The average couple spends an average of up to $800 a month on groceries, and families of four spend an average of up to $1,400 a month on groceries. Depending on how much money you make, your savings goals or your financial needs, that’s a lot of money (and a lot of food)!
Whether you spend on the high end or the low end on groceries, there are always ways to trim your spending and save hundreds of dollars a year. Planning ahead, limiting your visits to the store and taking advantage of coupons, store discounts and weekly specials are all easy ways to get ahead of your grocery budget from week to week.
You can still eat well, enjoy your meals and save money on your food budget each month, but it will take thinking ahead and sticking to your plan. Here are easy ways to save money on your groceries right away.
Each week, before you meal plan, take inventory of your pantry and refrigerator to see what items you can make best use of during the week ahead. If you have expired condiments or perishables, toss them and make sure to replace them or leave them off your list this time. Always start with what you have.
Take time each week to create a simple meal plan with recipes that meet your health needs without blowing your financial budget. If you plan for all of your meals and snacks, it makes it easier to shop online or in person and get everything you need in one visit. It also allows you to search for coupons and weekly specials on items and ingredients, and to tailor your meal plans to store savings opportunities. The reality is, if you don’t meal plan and prep, you’re also more likely to end up eating out or making last minute trips to the store for expensive pre-packaged items.
Make a List and Stick to It
Saving money on food and groceries is all about careful planning and sticking to your budget, at all costs. It can be easier to order out or buy costly prepackaged foods and products, but you’ll have to choose to strike a balance between easy and saving money. Before you visit the store or begin online shopping, be sure to make a comprehensive list of everything you need to fulfill your recipes and meal plan for the week. Include snack items, seasoning, condiments and any other items that can easily slip your mind. Once you arrive at the store, stick to your list and don’t veer off course, even if you do see other options that catch your eye.
Limit Your Grocery Shopping to One Time Per Week
The more you visit the grocery store for last minute items or one or two missing ingredients, the more likely it is you’ll impulse buy a few more items that aren’t on your list or in your budget. Try to do a comprehensive inventory of your pantry and fridge, plan your meals accordingly and be meticulous with your list and shopping. It takes time and a lot of attention to detail, but if you can purchase all of your week’s groceries in only one trip, you’ll cut back on unnecessary and costly purchases.
Shopping in the store does have its perks, but online shopping seriously eliminates impulse shopping. If you chose to shop online 3 out of 4 weeks a month, you’d still end up cutting back on your spending. While perusing the produce section yourself or getting your hands on packaging and products in person can be appealing, online shoppers are trained to choose produce properly and you won’t end up purchasing that $15 marinade with the shiny packaging while you’re at it.
We know it sounds old-fashioned, but shopping with coupons really can lead to large savings in the long run. Nowadays, you don’t have to scour newspapers or store pamphlets to search for savings opportunities. Check out online coupon sites like Coupons.com or TrueMoneySaver.com and pick and choose the coupons that work best for you.
Buying store brand products versus brand name products can save you hundreds of dollars a year, and you won’t have to sacrifice flavor or your meal plan to do it. If you prefer specific brands of cereal or salad dressing to others, make exceptions as needed, but choose to go generic for condiments, grains and other single serve items that can be costly.
Don’t Shop Hungry
One of the fastest ways to overspend on groceries is to show up hungry to the store. You’ll end up purchasing foods that aren’t on your list or that don’t fit into your meal plan, and only because they look appetizing in the moment. Plan to shop after a meal, when you’re satisfied and can stick to your list, your plan and your budget.
Simplify Your Meals
The simpler your meals, the easier and more cost effective they become. Make sure that your meal plans use similar ingredients, including pasta, rice and other grains. Save money and keep your produce from going bad by purchasing frozen veggies instead of fresh. The more you can use the same ingredients in different ways in different recipes, the more you’ll save big on your weekly spending.