For many people, gone are the days of sitting at the kitchen table on a Sunday morning clipping coupons from the inserts. Even with online coupons, the time it takes to clip, organize, and then shop – gets quite time consuming and overwhelming. It’s a lot of work!
The average American family of four spends roughly $146 to $289 per week on food. That can really add up, and if you are struggling to save money or make ends meet, one of the easiest ways to “find” extra money in your budget is by reducing your food expenses.
We’ve compiled some great ways to help you save a few dollars on your food bill each week. You don’t need to implement all these tips at once just pick a few of the easiest ones for you to try and see how they work for you this week. Next week, add on a couple more. Once you’ve adjusted your shopping habits, you’ll be able to watch as your grocery expenses shrink without clipping one single coupon.
Make a list and plan your meals in advance – one of the easiest ways to watch your grocery bill skyrocket is by having a plan of what you want to cook/eat each week. Figure out what the menu looks like for each day and make your list accordingly. Dinner doesn’t have to be a 4 course meal each night either, but if you do make some big meals, plan in a night of leftovers too so food doesn’t go to waste. Also, go through your pantry each week before making your menu and get creative with some of the things that have been kicking around for a while or are nearing expiration.
Keep a running tally and round up. If you keep a running tally of how much money is adding up in your cart, you’ll save yourself from any surprises when you get up to the checkout line. It’s also much easier to round your purchases to the next dollar to make the math easier as well as make sure you stay in budget. This might make you stop and ask yourself—wait, do I really need that fancy $10 specialty cheese that isn’t on sale? Some stores offer a scan as you go product that will add up your grocery bill as you shop, making staying within your budget even easier, as well as the checkout process too!
Think before you bulk buy. Who doesn’t love buying bulk especially when it makes the unit price so cost effective. Buying things like toilet paper and paper towels just make sense because they never expire, but if you plan to buy a case of 48 yogurts that your family will get sick of, it probably doesn’t make sense in the long run. Always check the unit price, consider the expiration date, and whether you’ll tire of it before it’s all consumed.
Batch Cook and freeze. A great way to use products bought in bulk is to cook in bulk and then freeze meals for a later date. Sale on tomatoes, great! You can make a giant pot of tomato sauce that you can portion off and freeze for another day. It freezes great and is very easy to thaw for a future meal.
Shop what’s in season. This applies mostly to your fruits and veggies. You are going to pay more for strawberries and blueberries during the Winter than you would in the Summer because they are in season during the Summer months. You probably won’t find corn on the cob in the grocery store in February or March, but it can be really cost effective to buy in mid to late Summer when it’s being harvested.
Learn the sales and shop at different stores. This can cost you a little extra time but save you a lot over time. Different stores have different sales that start on different days. Always check the weekly flyers to see what’s on sale, when, and where. If you really want to make Tacos on Tuesday and the store across town has all the fixing on sale, then it can be worth the trip to get some items at a different store. It’s easy to get comfortable shopping at one store, but don’t be afraid to shop around to save money.
Bring your own bags. This is crucial, especially in CT with the plastic bag tax back in effect. It might not seem like a lot of money each week, but those dimes add up and could end up costing you a lot of money over time. Plus, reusable bags are much more durable and you can fit a lot more in them. Say goodbye to bags tearing and your delicate produce spilling all over your driveway.
Consider shopping online. With Instacart and Peapod, shopping online and having it delivered or picked up can help you avoid putting unplanned items in the cart. Some services do charge a fee, but it could save you more money in the long run – especially if you are prone to impulse buys or if you have to take family members with you who are notorious for sneaking items in the cart.
Don’t shop while hungry. This is shopping 101. When you are hungry you make bad decisions. Your cravings can kick in and while you didn’t plan on buying 6 different types of cookies or chips, there they are in the cart! Trust me, you’ll spend far less if you shop on a full stomach.
Skip the name brand. Buy generic when possible. If you absolutely can’t substitute your Oreos for store brand, we get it, buy the Oreos, because the only thing worse is buying something you won’t eat. But if you and your family can’t tell the difference between store brand OJ and Tropicana, then save the extra money and get the store brand.
Grow your own produce and herbs. During the Spring, consider planting your own garden to grow some of your family staples. Cucumbers, lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, etc. can all grow great in the CT soil and help you save hundreds on your grocery bill! You can also get a small herb garden and grow herbs inside year-round.
Grocery shopping on a budget doesn’t have to be hard, but it does take creativity and sticking to some new habits. That extra cash you save can help you pay down a mortgage, car payment, student loan or build up a savings or retirement fund. Try some of these grocery store tips on your next trip and you may be surprised just how much money you save.
Need help setting up a budget, no problem, check out this great blog article.
Branch Manager – Torrington