourselves. This might involve a bit more work on your part, but it will save you money, will reduce the risk of food contamination and the end result will likely taste much better.
Any task that you can take on yourself will save you money. This could be anything from shredding your own cheese to cutting up a whole chicken.
8) Repurpose Your Leftovers
If you are throwing away leftovers, you are missing a big savings opportunity. Instead of throwing them away, repurpose them into new meals.
Turn a leftover piece of chicken into the topping for a salad or make that extra hamburger patty the filling in tomorrows beef taco. There are countless ways to repurpose food and not let it go to waste.
Another option is to save leftovers and freeze them. Then, once a week break them out and have leftover night. With leftover night, everyone gets to have their favorite meal from the week and you get to serve a free dinner. Over the course of a calendar year, you could easily get over 500 dollars in savings.
To Wrap It Up
Grocery shopping on a budget is no easy task, especially these days, but it can be done without sacrificing your quality of life. Try to put at least a few of the tips above into use and you should be able to realize savings that might more than make up for the rising cost of groceries.