We’ve all heard the common advice about grocery shopping on a budget: make a grocery shopping list and stick to it. We’ve all heard it. Plan out what you need and then only buy what you need. Meal plan, make a list before going to the supermarket- we’ve all heard it! However, when it comes to food shopping, however, I say: do the opposite!
My Unconventional Advice to Help You when you are Grocery Shopping on A Budget
This one shopping hack will save you cash at the grocery-store checkout!
Don’t Meal Plan!
The conventional wisdom is to plan exactly what you are going to make each day for lunch or each night for dinner and then go shopping for what you need. Having a shopping list is the best way to save money on your food budget. I guess this can help with impulse shopping if you are struggling with that. But, when you are on a tight budget this is the best way to spend less on groceries.
When grocery shopping on a budget, especially when it’s a tight budget- I go to the store, see what’s on sale and then plan my meals around what I find on sale. So I do meal plan- but based on what I bought, I don’t buy based on what I plan. This is such a simple way to save a little money in your grocery budget.
Tomatoes are on sale? Go home and google tomato recipes. Canned corn is on sale? Look in your cookbooks for recipes with corn. Don’t make teriyaki chicken if you need to go and buy teriyaki sauce. Make teriyaki chicken because the sauce was on sale.
Some of my favorite food recipes I found because I was searching for what to do with the food that I bought. And you will discover new foods that you like. I had a memorable two weeks, where I tried tons of beet dishes because beets were dirt cheap. It turns out my kids really like beets! Really.
My 6-year old will down a whole serving of beets for a snack. Who would have guessed? Not me. I would have assumed that he wouldn’t like them, and I would probably have never thought to ever include them in a meal. It would never have made my way onto a grocery list. Once I bought the beets, I had to research how to serve them, and I realized that there were so many ways to prepare them. They are also great plain- just roasted or boiled. They are also super, super healthy, so score! Who would have thought beets would be one of the most eaten veggies in my house?
Obviously, don’t buy two pounds of a random grain just because it was on sale if you have never tried it before. You may not like it and that would be a huge waste and not particularly budget-friendly! But once you do try it and love it, run out and buy some more- some for eating and some for stocking up.
Stock Up on Basics
It’s a good habit to buy one extra thing that is on sale to keep in your pantry. When a staple or a favorite goes on sale, buy it and put it in your closet. If you have basics in your pantry, you will be less tempted to buy takeout or run to the store when you are hungry (a notorious budget-buster!). Store-brand items are usually cheaper than name-brand- but if you must have the name-brand wait until it goes on sale and then stock up, especially if it’s a pantry staple.
Remember, prices on food are very seasonal and location-dependent so not every cheap and budget-friendly recipe will be cheap and budget-friendly FOR YOU. That is why you have to know what you can afford before you plan what to make. See what’s on sale before you decide what to make.
You can also stock up on some veggies and put them in the freezer when they are in season so you can eat them all year round. Buying non-seasonal items just because it’s on your meal plan is not the best way to save money on groceries.
When you have a preconceived idea of what you MUST make for dinner or what you NEED to buy, it’s very hard to leave the store without it- even if it’s more than you want or are able to spend.
When you plan your meals around what’s cheap and available, you can stay within your budget and eat deliciously even when you’re tightly budgeted. Don’t fall into the trap of finding delicious recipes online that have exotic or expensive ingredients, and then go buy them. Buy the ingredients, and then go find the delicious recipes!
If you are beholden to meal plans then you will find it more difficult to do your grocery shopping on a budget- that’s why I use the Building Blocks Meal Planning method instead (Meal prep and use leftovers from what is already available)- and it helps me save money and reduces meal planning stress! It also discourages me from eating-out because the food is already in the house.
Read more about Eating Healthy on A Dime!
Do you have more tips on how to save money on food? Are you grocery shopping on a budget? What are your grocery shopping tips for saving some money?