Since we have not mastered cutting our grocery bill, I asked Amanda if she would be willing to do a guest post and cover this topic. She is a pro, and I am glad she agreed to share her expertise! Make sure to head over to her site and check out all the great content.
Amanda is a wife, mom, black belt and creator of CentsiblyRich.com, where she shares tips and insights gained through paying off $100,000 in debt on one income.
Is your grocery bill killing your monthly budget? It’s likely food is one of your largest expenses. Food expenses rank fourth in consumer expenditures, right behind housing, transportation and insurance.
Yet, grocery expenses are also one of the most flexible, controllable expenses you have. Lowering your grocery bill could add up to hundreds, even thousands of dollars each year. So what are you waiting for? Get working on that grocery bill!
My family has been able to slash our grocery expenses by 50% without using coupons or significantly changing how we eat or shop. With a little planning, preparation (and cooking, of course), you can do the same!
10 simple ways to save big on groceries (without clipping or printing coupons)
1. Track Grocery Expenses
If you’ve never tracked your grocery spending, you may be shocked by how much you spend on groceries each month!
Tracking grocery spending does a couple of things. It 1) gives you a baseline for how much you spend and 2) provides accountability. Knowing how much you typically spend on groceries helps you have starting point, set new spending goals and see improvement. Plus, if you have to actually write down what you’ve spent, you are more accountable and likely to spend less. That package of cookies you have your eyes on? Do you really want to tack that onto your expenses?
2. Buy and Stock Up on Sale Items
Stocking up at low prices is crucial to saving money on groceries. Study the grocery flyers each week and take note of the sale prices on items you normally buy. I recommend making a price book to track unit prices on your commonly purchased items. The price book helps you figure out when prices are rock bottom and, therefore, when to stock up.
Focus on buying the loss leaders. Loss leaders are items retailers are willing to “lose” money on to get you in their store. They are typically found on the front and back of store flyers.
Are you brand-loyal? This could cost you! Make a deal with yourself to at least try the generic or store brands and see if you really notice a difference. Making this switch can save you a heap of cash.
3. Make a Grocery List
Go through the grocery flyers (and look at your price book) when you make your list. Take note of what you plan to eat during the week for breakfast, lunch and dinner when you make your list (to eliminate any last minute trips to the store).
The most important thing here is to stick to your list! Keep in mind, retailers spend tons of time and money on product placement and displays so you will go off your list and buy more. If you have wandering eyes when you’re at the store, ask yourself if the item is truly a need or a want.
4. Plan Your Meals
Each weekend, sit down and take a look at your calendar for the week. Plan out exactly what you will have for dinner each day of the week. Plan simple meals that can be prepared in short order on those busy nights (the slow cooker is a necessity when you don’t have time to cook!).
You don’t have to make a 5 course meal each night. Keep it simple. I usually have one main dish, along with a veggie and/or fruit. Easy peasy.
Base meals around items that are on sale that week. You’ve already studied the grocery store flyers and know what’s on sale. Use those low priced items to your advantage.
Keep ingredients for quick meals on hand at all times. Pasta and sauce (and other quick meals) should be stocked in your pantry for those times when dinner becomes more of an “emergency”.
5. Prepare Meals Ahead
Preparing a portion of meals ahead of time literally saves dinner for my family each night. I know what’s for dinner each night (because I’ve made my meal plan), so I prep part of the food the day before. This may mean chopping veggies for the entire week, or simply thawing out meat, but any little thing you can do ahead of time speeds the process.
Make meals that overlap ingredients to create multiple meals. For example, if you cook chicken breasts one evening, cook extra chicken to have chicken enchiladas the next night. Or, double the meal you are making and put the extra food in the freezer for a future meal. This alone saves a ton of time and money.
6. Limit Meat Purchases
Meat is likely the most expensive item on your grocery list. If you tend to eat a lot of meat, try to start with one or two meatless meals each week.
Consider protein substitutes, such as eggs and beans (an uber frugal food!). Each week, we have one dinner with eggs as the main protein, such as egg sandwiches or scrambled eggs.
Another way to limit meat is to use it as part of a meal, rather than the feature of the meal (steak, chicken breasts, etc.). Use smaller amounts of meat to prepare stir fries, rice bowls, salads, soups or casseroles to limit meat consumption.
7. Buy Seasonal Produce
If you watch the grocery sale cycles, you will note that the cheapest produce is, typically, what’s in season. Apples are cheap in the fall, cucumbers and squash in the summer, greens in the spring. So, this means January is not the time to give into your hankering for strawberries. When it comes to produce, the cheapest way to get your fruits and veggies is to eat with the seasons.
8. Focus On Nutritional Value
Soda and candy don’t have any nutritional value. Paying to put junk into your body doesn’t make good economical sense. Try to limit the amount of junk food you add to your cart.
I live with two teenagers, which means buying junk food is a source of contention in my house. While I try to find a balance and buy some “treats” each month, I try not to spend much money on food with no nutritional value.
9. Skip Prepared Food
The cut up fruit and veggie platters at the grocery stores certainly are convenient, but you pay dearly for that convenience. Prices for pre-washed, pre-chopped or pre-cooked food can be anywhere from 30% to 100% more expensive.
Instead of the pre-washed, pre-cut produce, develop some knife skills and prep fruits and veggies ahead of time. Rather than buying the pre-baked brownies from the bakery, buy a boxed mix and make them yourself for a fraction of the price.
10. Buy Non-Grocery Items Elsewhere
Grocery stores shouldn’t be your one stop shop. Buying clothing, household items, or even personal care items at grocery stores is going to cost you. The sky’s the limit on the markup on these items at the grocery store. Order non-grocery items online or purchase them at a warehouse club or big box store.
Most importantly, make any grocery savings you have count! Don’t just spend the money you saved, but make sure you actually save the money you saved.
How do you you save on groceries? Do you need to work on cutting back?