10 Grocery Shopping Tips When On A Budget

by | Oct 11, 2019

10 Grocery Shopping Tips When On A Budget

Eating is one of those must-do’s in life. It’s necessary for survival and a potential source of great joy. While the average American household spends nearly $8,000 per year at the grocery store, it’s only natural to look for ways to scale back. Fortunately, saving money on groceries doesn’t mean subsisting on processed foods or having to radically change your eating habits. There are lots of methods to financially win big at the grocery store.

Here are ten of them:

  1. Create a food budget.
  2. Embrace inconvenience.
  3. Shop your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry.
  4. Meal plan for the week.
  5. Make (and stick to) a grocery list.
  6. Avoid impulse buys.
  7. Find true deals.
  8. Save money on meat.
  9. Learn to love leftovers.
  10. Grocery shop alone.

Let’s discuss each one.

1. Create a food budget.

If saving money on groceries is your goal, a food budget is your road map to get there. You need to establish a weekly spending cutoff and actually hold yourself to it. The wonderful thing about having a budget for groceries is that it doesn’t dictate what you can buy, just how much you can spend. 

A great way to keep your budget intact is to tally up each item as you put it into your shopping cart. As you near your spending limit, you may need to make some trade-offs or look for cheaper alternatives. Be sure to set clear spending priorities ahead of time to make those in-store decisions easier.

2. Embrace inconvenience.

Going out to eat, ordering takeout, or buying pre-packaged foods definitely makes life easier now. But it’s decimating your food budget. In order to stretch your dollars as far as they can go, consider forgoing some of the conveniences you’ve grown accustomed to. 

This mindset shift could take the form of eating more home-cooked meals, chopping up your own fruits and vegetables, or growing herbs and produce in your backyard. Any one of these will help you save money on groceries. Bonus points if you try all three!

Shop your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry

3. Shop your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry.

Believe it or not, you have a mini grocery store right in your house. Your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry probably hold food that’s long been forgotten about. So before making your regularly scheduled trip to Trader Joe’s, take an inventory of everything you’ve already got. Chances are, you have the makings of several different meals, just waiting to be cooked. And, by using up the ingredients that you have, you’re minimizing food waste.

4. Meal plan for the week.

Knowing what you’re going to eat for the week will help you save a ton of money at the grocery store — and meal planning is easier than you may think. Simply jot down your breakfast, lunch, and dinner ideas for the next seven days. If you get stuck, check out some recipes for inspiration or for new spins on old classics. Next, note the ingredients required to prepare each meal. Voila — that’s your meal plan!

Make (and stick to) a grocery list

5. Make (and stick to) a grocery list.

Sticking to a shopping list will prevent you from getting off track and buying food that you don’t need. Making that list is simple. Just look at the ingredients in your weekly meal plan. Then, review what you already have at home. Your budget grocery list should only contain items you need for this week’s meals, less what you have on hand. 

6. Avoid impulse buys.

The meal plan and shopping list are your grocery budget’s best friends. However, it also takes real discipline to stay dialed into your strategy. To prevent rogue snacks from appearing in your cart, be sure to eat before you shop. (Hunger can be a budget buster!) If this is a challenge for you (and you wouldn’t be alone!), consider ordering your groceries online. What’s bought is bought and you can’t sneak in any extras.

7. Find true deals.

To grocery shop on a budget, you need to become a master at finding good deals. Scour weekly ads carefully and read price labels. Sometimes, buying in bulk makes financial sense — and sometimes it doesn’t. Look at every item’s per-unit cost to get the true pricing scoop.

Consider buying store brands whenever possible. Things like canned goods and spaghetti sauce usually taste identical to name brands, but often cost significantly less. Those savings can really add up over time. And, to further maximize that budget, you should check out apps like Ibotta, which will get you cash back when you buy groceries.

Save money on meat

8. Save money on meat.

While meat is a staple of most dinner-time meals, it can be very expensive. To cut back on meat spending, consider buying cheaper cuts like ground beef or chicken thighs. You could also pick up jumbo packs of meat while they’re on sale and freeze several portions for future use.

To take it a step further, think about going meatless. No, you don’t have to become a vegetarian. But, by skipping meat just a couple of times a week, you could realize significant savings over the course of the year. To make sure that you still get your protein, add beans and peanut butter to your diet.

9. Learn to love leftovers.

When you cook dinner each night, intentionally prepare some extra food. These leftovers can instantly become your lunch or dinner tomorrow. If you’d rather not eat the same thing so soon, freeze the extra and enjoy it the next time you’re craving that meal. There’s a silly stigma surrounding leftovers. But the truth is — eating them is a really smart idea and loving them makes you a savvy consumer.

Grocery shop alone

10. Grocery shop alone.

Children and significant others can really throw a wrench in doing groceries on a budget. When they’re in the store with you, chances are impulse buys will make it into your basket when you’re not looking. Of course, you want your home to be stocked with the food that they enjoy. That’s why they should absolutely have a say in the meal planning process. However, for best budget shopping results, leave them at home and go to the grocery store solo.

Final Thoughts

Food can be a very big expense if you let it. Thankfully, there’s a lot of information out there to help you be successful at grocery shopping on a budget. These money-saving tips will have you eating the healthy foods you enjoy at a price you can afford.

Tell Charlie: What are your favorite ways to save money on groceries?

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