The grocery bill can make you groan, especially when you look at your measly two bags worth as you hand over $40. Grocery stores are just like every other store; they want you to spend your money. The worst thing you can do is to go grocery shopping without a plan, unfocused and with lots of distraction. This is a recipe for big spending.
Saving money on our grocery bill requires some planning and organization so that when you get to the store, you are focused on your dual mission of providing good, healthy meals for your family and saving money.
Prepare Before You Shop
Before you even go to the store, take these three essential steps.
1. Find Out What’s On Sale – Before you head out to the store, be sure to check the weekly prices online or through your grocery store’s app. Even the printed circular will do. Also, compare the prices between the different supermarkets in your area. You may need to go to more than one store to find the bargains, but the savings may be worth it.
2. Plan Your Weekly Meals – Once you know what is on sale, sit down and make a weekly meal plan, including many of the items on sale. Look around for inspiration online or in magazines or in old cookbooks. Many people dislike the meal-planning portion of cooking, but try to make it fun by having a “vegetarian night” or a “Mexican night.”
3. Make a List – As you are planning your meals, make your list while the ingredients are fresh in your mind. This way you are less likely to forget an ingredient also. Most importantly, once you make your list and get to the store, stick to it!
At the Store
Keep distractions down and focus while you are shopping.
4. Shop By Yourself – Frugal shopping requires focus. The focus is the key to saving the most money and sticking to the list you’ve created. Once you add the kids or even your husband, extra items begin to show up in your cart that were not on the list and not part of the meal plan. It’s ok to buy a special treat here and there, just make sure it’s on sale!
5. Stop Yourself From Browsing – Don’t get drawn into items you don’t need just because they are a good deal. The exception is if its something you or your family will definitely use and not waste. Paper goods for instance can be bought whenever you see a good deal because you know they will be used.
6. Give Generics a Chance – If you usually stick to the name brands, that are more expensive than the generic brands, give the generics a try for some products. You may not like the differences in some foods, but for many, many items, there is no discernible difference. The savings can be anywhere from 5% to 40%, especially if an item is on sale.
There are ways to stretch what you have bought to the max.
7. Do the Prep Work – It’s tempting to buy pre-cut fruits and vegetables at the grocery store in order to save time in the kitchen. But someone had to get paid to chop those vegetables, and it was built into the purchase price for your convenience. Buy your fruits and vegetables whole and take the time to chop them yourself. Some food can be frozen so you can chop in bulk and then just grab a handful from the freezer when you need it.
8. Eat Those Leftovers – Some people are just not leftover-people. The thought of eating day-old anything is not appealing to them. But, with a little creativity, you should be able to disguise leftovers as a brand new meal. Add leftover veggies to a pasta dish or a stir-fry, no one will ever know! Make burritos with leftover meat or put everything in a pot for an impromptu soup.
9. Stretch the Cheap Stuff – Make the most of items that are relatively inexpensive such as potatoes, beans, and rice. Each of these can be prepared in any number of ways to keep the menu fresh and both are cheaper than pasta, which Americans tend to favor. There is a reason that these foods are staple foods in other countries, they are economical and go a long way.
10. Cut Down on Meat – Experiment with cooking vegetarian meals. You may find some great dishes that your family craves and you will be doing your food budget a big favor. Meats are expensive so finding replacement meals will be well worth it. Of course, many also claim there are significant health benefits to cutting down on consumption of meat.
With an hour or so of upfront planning, you can save a bundle on your grocery bill. By focusing on what you are buying and what you are preparing, you can feel much better about where your money is going each week.
If you are new to saving money on groceries, let me also suggest this beginners guide from Dealvario’s titled Couponing 101. She does a great job outlining how you can save up to $600 a month at the grocery store.
It may be hard to make these changes at first. Like every new skill, it takes a little time to master if it has not been something you’ve done much of before. However, once you try it a couple weeks, you will see the savings and feel good about the meals you are feeding your family. Kids may even have fun helping come up with meal ideas. Whatever you do, start now and try to have a little fun while you save money.