Here are a few tips I have for lowering your grocery budget:
1- I only shop once a week
There are some shoppers out there who only shop once a month. This can be fine, in theory, especially because we eat a lot of the same meals every week, but everything that I eat is kept fresh. I’m the one that eats all the fruits and vegetables in the house. If I run out at the end of the week and need to shop more, I find that I end up thinking of other things that the kids may want while I’m at the store or something different than what’s already planned. Makes me spend more money! I’ve found my happy medium though. Shopping everyday wasn’t the answer, and shopping once a month wasn’t the answer. Shopping once a week- perfect time frame for my family.
2- I take inventory of what we have first.
This isn’t one of those “I have a stockpile” kind of blogs. Everyone has a few extra cans of food in their pantry though, or a few extra boxes of pasta. Everyone. And if you don’t- then that means you’ve learned how to shop properly for your family. In the other extreme, it may be that you need to stretch your budget to make those groceries last. I do understand that there are people out there who live on a rice and beans budget in the Silicon Valley. I can appreciate that as I was in that same situation when I was growing up.
Though I will tell you that it makes me appreciate things a whole lot more once I’ve been able to put them into perspective. Except for us, instead of rice and beans, it was ketchup and mayonnaise sandwiches. Ever had one? Different flavor, but it works when you’ve only got the money for a loaf of bread and have a few condiments in the fridge. You can be creative in the kitchen if that’s your only resort.
For those that are able to stretch it a little further- take that creativity and use what you already have in your pantry.
3- Create a list of the meals you already have
Similar to the second tip, this is the next step in our grocery list creation. We write down the meals we can make using what we already have on hand. An example for this week- we had bacon in the freezer, and some pancake mix left over. Voila! Breakfast for dinner already taken care of and we didn’t need to buy anything extra.
4- Now that you have a meal or two already taken care of, poll the kids!
What does that mean? It means ask the kids what they want to eat. We use this method every week. If you are like my husband and I, you like to eat good food. But making good meals for us means we spend extra to make separate meals for the kids. Instead of doing all of that, you can just ask the kids what they want to eat. That will ensure the kids will eat what you cook and not demand fast food.
5- Make meals with similar ingredients.
While you’re cooking the same amount of food for the kids, improvise a little on your own meal. They want chicken strips? Make macaroni and cheese as a side, and buy one extra bag of salad for yourself to eat a chicken salad. You’re eating healthy, the kids get what they want, and you only spent an extra dollar or two on the bag of salad as opposed to buying a whole separate meal for the kids.
This can also be applied if you stretch your meat a little further. We use the same ground beef to make spaghetti and tacos during the week. Two meals with one chunk of ground beef. We usually find that there is extra ground beef left over when we make spaghetti, so why not separate out the portions or even cut down on the amount of meat you use in the first place.
6- Now it’s time to shop- Make your list of what’s left over and don’t stray from the list!
This can be the most difficult tip to put into action. Most people are great at the planning phase, but not the execution. You can say “I’ll only get what’s on the list” But if you go to the grocery store hungry, that bag of chips may look really tempting… Extra money. That new shirt on the rack at the store may look nice, but now you need pants, and new shoes to go with it… Extra money. Avoid it if you can.
Discipline is key. When we go to Walmart, we don’t venture into the rest of the store. We stay specifically in the grocery section, and then head straight to the checkout lines after. This is the only way we can ensure we don’t buy things we don’t need. Target has strategically placed their grocery section in the middle of the store so you have to walk by either the electronics or the crafting supplies.
7- Cook enough for your family to eat, and maybe one extra serving.
My family hates eating leftovers. They absolutely despise it. This is why we don’t make huge batches of food. It may cost a tiny bit more on the front end, but definitely makes it better for food waste. I’m the only one who will eat extra food. For dinner we make just enough for everyone to eat, and one extra serving. This way if someone wants seconds, its available. If not, then I have lunch already made for the next day, but don’t need to worry about eating the same mediocre meal every single day of the week. Less food gets thrown away too. Instead use that extra meat you would’ve used for your normal buffet sized meal, and cook something different with it. You may get two dinners out of the one you usually make.
Hopefully these tips help you save money on your grocery budget.
Take the time this weekend to map out a few go-to meals you have. What are some ways you can make it a little more frugal? I’m not going to suggest making a quinoa and lentil burger instead of a ground beef burger. That kind of advice doesn’t work for my family, so I wouldn’t necessary make the suggestion to you unless it’s something you’re willing to try. But if you can use half as much spaghetti sauce for your pasta dinner, that could give you enough to make that lasagna later on in the week, or a meatloaf if you have extra ground beef in the freezer.
Small changes, frugal choices, stretching ingredients, getting creative.
But most of all- stick to your grocery list!