Groceries are a huge item on most of our budgets. But eating is a necessity, so can we really save money on groceries? Quite a bit, actually. Several little changes can quickly add up to large savings. In turn, making those savings routine by changing your shopping habits will lead to long-term savings.
One Awful Way to Save Money on Groceries
One easy way to save money on groceries is to eat out more! Logically, if you’re eating out, you’ll be buying fewer groceries for home. Sadly, people actually do use this reasoning to rationalize eating out. When you stop and think, you know that eating out is way more expensive than buying groceries. But we can be irrational creatures, so if you catch yourself using this reasoning, stop yourself! Of course, there’s nothing wrong with eating out on occasion- just don’t do it to save money on groceries.
Save Money on Groceries by Cooking your Own Meals
With our busy schedules it’s hard to find time to cook dinner, so many of us rely on frozen dinners. Pre-made frozen meals are convenient, but they are almost always more expensive per serving, not to mention less healthy than homemade meals. If you can carve out the time, or find a few quick and easy homemade meals, your budget will thank you!
To help squeeze homemade dinners into your busy schedule, try making a few meals on the weekends to freeze. On workdays, you can simply pull them out of the freezer and into the oven. Crockpot cooking is another great way to go for weeknights. In the morning you just dump the ingredients in and turn the crockpot on. When you get home, dinner will be ready and waiting.
If you think home cooked meals are boring, branch out! Sites like allrecipes are loaded with recipes of every kind. One of my favorite recipe blogs is Budget Bytes because it strikes a great balance between budget and delicious. Over time, you’ll build an arsenal of recipes that you enjoy. You’ll also figure out what works well in your schedule.
Save Money on Groceries by Shopping with a Plan
Many people’s shopping trip consists of wandering through every aisle, picking up whatever looks good. This sabotages your grocery budget in two ways. Most of the time, you’ll get home with much more than you need, meaning that food starts getting tossed later in the week. Likely, you’ll also realize part way through the week that you forgot a few key ingredients. This means a second trip to the store, wasting gas and time and tempting you to once again buy extra.
Going with a list and sticking with it will keep you from overbuying and will save you the extra trips to the store. Base your list off of a meal plan for the week. At least schedule every supper for the week. Keep meals that use the most perishable ingredients at the beginning of the week. When you’re making your list, check what you already have on hand and omit those items from the list. Then add to your list items that you’ll need for breakfasts, lunches and snacks (again, omitting items you already have on hand).
Shop Specials and Sales Wisely to Save Money on Groceries
The sales that grocery stores run can be your best friend or worst enemy. Always know that the grocery stores are not running the specials strictly to save you money. Like all businesses, your grocery store wants to maximize sales. The sales are there to first bring you in the door, and then to get you to buy more once you are in the door.
A few guidelines can keep sales from blowing up your grocery budget. Don’t let an otherwise expensive store lure you in the door with a few great deals. If the sales are indeed so good that you can’t pass up, go in with blinders on, pick up ONLY the sale items, and walk out (after paying). However you’re much better off sticking to a grocery store that consistently has lower prices across the board. Compare the everyday prices on a few items that you buy on a regular price, and pick the store that has the lowest prices for your typical shopping. If the store matches ads from other stores, even better!
Secondly, shop the sales strategically. Realize that not all sales great deals. More importantly, only buy what you need. The stores are counting on you being ‘wowed’ by their good deals that you’ll pick up a product just because it was on sale. Remember that a good deal on a product you didn’t need isn’t a good deal for you. Only pick up perishable sale items if the item fits in your meal plan for the week. For items with longer shelf lives, stock up on items that you know you use on a regular basis and pass on the items that you don’t typically use. For example, when shredded cheese goes on a good sale, our family easily buys 60 or 70 bags because we know that it freezes well and because we typically go through 2-4 (8 oz.) bags a week. However, we don’t drink soda at all, so I’ll walk right by the soda aisle even if Pepsi is $1 for a 6 pack.
Save Money on Groceries By Properly Managing Your Pantry (and Freezer)
After you stock up on great deals, make sure your purchases don’t go to waste. Be aware of the shelf life of your stock and rotate! Throwing an item away in 6 months turns a great deal into a terrible deal. Also keep your pantry and freezer organized so that you’re able to quickly check your stock against your shopping lists.
Buy Store Brands to Save Money on Groceries
Store brands can often be a great way to save money on groceries. Many store brand items are the same quality as name brand at a significant discount. In fact, often the store brand version is made by the same company that produces the name brand. If you don’t already use store brand products, give then a try. You’ll probably find some duds, but you may find several items that you’re happy with. Just switching to a few store brand items can add up to several dollars of savings every week.
Warning- Shop Warehouse Clubs With Care!
Much like sales and specials, warehouse clubs can either be fantastic for your grocery bill or can absolutely ruin your grocery budget. It’s so easy to overbuy when you are shopping warehouse clubs, so be aware of your quantities and only buy what you’ll use. Also, while warehouse club prices are generally cheaper than regular prices in regular stores, you’ll often score better deals if you just wait for regular store sales to stock up on items.
You don’t have to make huge sacrifices to save money on groceries. Shopping more strategically will add up to huge savings that can free up your budget and be put towards other goals. Happy thrifty shopping!