Grocery shopping is always a challenge to get the best deals, make the best choices and stay within budget, especially when you get in line to check out and see all of those delicious treats from mini-wine bottles to candy. Stay strong Deal Takers and follow these simple tips to save on groceries (so you can spend it on something better)!
1. Take stock
The first thing to do is to evaluate what is already in the pantry. Try to use everything you have and if you find absolutely will-not-use the items, donate them to a food pantry. You probably forgot about some of the ingredients that you have available. There might be expired items (toss them) or items that you could base a recipe on. While you are in there, clean and organize!
2. Prepare for your trip
Those grocery store ads you get in your mailbox are not just to wrap your other envelopes in. Compare supermarket ads and make a list based on the stores you need to visit for the best deals.
Many grocery stores have apps to get electronic coupons to apply to their savings club card. One tip is to do this internet search and download at home because the connection in these stores is spotty, at best. Plus, standing in the middle of the stores swiping through coupons is a bummer and not very efficient.
Use your phone to be organized and not make those “shoot! I forgot it” trips back to the store. A list will help you be more efficient and also help keep you away from impulse purchases. (I am talking to you mini-powdered donuts and candy bars.)
Speaking of powdered donuts, do NOT go to the grocery store hungry. You will make bad choices or at best additional spending if you go hungry and then need to grab something to eat or drink.
3. Use recipes/meal plan at least 4-5 meals a week.
I like to have enough ingredients for at least four dinners, this takes away the stress from the weeknight rush. Planning most meals allows for flexibility to have leftovers from other dinners and the availability to go out for dinner or change based on a craving. And some nights are just cereal-for-dinner nights!
4. Use leftovers
Make enough for dinner to have lunch the next day. You will be healthier and save up to $20 if you pack your lunch for leftover dinner.
5. Buy fewer pre-packaged items
Packaging costs money and so it is more expensive to buy precooked or individually packaged items. Breaded chicken nuggets cost more than chicken you buy, cut and bread yourself.
My grandma always said “we have more time than money”. Other prepackaged items also include pre-shredded cheese, just buy a less expensive block and shred it yourself. The same applies to washing and cutting your own vegetables and cut your own fruit. Stop paying for labor.
6. Pay with cash
When I don’t have my credit card as a backup and just have cash, I am very careful with what I put in my cart. There is a calculator on our phone for a reason! It might take a few trips to the store to really have a good grasp on a budget, so maybe start on the higher side of the budget and trim down a little every time.
7. Test your green thumb
Grow what you eat: Herbs, vegetables, and fruit are great items to subsidize your groceries. There is an initial investment of soil, container, and seeds/plants, but growing some vegetables like tomatoes and zucchini is relatively easy. Some people even find gardening relaxing and rewarding.
According to Eartheasy there are big savings to be had growing six cost-effective vegetables: lettuce, bell peppers, garlic, winter squash, tomatoes, and broccoli. When you start planning your garden, check to see what growing zone you are living in here.
I love growing herbs because they can be costly when purchased and I always seem to not have them on hand for a recipe. Rosemary is one of my favorites to grow because it just smells good outside!
8. Go meatless
Meat can range from about $2/lb to $10/lb depending on the type of meat and where you live. Go vegetarian or vegan and still get enough protein with rice and beans, tofu, or other options that are healthier, too. There are many, many recipes to choose from online. Vegetables, a bag of beans, a bag of rice, seasonings can make a meal for four possible for under $15. These options are great for your health as well.
9. Try generic
My mother-in-law swears by certain brands and will not veer from them, but, there are other options. If you love a certain brand, then stay with those brands. If you don’t care deeply about your brand of mayonnaise, then try the generic version.
Most likely generics are made with the exact same ingredients. A perfect example of cost-savings is to never buy brand name acetaminophen and ibuprofen because they are exactly the same as the name brands we often refer to them. Take a few minutes and look at ingredients.