With the price of food on the rise, grocery bills are growing along with it. It can be a challenge to stick to your grocery budget while also trying to check everything off your list. But, with a little effort, you can keep your weekly grocery bill on budget. Whether you’re already tracking your grocery budget or just getting started, here are 7 ways to maximize your savings at the grocery store.
Shop smart and prioritize your health
There’s often this misconception that eating healthy is more expensive. While you can definitely find “healthy” products with high price tags, the simplest way to eat healthy is to stick to real, whole foods along the perimeter of your grocery store. Organic fruits and vegetables are more expensive so consult the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists to determine which fruits and vegetables are better to buy organic. Don’t rule out frozen fruits and vegetables. These are typically frozen at the peak of their freshness so often they’re full of the same (if not more) nutrients as the fresh ones.
Shopping smart also means not getting fooled by labels. Companies will often use buzz words like keto, gluten free, paleo, vegan, all natural, sugar free, or low fat on their packaging which tends to mark up products that appear healthy but aren’t. Always check the ingredients list and nutrition labels on items with these claims and remember, the simplest way to maintain a healthy lifestyle while grocery prices are so high is to stick with whole foods.
Make a plan and stick to it
It’s easy to throw a few extra items into the cart when your eyes catch a new product, your favorite foods that aren’t on the list, or something you’re craving. Those impulse buys can drive up the total cost of your groceries. Long before you leave for the grocery store (so it’s not done in a rush), make a meal plan. Pinterest is a great place to look for recipe inspiration or even find a meal plan template. Determine what you’ll eat for each meal and write out all of the ingredients. Be sure to check whether you need to restock any staples. And then, when you head to the grocery store, challenge yourself to stick to your grocery list.
Pro tip: never go to the grocery store hungry. It’s easy to let your hunger dictate what ends up in the cart. Have a meal or snack before you go grocery shopping to help you stick to your list!
Track your shopping
Make an effort to sit down weekly and look at two things:
- How much you’ve spent on groceries for the week
- How much of the groceries you purchased did you actually use
It’s easy to let spending for the month get away from you but if you sit down regularly to do the math, you can get a full picture of what you’re spending on a regular basis and what you’re actually using. Take note of anything that went bad before you could use it so you can avoid food waste for the following week. At the end of the month, look at the full picture of your grocery spending. If you find that you’re still spending more than you’d like after tracking, revisit this list and see what other opportunities you have to save.
Life gets busy and some nights it’s hard to come home and cook what’s planned. It’s often easier to bring home takeout. This can lead to food waste when everything goes bad before it can be used. Additionally, you’ve spent money on food you didn’t even use. The easiest way to combat this is to pick a day to meal prep. After you grocery shop, gather all the recipes for your meal plan for the week and set aside 2-3 hours on the weekend to prepare all of the meals. This way all the cooking is done for the week. You’ll save time and ensure that you’ve used up all of the food you bought.
Meat tends to be one of the more expensive items at the grocery store. Adopting a “Meatless Monday” routine means that you skip a recipe with meat at least one night a week. Things like black beans, chickpea pasta, or quinoa are great alternatives that can be easily prepared and save you some money on your weekly grocery bill. Find food blogs that specialize in vegetarian meals so you can ensure you’re getting adequate protein through plant-based sources.
Determine how much you’ll need to save each month in order to realize your next big purchase. Check out our free calculator to help determine how much money you can save.
Do some research
Before you go to the grocery store and before you even do your meal plan, look online and see what deals are available for the week. When you know what’s on sale, you can try to plan your meals around the sale items. Pay attention to sale dates and align that with your grocery shopping dates so you don’t miss anything.
Don’t shop every deal
And finally, not every deal is a deal. A sale leads us to believe that what we’re getting is a great deal and we need it but this can have a negative impact on your budget in two ways.
It can lead to you buying something you might not use just because it’s on sale. Ask yourself if you would consider buying this if it weren’t on sale. If you buy something because it’s on sale and it sits in a cabinet or pantry for months, this means you spent some of your grocery budget on food you’re not actively using. Be intentional with the sales you choose to go for.
While it’s marked “sale” it doesn’t always mean it’s a good deal. Sometimes a “buy 2 get 1” deal might mean the first two are marked up so you’re still paying the price of 3 even though it’s advertised as getting one for free. This isn’t always the case but it helps to be aware of some of the sales tactics grocery stores use. The more you pay attention to prices, the more savvy you can get when it comes to sales. Don’t forget to check other grocery store prices nearby to really assess whether you’re getting a good deal.
It takes a little extra effort when prices are so high but it’s possible to keep your grocery budget within reason even as prices continue to rise. The more you practice these methods, the more of a savvy saver you’ll become. If you’re overwhelmed, just try one approach at a time until you’ve found a good rhythm.