Food. We all need it. We must buy it. That means we need to budget for it.
But why is food so expensive? There are many reasons, of course, that delve into supply and demand, seasonal variations, and transportation costs, but ultimately you know your budget and you know what you need from the store. The trick is to make your need and your budget meet in the middle somehow.
Shopping for groceries can be expensive. The average household in the United States spends more than $600 per money on food. So how do you spend less and save a bit more? You get smart about your grocery shopping.
Saving money at the grocery store actually begins long before you step foot in any store. The grocery store is there to sell you the food you need to make meals. So, a bit of backwards designing goes a long way.
Plan your meals for the week in advance. Take the twenty minutes as a family or a couple to decide what you want to eat each night of the week. What’s going to be for breakfast? What are you putting in lunchboxes? Then make your shopping list for just the items you need.
You can save even more money if you plan your meals carefully enough to piggyback on each other. For example, you might plan to buy a bargain size of hamburger that comes in a five-pound pack. That’s five meals based on hamburger during the week. Or you might cook one big pack of chicken breasts and then use the shredded chicken in five different meals. Tacos on Monday, chicken fettuccine on Tuesday, chicken and noodle soup on Wednesday, casserole on Thursday, etc.
Compare Your List to Coupons.
We often waste money buying things we don’t actually need just because we have a coupon, or they are on sale. Once you have your list in hand, compare it with coupons on a coupon website or the store’s app. If a coupon is for something free, that’s a bonus and throw it on the list. But if it’s just saving fifty cents on a four-dollar item, what’s the point of wasting $3.50? Load the coupons you do find and plan to use your shopper’s card or your favorite coupon app.
In the last year we have seen a surge of stores offering online options for grocery shopping. Spend a bit of time one evening adding the items on your list to your digital cart. Once you have everything in the cart, apply the coupons you have collected on your shopper’s card or enter that information from the app.
Once your cart is set, arrange your order for a time that’s convenient for you, perhaps on your way home from work the next day or after you drop the kids off at school. Place your order and your groceries will be waiting for you when you’re ready.
Not only does this save you money by helping you match coupons and items, shopping online will save you from spending money on things you don’t need but might decide you just simply want when you see it on a special display inside the store. Additionally, shopping online lets you double-check that you have loaded up everything on your list. How often do we miss an item in the store when we’re shopping quickly after work and wind up buying a more-expensive replacement from the corner store when we realize the mistake?
Watch Your Proteins
If you want to carve a big dent in your grocery store budget, look at your protein choices. Meats are expensive, especially if you’re getting special cuts or buying fresh fish or items from the butcher in the store. You can easily cut back on your budget by replacing your proteins with less expensive ones. Swap the butcher chicken breasts for a value pack and freeze the extras. Consider drumsticks instead of breasts.
And don’t forget that there are health benefits from eating less meat overall. Maybe skip meat entirely at two or three meals during the week and enjoy legumes, enriched pastas, cheese and other protein-rich options instead to cut the budget and boost your health a bit.
Buy Seasonal Produce
Fruits and vegetables are an important part of our diet. But they can be pricey! When you’re buying produce, only buy what’s in season and look for specials to guide your snacking. Knowing your fruit costs can also make it more affordable to enjoy fresh fruit on a daily basis. Bananas cost quite a bit less than grapes, for example. Strawberries may be more affordable than blueberries depending on your area. Buying the fruit when it is in season will cut costs and let you enjoy a variety of flavors all year long.
While there are many ways to trim a bit here and there from your budget, the best money-saving tip of all is to simply eat what you buy. Don’t waste your money by planning, prepping, shopping and trying to save in the grocery store only to throw it all away by grabbing fast food on the way home and letting your food in the fridge go to waste. Plan ahead for all of your meals – even ones you grab as you drive – and you’ll save a considerable amount over time.