How many times have you walked into the grocery store and picked up more than you were planning? A few days later you realize that you didn’t get everything you needed, so you have to make another trip. If you want to know how to grocery shop on a budget and some ways to save money on groceries, we’ve got the advice you’re looking for.
How to Grocery Shop on a Budget?
Before you start shopping for groceries on a budget, you’re probably curious to know how much of your income should be for food. We recommend that groceries and eating out be about 10-15 percent of your take-home pay. It’s easy to spend more than that, and most people do.
Here’s an exercise you can try: Go back through your last three months of grocery costs on your credit card and bank statements. Total them up for each month and take the average of this number. Trying to make a drastic change, like reducing your grocery budget by 25%, will probably not work. Instead, make you reduce this amount by a realistic amount like 5 or 10 percent. Now, we’ll show you easy ways to save money on groceries that you can use to make this happen.
Name brand foods have much higher price tags than the store brand or other alternatives. And you’re not always paying more for higher quality. Name brand foods usually have higher overhead because of the marketing efforts that have made them the name recognition.
It’s also common that the same factor is used to make the store brand as the name brand name. The difference is in the packaging, which isn’t going to add any value to the price you pay for it.
Store Your Food Properly
If you know the importance of saving money, you might want to prevent food waste by ensuring that you’re storing your food the right way when you get it home. Here are a few food items and tips on how to make them last:
- Milk – Store milk on the self or the back of your fridge, where it’s usually the coldest.
- Butter – You can freeze sticks of butter quickly and use them as you need it.
- Avocados – Ethylene gas is produced in avocados, which makes other fruits and vegetables ripen faster. So keep them separate from everything else.
- Berries and Fruit – Wash these when you’re ready to use them.
- Lettuce – Put a paper towel in a container or bag to absorb the moisture when you have a bag of chopped or separated lettuce. Turn the bag or container upside down when you store it.
- Cheese – This is another food item that freezes well. String cheese and other individually-wrapped cheese can be thrown right in the freezer. If you have a block of cheese, it’s probably best to shred it first.
How to Grocery Shop for Food on a Budget
Shopping for food on a budget is much easier if you have a solid plan. Here are some tips for saving money on groceries that you can use.
This image of dinner is this elaborate meal that includes a salad, a cut of good quality meat, warm dinner rolls, and a sweet dessert. But this rarely fits into the reality of work and kids on a weekday. Shopping for food on a budget isn’t possible if you’re trying to make a worthy restaurant menu every week.
Sandwiches, salad, and omelets can serve up inexpensive options that don’t take more than 30 minutes to whip up. Serve up breakfast for dinner once a week. You can make a ton of meals with eggs like quiche and frittatas that are fancier yet cost-effective. The internet is chock-full of food blogs and recipes if you need ideas on simple, easy dinners to try out.
Rethink Your Grocery Store Choices
One of the easiest ways to save money on food is by choosing a different grocery store. We usually end up shopping at the places that we have created from our habits. Somewhere that’s close to your home or on the way to and from your commute.
If you want to save money on grocery store trips, that habit has to change. Less expensive stores like Costco, Aldi, Trader Joe’s, and Walmart can make shopping for groceries on a budget more doable. You’ll also want to make an effort to compare prices to see where you can get the most bang for your buck.
Check out the weekly ads to see what’s on sale in your area. If you are in the vicinity of several different grocery stores, you will especially benefit from skimming through various deals that are going on this week. Going to a different store will take some getting used to at first, but it’s well worth the effort to save money on grocery trips.
Bulk up When It Makes Sense
Sam’s Club, Costco, BJs, and the bulk sellers can get you the best price for units available in most cases. But this isn’t one of the surefire ways to save money on food that you think. It would be best if you still were sure to compare the price per unit or ounce on every item you’re thinking of buying.
If the price is right, make sure the item is realistic for your household needs. If it’s just you and your significant other, that pack of 40 yogurt snacks is not practical. Think about shelf life on these bulk purchases. It might make more sense for items like dry pasta, rice, and beans, which can last for months.
Take Advantage of Your Freezer
How to shop for food on a budget can be done by using freezer meals. It is a big trend to “meal prep” on Sunday for all your meals during the week. It also helps save you time and stress on the weekdays on planning and preparing meals for the family. You will end up spending less on eating out when you need a quick option for dinner. Search online to find a ton of freezer meal recipes to try. You can get your family involved and turn it into something you do every weekend together.
Plan Out Your Meals Strategically
To make the most of shopping for groceries on a budget, pre-plan your meals each week. You need to make out a list either on paper or on your phone to use while shopping. Use the grocery ads to find deals that will cost less. Purchase things that are in-season to get the lowest price.
Stick to That List
Making a list doesn’t serve its purpose if you’re not sticking to it. If you’re shopping for food on a budget and have a tendency of picking just a “few more things”, fight the urge. One thing you can try is using a calculator while you shop. This makes a running tally of how much everything in the cart is going to cost you.
Go a step further with this trick on how to shop for food on a budget: Round up the price for everything you put in your cart on the calculator. If the price is $3.49, then it’s $4 and if an item is $1.29 then it becomes $2. You’re still going to know about how much you’re spending but now you’ll be coming under budget every trip.
Avoid the Temptations
Items that are shelved at your eye-level are strategically placed there. It’s because grocery stores know that you’re more likely to purchase them so they put the most expensive items there. Don’t’ all for this trick. Instead, look at what’s above and below these shelves to find better pricing.
Eat Less Meat
Meat is expensive and you can get the same nutrients from other, inexpensive choices. Legumes are an example of a plant-based protein that’s a lot cheaper than meat which you can easily substitute. Try cutting back slowly by going meatless once a week to get started. Shopping for groceries on a budget will leave you much more room for other items than that $20 steak cut.
Grocery Savings Tips
Here are some quick tips for saving money on groceries that you should consider on your next trip:
- Don’t shop when you’re hungry. It will be easier to stick to your budget and avoid buying snacks or other things you don’t need.
- Limit your grocery trips to once a week. One of the best grocery savings tips is simply to get everything you need in one trip. The more often you find yourself at the grocery, the more you’ll end up spending.
- Buy large packages or snacks and wrap individual sizes for snacks. The items that are already individually-sized are always priced at a premium. Invest in some reusable snack boxes that the whole family can use.
- Cut your own veggies and shred your own cheese. Pre-cut veggies are another one of those foods that you pay more and you get less of.
- Only buy things that are “on sale” if you plan to use it. A buy three, get three deal free is only a good deal if you can use it before it expires.