Many households are struggling financially right now and are looking for ways to save money on groceries, with 63% of Americans currently living paycheck to paycheck.
One of the fastest ways to save money from your budget is to stop spending money on things, usually, items classed as ‘wants.’ Food, however, is classed as a ‘need’ and, therefore, something that we can’t just cut out completely from our budget.
While some frugal bloggers would suggest a diet of Ramen noodles to bring costs down, I believe you don’t need to go to that extreme to save money on groceries. So here is my list below of 12 ways to save money on groceries to reach your financial goals.
Make a Budget
There is a reason this is first on the list. Having a budget is a financial foundation everyone needs to have. Without a budget, it would be very easy to just buy groceries and have no real understanding of what you are spending or how it will impact your cash flow.
What number you set within your budget for groceries will largely depend on your individual circumstances. Some of the biggest factors include where you live, how many people you are feeding, and how much cash flow you have.
Setting your budget for a grocery shop is a great way to make sure you don’t go overboard while shopping. But more importantly, it means if you stick to it you won’t be doing any harm to your financial situation.
Hopefully, the rest of the tips on this list will help you spend less and set a lower budget for your groceries in the future.
Never Shop When Hungry
Why would you torture yourself like that? Shopping when hungry is a dangerous scenario to be in; not only are you risking everyone’s safety in your hangry state, you are likely to spend a lot more than you need.
Make sure you have had a good meal before you go shopping; this way, you are less likely to make impulse purchases out of hunger. This will stop you from buying more than what you really need, and you are also going to pay a premium for “fast” food you can eat at the store.
There really is no upside to going grocery shopping while hungry, so just don’t do it!
Plan Your Meals
Another thing you should do before you leave home to go grocery shopping is make a plan for your meals. This plan can be as in-depth as you would like, but I would suggest you plan out meals for at least five days of the week.
Planning your meals is a great way to maximize the amount of meals that you make and reduce food wastage. If you are having Spaghetti Bolognese on Monday for dinner, you can plan to have it for lunch the following day.
Without a plan, you may forget to take your lunch with you and end up buying takeaway food, which is often not as healthy, more expensive, and means your leftovers get wasted.
A great benefit of planning out your weekly meals is that you will need to know what ingredients you require before you go shopping. This leads to my next point: making a shopping list.
Once you have planned out your weekly meals, you will likely need a recipe to know what ingredients you will need. Once you have found your favorite recipes, get a shopping list together with all the ingredients you will need for the week.
This list should include everything you need and is your blueprint for when you are in the grocery store buying food. Anything not on the list shouldn’t be bought, as you didn’t “need” it before you left, so it’s likely an impulse purchase.
A pro tip here is to notice if there are recurring items on your shopping list that you could consider buying in bulk or searching online for a cheaper price.
Do Your Research
It may take a little bit of time, but if you buy items often, it could save you money by searching online for better deals. Online stores often sell products significantly cheaper than retail stores, given their lower overheads.
Doing your research may also help you find different local stores offering better prices than your usual store. Being loyal to one store doesn’t always benefit you as a customer, so always look around.
Make sure you also take advantage of any sales that are going on or any coupons that you have. I have been able to save hundreds of dollars on my grocery bills through loyalty points and coupons. Always keep an eye out for a deal!
Use Up all your Pantry Items First
Before you go and do your grocery shopping for the week, why don’t you first take a look at what you already have in your pantry? I am sure there are lots of items in your pantry that you can use to make meals for a few days during the week.
If your pantry is anything like mine, then you could probably skip an entire week’s grocery shop with the amount of food I have in there. So, this is a good way to save money on groceries and use up what you already have.
Pro Tip: It is always good to do a pantry audit to know what food you have that may be close to expiry dates; this way, you can use that food so it doesn’t go to waste.
Make sure you pack your grocery bags with you before you go shopping; this is not only a great way to help save the environment but also your money. Some shops charge crazy amounts of money for grocery bags, and you really don’t need to be buying these bags when you most likely already have some at home.
Also, take advantage of recycling programs; where I live, you can get up to $0.10 back for each can or bottle you return to the grocery store. So this is a great way again to help out the environment but also to help save you money on your grocery shop.
Leave the Kids at Home
I understand this may not be possible or a liked option; however, if it is an option, it can certainly help save you money grocery shopping. When I was a kid, I used to see something I thought I wanted at the store and annoy my parents enough, so I got it. I often ended up not liking the food or feeling sick afterward.
Neither option was good, and it also cost more than what was budgeted for. So, to help save any arguments or guilt trips with the children around the budget, it can be a good option not to bring them along at all.
You will probably also find a lot of time is saved during the process.
Meat Free Monday
I used to be a huge meat eater, and I still love eating meat, but I find I am eating it a lot less now. This is mainly to do with some education about how unsustainable it is for the planet and me feeling a lot better eating less meat.
I started by doing meat-free Mondays, which has now led to Monday Meat Day and barely any meat for the rest of the week. I only highlight this fact as it ended up cutting our grocery bill by about 30%.
Before, I was buying lots of meat and high-quality meat too, which, as you can guess, was very expensive. So, I was amazed at how much cheaper my weekly grocery shop was without meat. Meat-free Monday could be a good way to dip your toe in and save money on groceries.
Related: Going Vegan to Save Money
I love my fruit and vegetables, but one thing that I will never do is buy them out of season. If you are buying fruit or vegetables out of season, then you have to expect they will be more expensive.
The grocery store has to pass on the cost of importing them from wherever they have been grown, and given they are short on supply; the price goes up even higher. So make sure you are always doing seasonal shopping.
This will likely mean you need to consider seasonal recipes to work with the available ingredients available. Fortunately, with all the information online, you can get creative and find some great seasonal recipes to use.
This one is a well-known tip for a reason; it just works! If you need to buy non-perishable goods that you use often or a lot of them, provided you have the cash flow, it makes sense to buy them in bulk.
A perfect example of this would be toilet paper or canned vegetables. These items are used often, have a long shelf-life, and are often cheaper when bought in bulk. Make sure you don’t end up buying things in bulk, though that will expire before you get to use them.
Another important point to note here is that you actually need to have the space to store your bulk items. It is pointless buying in bulk and having nowhere to put the items; you will literally be wasting your money.
This is one of my other favorite tips to save money on groceries. Meal prepping is a great way to combine bulk buying and meal planning into one.
It involves cooking multiple meals all at once and then dividing them up into meal containers to have throughout the week. You then freeze these meals so they last the week, and you can have them whenever you want.
There are some amazing recipes that show you how to meal prep for under $50! Meal prepping not only saves you a lot of money and food waste, but it also saves you a lot of time throughout the week.
The key to meal prepping is to allocate a significant amount of time to prep the food but also have the right ingredients. Meal prepping is great for building healthy eating habits but also helps cut down your urge to buy lunch.
One of the downsides to meal prepping is that the repetition of meals can get a bit tedious, so take into consideration this may not be the best strategy for everyone.
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