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Frugal Living: Groceries Are The Key
When it comes to frugal living, groceries are the first place to start. In America, the average grocery budget can soar upwards of a thousand dollars for a family of four. (Don’t believe me? Check out this chart!)
It is so easy to overspend at the store and blow your grocery budget. It’s even easier to skip the hassle altogether and just order pizza. But don’t you want to make the most of the money you have? Lowering your grocery spending each month can be simple and convenient with just a bit of planning. These are my tried and true tips that make it so that my family of five eats on $200 a month!
1. Create a Meal Plan
How can you avoid food waste and impulse buying? By sticking to your list! Meal planning and writing down what you need to buy for those meals is essential to lowering your grocery bill. Not only will it provide convenience while shopping, it will mean that you visit the store fewer times overall. This will save you money on gas and splurges!
2. Substitute Recipe Ingredients
Sometimes when I am browsing through my recipes, I come across ingredients where the expense is just unnecessary. Think pancetta versus bacon, or buying sharp cheddar when you already have a block of medium in the fridge. There is nothing wrong with substituting a cheaper ingredient, or something that you already have on hand. Take a look in your pantry and fridge before heading to the store, and cross off anything that you can substitute. Remember that recipes are a guideline, not a rule!
3. Skip Convenience Food
It’s no secret that buying pre-made convenience food is more expensive than cooking from scratch. Unless you are willing to coupon for savings, try a few simple recipes for your favorites instead of buying them prepared. Even the items like rice mixes and hamburger helper are costing you more than you think because the serving portions are so small!
4. Shop the Sales
When you are making your meal plan, pay attention to what is on sale. Check the meat, produce, bakery, and dairy sections first. Buy anything on your list that is marked down for quick sale or could be substituted for an item that you have on your list.
Tip: Perishables are the first place I look when checking sales, but I have also had a lot of success with couponing pantry items that are on sale. If you are going to that store anyway, why not?
5. Shop Discount Grocery Stores
Every once in a while, a brand will have an overstock of food, or discontinue an item, but they need to move leftover inventory somehow. Rather than take their losses, they often sell the food at a discount to certain stores. That is how discount grocery stores get such low prices.
These discount stores will vary by region, but they are a great way to save some money. A few that I know about are Aldi and Grocery Outlet. Google your area to see what you have access to!
6. Shop Case Lot Sales
Many grocery stores have sales where you can buy canned and dried goods in bulk for a lower price. This is one of my favorite ways to save on groceries! Every fall we stock up on staples for the entire year. I never go for convenience food, only staple ingredients we use often like diced tomatoes and pasta. Because of this, we spend about $300 a year on our stockpile.
Having most of my ingredients on hand is amazing, and saves me a lot of money and time at the store.
7. Compare Pricing By The Ounce
Sometimes it can be difficult to compare pricing between brands. The jars are different sizes, or the bottles aren’t shaped the same. The trick is to take a look at the price per ounce. Most of the time, you can find it right on the price tag! This tip alone will save you a ton.
8. Buy Ingredients From The Bulk Section
Buying in bulk is almost always cheaper, but it doesn’t always mean you have to buy a ton of an item at a time. Some stores have a bulk section where there are big barrels full of ingredients like pasta, beans, and cereal just waiting to be portioned into bags. I love visiting the bulk section in my local Winco because I can get the exact amount of whatever I need. I always buy my spices this way for just pennies.
9. Plan For Convenience, or Stop Eating Out
This seems obvious, but sometimes it just feels good to eat out, right? And sometimes, the effort that making an easy dinner takes is still too much. I mean, how many times have you decided to go grocery shopping and ended up buying pizza on the way home? Don’t worry, I’ve done it too!
The thing is unless we have planned and budgeted for that splurge, we are ruining our hard work! If you know that you will have a night where there is no way to make dinner, plan a fast and easy dinner and budget the cost into your plan. Eating is eating, no matter who prepares it.
Related: The Best Kitchen Essentials to Save You Time & Energy
10. Don’t Go Shopping While Hungry
This is the age-old adage, but it’s worth repeating! Do everything in your power to eat before you go grocery shopping. Even if you are not consciously making decisions to buy more food, it is likely that you will. Everything just looks more delicious when you are hungry!
11. Ignore the End Caps and Hot Spots
When you go into the grocery store, it is like one big walking ad. The store is literally set up to trick you into buying more. The most expensive items are placed at eye level, and impulse items are at the end caps and checkout. In order to avoid overspending, make a commitment to not buy into their marketing tactics. Keep your eyes on that list you made earlier.
12. Don’t Take Your Kids Shopping
I don’t know about you, but I cannot say no to a treat for my kids after a long shopping trip. I quickly realized that I was wasting money, whether at the store or on the way home by taking my kids with me. Now, I avoid taking my kids to the store any time I can.
Instead of letting my children impulse shop, I ask my six-year-old if he has any requests before I go and pick up a few favorites. That way they still get a treat, but it is controlled and on the list!
Related: The Best Places To Find Kids’ Clothes For Cheap
13. Freeze Perishables
This is probably the best tip that I could ever give. Having a large chest freezer enables me to buy meat, cheese, produce, and dairy in bulk. It’s amazing what can be frozen without a problem. I highly recommend the investment. It will pay for itself time and again!
14. Plan to Freezer Cook
Shopping in bulk means that you will have a lot of the same ingredient at once. I mentioned freezing perishables, but I want to go one step further and tell you to actually start your meals so that these ingredients are convenient.
I used to have my stockpile, and then just wing it at dinnertime. Now that our lives are more hectic, I don’t have the time to cook on schedule every night. I would get frustrated, and run to the store to get something easy(and expensive!).
Now, instead of always scrambling, I have started to prep meals, ingredients, and sides ahead of time. It gives me an option that is cheaper than convenience food or take-out, but just as fast and easy!
Bonus: when freezer cooking, dinner clean-up is almost non-existent!
15. Remember The Plan
The last key to saving money on groceries is to make sure that you actually use the ingredients you have! Whether that means freezer cooking, cooking a planned meal every night, or simply snacking on whole peppers, anything that goes to waste is essentially wasted money. Get into a routine that will help you remember to follow your plan. I personally like having a recipe board for the week. It hangs in my kitchen and reminds me of what I need to do to keep my plan in shape!
Frugal Living: Groceries
If you follow these tips, you will definitely make an impact on your frugal living grocery budget while still eating delicious and healthy food. Free up your budget by saving money on groceries and see what a difference some planning can make to your financial goals!
Don't forget to check out The Ultimate Christmas Shopping Planner to help you enjoy the Holidays on a budget!