As a food blogger, one thing I am constantly asked is “What are you spending on groceries?” Most people are surprised to find out that I have a $50 a week grocery budget. The reaction you may be having is probably something like, “What!?!” I only say that because that is usually the response I get when speaking with people in person. The next question I get asked is usually “How do you do it?” No, I am not a couponer. I am not going through all the sales adds in the paper, comparing prices, and plotting a map to hit 100 stores for the best deal. Many people are very successful with those tactics, but I just don’t have the time or the energy for it. I can tell you that there a few practical ways that I have learned to save money on my groceries, and I know that these simple tips will help you as well.
Budgeting: Recently my husband and I adopted the “cash only” lifestyle. We sat down, looked at our finances, and place cash in an envelope for each area of our spending. According to our budget, I can comfortably afford $200 a month for groceries. This does not include my toiletries, it is specifically for food. Okay, I have $200, and that breaks down to around $50 a week. Now, I know that is what I have to spend, and I know I have to make that work for the entire month. There is no withdrawing from the bank for extra. You will be surprised at how resourceful you can be when you have a real grasp on what you can afford. So, my first bit of advice. Sit down, look at your finances, and get a real idea of what you can afford to spend on food every month.
Know your pantry: Even before I make my meal plan, the first place I look is my pantry. Keeping a well-stocked pantry is key to saving money on your monthly groceries. By having things on hand, you won’t need to buy as much on a weekly basis. Stock up when things are on sale. If you use something from your pantry, buy two to replace it. What sort of things do I keep in my pantry? I keep things like canned goods, flour, sugar, pasta, rice, etc. Basic staples that are essential to meal planning.
Meal Planning: After you know what you are able to spend, you have to decide what you are going to spend it on. Meal planning can help you keep your repeat meals to a minimum, and it can help you spread your pricier meals out among your less expensive ones. Plus, now you have a game plan. If you know you are going to have a busier night tomorrow, you can do the necessary prep work for that dinner tonight, and will be less likely to eat out, hence, you save more money!
Making a list: I never go to the store without a list. Never! It is too easy to get distracted and impulse buy without it. That’s not to say I never forget things, and pick them up when I see them, it means that I am not aimlessly buying things with no purpose. By this time you know what you need and you stick to your guns!
Limit yourself to two stores: As I said earlier, I know that there are a lot of people who are pouring over the sales adds on Sunday and mapping out their shopping route for Monday, but I find that to be very dangerous. Just as going into the store without a list can lead to unnecessary purchases, giving yourself too many options can do the same thing. Not to mention the money you are wasting in gas! I recommend having a primary store you know you always get great deals at, and a secondary store to buy anything you were not able to at the first. For me those stores are Aldi and Kroger (with one exception I will talk about in a minute.).
Know your store: My game plan for savings is starting to take shape, but now it is time to go where it really counts…Into the store itself! When I make my list, I make it out in the order of how I make my way through the store. Again, this way you are not as apt to go wandering about and impulse buy. I know it seems like such a simple thing, but it really makes all the difference in the long run.
Don’t be a label snob: This is sooooooo vital! Most of the time, when you buy name brand products, you are paying for a label. CRAZY I KNOW, because, and I am not making this stuff up, MANY of the generic items that are on your grocers’ shelves are EXACTLY like the name brand ones. So much so, that they are even produced and packaged in the same plants as your beloved name brand items. Don’t get me wrong, I have a couple brands I am loyal to, but for the most part, I am a generic kind of girl and I have the money in my wallet to show for it!
Buy in bulk: Since I only shop at two stores, I do watch when certain items are on sale. I may get a paper on Sunday, but more often than not, I use their apps. If I see they are having a great sale on say frozen vegetables or certain canned goods, I will adjust my menu for that week to accommodate for a little bulk buying! Remember, having that well stocked pantry helps you save over all, and buying in bulk during sales is a great way to stock up.
Another thing we buy in bulk is meat. Here is where my exception from earlier comes into play. At the beginning of the year, my husband and I purchased a 1/4 of beef. It is quality meat and supplies us with enough red meat for a year! Also, every other month I will make a trip to SAM’s club and purchase my pork, chicken, smoked sausage, bacon, etc. When I come home I portion it out and freeze it. Again, on this week I have to get creative with my meal planning, but having these things on hand really helps keep my overall costs down. Not to mention that if you go to SAM’s as soon as they open, you can get some great buys on the meat from the day before!
There you have it! My secrets to saving at the grocery store. I want to make one thing clear. $200 a month is what works for my husband and I. That doesn’t mean $200 will work for you. You really need to look at your family, your lifestyle, and your finances and see what is best for you. It may be more than me, it may be less. The point of my savings advice is not to keep you within in my budget, but to help you keep within the parameters of yours!