Spending money on groceries is an inevitable necessity, and it can eat up a huge portion of your budget if you’re not careful. While you shouldn’t skimp on food and starve yourself to save money, there are ways you can get your grocery bill down. Here are a few tips to help you save money on grocery shopping.
Check the Cupboards
Before you make a trip to the grocery store, take inventory of what you already have. You don’t want to end up spending money on something you don’t need. Plus, you might even find something, like a bag of pasta, that you forgot you had. Try to use what you have and create a grocery list based around the items in your cupboard.
Make a Plan
Plan ahead as much as you can. Once you know what you already have, you can start to plan what meals you want to cook for the week. If you already have some pasta, you can make spaghetti. Also try and plan meals that use the same ingredients. For example, you can buy one onion and use it in two different meals. Making a plan and having an idea of what you want to buy will help you stay focused when you go to the grocery store. Stick to what you need, and try not to get sidetracked by all the different options.
Check for Sales
When coming up with your grocery list, it’s a good idea to check to see what sort of sales grocery stores might be having. Stores usually put their weekly sales ads in a local newspaper, online or in the mail. Take a look to see what’s on sale and plan some meals around the sale items. For example, if chicken is on sale, come up with some recipes that include chicken. Or if fish is on sale, plan a meal around fish. Also take note of any staple items that are on sale. It might be a good idea to stock up on non-perishable foods that you know you’ll use, like canned beans or rice, when they go on sale.
Buy in Bulk
This is a tip with a caveat: buy in bulk, but only when it makes sense. If there is some item that you know you will use a lot of, and if it’s not perishable, then go ahead and buy it in bulk. You will end up saving some money in the long run by buying, for example, 18 rolls of toilet paper at once instead of six rolls every week. Make a list of all the items you can buy in bulk, like paper towels, soap and shampoo, and non-perishable snack items, and take a separate trip to a clubhouse, like Costco or Sam’s Club. Avoid purchasing large amounts of foods like fruit and vegetables or milk that might go to waste if you can’t use it in time. However, these items might make sense if you have a large family or a lot of mouths to feed.
Weigh it First
Make sure you know what something truly costs. A fruit or vegetable that’s 99 cents a pound sounds cheap, but depending on how much it weighs, the cost could add up. There are weighing stations in every grocery store, so just take a minute to weigh before you pay.
Fruits and vegetables can be expensive if they are not in season. To keep your costs down, try to stick to fresh produce that’s in season. For example, you might want to buy pears during November and December when they’re in season, or watermelon and strawberries during the summer.
Never Shop When Hungry
Have you ever been to a supermarket when you’re hungry? You probably ended up buying a lot more than you would have otherwise. Make sure you have a full stomach when you go grocery shopping so you can stick to your list. If you’re hungry, you might grab a quick snack or a prepared meal to eat when you get home. These items are typically more expensive than buying single ingredients that you use to cook a meal.
Along those same lines, try to shop when you’re alone. Kids or other people you bring along may convince you to buy something that’s not on your list. Avoid the distraction and keeping grocery shopping a solo activity.
Stick to the Basics
Sticking to single ingredients instead of buying prepared meals can help cut down costs. Avoid foods that are pre-cut, washed, or sealed in bags. It might be more convenient, but it’s also more expensive. Buy vegetables in their natural form and do a little extra work chopping and peeling in order to save some money. Also avoid pre-packaged whole meals. Just buy the ingredients separately and make it yourself.
Get the most out of your money by making the most out of the food you have. Try to cook only what you’ll eat if you don’t like leftovers. Or if you don’t mind leftovers, cook extra, and enjoy the meal you made for the next couple of nights. You could also make huge dishes and freeze the leftovers, so you have an easy meal in a week or two when you’re too busy to cook.
Instead of buying the name-brand food, go for the store-brand. These are cheaper and often just as good. Also keep an eye on the size of a food item. Some brands may shrink package sizes while keeping prices constant. When comparing brands, don’t just look at the price, but also look at the size and the amount that you’re getting. Check the unit price of a food item, which is usually found on the price tag.
If you don’t know how much you’re spending each month on groceries, now is a great time to add up your bills. The amount may surprise you. Make sure you aren’t busting your budget on groceries and keep these tips in mind the next time you go to the supermarket.