I talk with a lot of people who wish they could save a little more each month with their grocery bill. Sometimes, the difference in amounts spent for food can be upwards of $100 -$200 per month for similar sized families. Interestingly, most of the people I know who have their grocery budget under control utilize some or all of the tips below.
Plan a Month’s Worth of Meals.
If you’re like our family, we rotate through the typical family meals every few weeks. Take a couple of minutes to write down the meals you would usually eat in a week and try to remember variations of these and other meals. Compile these meals into a master list and plan a few weeks worth of dishes before you go shopping.
When you organize your meals for the week, try to pair up days to take advantage of leftovers that can be used for the next day’s dish. Even more, you can use perishable items for two recipes instead of just one if you plan your meals ahead.
Make a Master List of Essentials
Some items in your pantry can last a long time and should be stocked whenever possible. As you cook and plan meals, you should get a feel for how long each staple item will last, which will help for planning in the future. A few essentials include:
unbleached flour or bread flour (for bread making)
canned and dried beans
Search through your local paper and be sure to clip coupons for the items on your list. Be careful not to add items to your list because of an attractive coupon, unless you are really saving money by substituting it for other things on your list. Online coupon sites like coupon.com, smartsource.com, couponmom.com, and redplum.com can also be a great resource for savings.
If you really want to save some extra money, take advantage of stores like Walgreens and CVS for the in-store savings that can be used as real dollars on future purchases.
Shop on Specific Days and Stick To The List
Not only does a routine schedule allow you to plan other things better in your week, it helps control impulse buying. Sticking to your list can often be the best way to keep the budget in control. Our family uses GroceryIQ, an iPhone app that syncs your grocery list between users and organizes according to aisle to help you shop more efficiently. Also, when you set aside time to shop for groceries, you often times learn when stores have special pricing and promotions.
Use What You Buy – Or Don’t Buy It!
Have you ever bought fruit and watched it go to waste? Or pulled out ground beef from the freezer to see that it’s ruined because of freezer burn? You can avoid most of this just by planning ahead and buying when you need it. If you find that certain items never get fully eaten or spoil before you can use it, make note of it for your next shopping trip and buy less of that item or substitute something else for it.
Additionally, buying in bulk can save money, but not when the items spoil because you can’t use them in time.
You can save money on your grocery budget if you reshape the way to approach your meals. With a little time, planning, and practice, you can reduce your budget without sacrificing quality meals.
Do you have a goal to tighten your grocery budget this year? How have you saved money when planning your meals?
photo by juhansonin