I have a confession to make today. I used to be a total money waster when it came to the grocery store. I didn’t pay any attention to how much things cost or planning our menus and I was spending over $1200 a month on feeding my family of five. I know. TWELVE HUNDRED DOLLARS. It’s insane, right?
Not too long ago a family member shared with me how they had paid off a sizable debt by starting to coupon. I was totally inspired to try the couponing thing myself until I got home and realized I had gone down this road many a time and I just don’t have the time or energy to devote to it, let alone the space to stockpile a stash of couponed goodies as many people do. I started thinking about how I could shop smarter and save money without couponing and by trying out a few methods I was able to cut our grocery spending drastically-all without cutting a single coupon!
Not all of these tips and tricks will work for every family but each strategy you can incorporate will help reduce your overall spending without the time invested in couponing and stockpiling!
This was probably the biggest source of money waste for me-I wasn’t planning out my meals so I was buying a lot of random food then routinely panicking when dinner time rolled around because I had no idea what I was going to make. When I started meal planning I was able to cut back on wasteful spending and reduce the stress of dinnertime, which is always helpful! I actually use eMeals for my meal planning-they have a ton of options for different types of diets, Crockpot, Paleo, Clean Eating, Classic-and they just released a Budget Meal Plan that helps you to save money-it’s what I’m using going into the new year! They also offer a 2 week free trial if you want to give it a go before investing, just sign up here. (This is my affiliate link-it doesn’t change the price of your meal plan but helps support my blog and our family. I only recommend eMeals because it’s what I’ve been using for 2 years now-you can see my earlier post about using it here.)
Another bonus of meal planning is reducing the amount of shopping trips you make. I know if I have to make a fast trip to the store for a forgotten ingredient I usually find a least one or two more impulse buy items to add to my cart. My husband and I committed to one shopping trip a week with a planned out menu and list and this alone reduced our grocery bill by about 30%. When you’re starting at $1200 a month, a 30% decrease is pretty awesome!
Shop the Sales
When making up my weekly shopping list I always pull up the store sales flyer on my computer beforehand. If there is a special on certain items I may switch my meal plan around to incorporate that. I also look for great prices that are worth stocking up on. Remember to only stock up on items you actually need and use-many coupon enthusiasts buy unnecessary items just because they are a good deal which, while you’re getting a great deal, still empties your bank account-only buy what your family will use! Don’t forget that many perishable items like bread and cheese can be frozen so if there are good prices stock up on those and freeze them until you need them!
Participate in Store Member Programs
In addition to regular sales just about every store out there has a free preferred shopper program available and it’s a good idea to sign up for them all, as well as opting in to receiving their emails. I shop at Harris Teeter and they email out weekly emails of offers specific to your particular card-just last week I was able to stock up on toilet paper and paper towels at less than half their regular cost because I was paying attention to those emails-and no coupon necessary! So if you scan those store emails for good prices and buy when the great deals are there you can get the same savings as couponers do!
I know, it’s a basic thing but more often than not I found myself buying the brand versions of products rather than the generic or store branded items. When I made the switch I found that nine times out of ten the quality of the product was the same and making the switch provided a significant savings on my grocery budget. There were a few items that weren’t comparable when I bought the store brand (cereal bars were one that comes to mind-my kids wouldn’t touch the store brand ones but love Nutrigrain bars-so those items we save for occasional splurges due to the cost-and how fast they eat them up!)
Shopping smarter can only take you so far-there are many lifestyle changes that can drastically affect your grocery budget as well…these small changes can help you save money as well:
Drink More Water!
I’m probably in the minority on this one but I rarely drink anything other than water (not counting my wine of course!) By eliminating sodas and other sugary drinks from your diet you can not only save money but it’s healthier too! So cut out or reduce the sodas, juices, and other drinks and see how much your budget is affected-I bet you’ll be surprised!
Cut Out Food Waste
Wasting food was one of my biggest weak areas when I looked at our grocery habits and I’m ashamed of how much food we used to throw away. Plan smartly for eating leftovers (I send ours with my husband to work for his lunch the following day.) You can also cook one set of meat for multiple meals-this is one of my favorite cookbooks for doing that.
Don’t buy produce you’re not going to use right away, pay attention to expiration dates, and freeze meats that you can’t use before their sell by date. For our home my three young boys were huge contributors to waste in the house-I can’t tell you how many times they pours a giant bowl of cereal only to leave half of it uneaten and destined for the trash can. By teaching them to start with smaller portions of foods (they can always get a second helping!) we were able to cut back on their waste as well which helped a ton!
Cook from Scratch
Realistically speaking it’s not always a time and money saver to cook from scratch but in many cases it’s very helpful. My boys love waffles and pancakes for breakfast so I can save money by making a big batch and freezing them rather than purchasing frozen boxed versions at the store. The same goes with flour tortillas or pizza dough-we eat these in large quantities and they are so easy and economical to make that it just makes sense to make them ourselves. Ask yourself what you could make to save money on your budget.
Are you guilty of any of the same grocery budget busters I was? How do you save money on your grocery budget?