Maybe you can relate. Rob and I are always looking for ways to save money. Within our household budget, there really isn’t a lot of extra to trim off. We’re pretty mindful of what and how we spend our hard earned dough; yet we recognize we spend far more on food than necessary. This seems to be a reoccuring recognition (remember this time last year when I was also posting about this very thing, #awkward). While I’m definitely a bit embarrassed to admit that despite knowing we can and should be doing better, we haven’t. I think the reason our previous attempts to curb excess grocery spending have proven unsuccessful, is that we honestly just get lazy. It takes work to actually stick to a grocery budget!
However, I’m committed to the cause. If you’re like us and know you spend more than necessary on groceries, but are still a bit ‘ho hum’ over it, try this. Go through your bank statement for the last 4-6 weeks, add up your food spending. Sobering, right? For us, we think of where that extra money could be going and it’s all the motivation we need to hike up our socks and jump on the grocery saving bandwagon. Join us!
TIPS FOR SAVING ON GROCERIES
Create a Budget - This is the start to really saving money on your groceries. Be realistic in a number that will work for you. For us, we’re going to strive for $100 per person/per month; that works out to be $500 total for our family of five. I’m also going to add another $50 for household supplies (cleaners, toilet paper, etc).
Shop Sales - Did you just eye-roll at this tip? Seems obvious; but by following not only what is on sale in store, but also weekly flyers you can really stack up the savings. Making this a routine, means you’ll be able to purchase essentials on a regular basis less expensively, as stores tend to rotate sales (meat, cheese, crackers are all great example of this).
Coupons, Coupons, Coupons! - Coupon savings can really add up, but acquiring them can also take a lot of time. I use apps that allow me to quickly browse the current sale deals and if they’re items I need to purchase anyway then I take advantage. CO51 is a great example of a free app that will mail you a cheque for your savings. I also scan in-store coupon boards. If you have the time, great savings can also be had from printing coupons!
Comparison Shop - Shop around! Certain stores are simply cheaper than others. I find that by shopping sales and buying on rotation (see tip #2), I can save a lot and still keep my shopping to only one store. Other people find it best to go between a few stores; ultimately it is whatever works best for you. I do recommend establishing one store as your main which will help to keep following sales, easier.
Establish a Shopping Schedule - Determine a day per week or biweekly, that will work best for grocery shopping. I strongly encourage limiting shopping trips because you can overspend by purchasing unnecessary items. If you’re not there, you can’t spend! This will also encourage being organized in your list and efficient with your shopping.
Shop Your Fridge/Freezer First - Before making your meal plan and grocery list, see what you have on hand. You’ll likely be surprised at how many meals you can put together with what you already have in your fridge/freezer/pantry. This will cut down on your spending and food waste.
Meal Plan - This one is huge and I’ll cover more tips in an up-coming blog post, but the basics include: making one larger meal per week that can extend to a second meal or provide leftovers, adding a few lighter suppers into your schedule, etc. A meal plan will keep you organized, with everything on hand to make meals; this means fewer impulse decisions to spend extra on takeout.
Embrace Leftovers! - Not only will eating leftovers save you money and reduce food waste, it will also free up time! I’m strategic in how I organize our meal plan to reserve leftovers for especially busy evenings. Leftovers can also be frozen for a future supper and work well for packed lunches.
Meatless Options - Not only are meatless meals less expensive, they’re also good for you and for the environment. We aim to do Meatless Mondays and usually a second meatless meal later in the week. There are so many great pasta dishes and the like that are great for this - Pinterest is the perfect place to find inspiration.
Eat with the Seasons - Save money by buying fruit and veggies that are locally in season. Produce that is in season cost less because it can be sourced locally. You can also save even more by growing your own!
Simple Suppers - These are easy on your wallet, body and time! A lot of people tend to think suppers require big meals and I use to be the same until my kids actually started requesting lighter options. This was a big ‘a ha’ for me. A bigger supper is always nice, especially on a Sunday, but after that as the week carries on and we become busier; breakfast for supper, sandwiches, soup etc. are all welcomed options. They also tend to cost a lot less, too.
Food Prep - Cutting veggies, preparing soups/sauces, making a full meal in advance pays off throughout the week. When I know I have everything ready to go to make a meal, or even better, have a full meal ready to just be cooked I never think of ordering takeout or swinging by the grocery store for something convenient. Sundays are a good day to do this prep work. It takes a lot less time than people assume and it can save you a lot on impulse buying.
Avoid Convenience - This closely follows the above tip. Simply put, you will pay more for convenience options. If you can make it yourself, you’ll save more money. Things like deli soups, frozen meals and some baked goods are grossly more expensive to buy already prepared than making them. For things like baked goods, muffins in particular (which my kids take for their school lunches), I make and freeze. This is healthier, far less expensive and provides a bigger quantity.
Determine a Take-Out Schedule - Just as I encourage meal planning, I do the same with eating out. When you include takeaway or dining out in your schedule, you are far less likely to stray because you already know you have a ‘treat’ meal coming up.
Stick to Your List - Make your list. Buy only what’s on the list. Save money! It really is as simple as that. Adding impulse items to your cart can add up very quickly and can completely derail your budget.
Shop Alone - It is far easier to stick to a list when you don’t have others wanting to add to your cart! This is especially true if you have children.
Online/Mobile, Ordering/Pick-Up - If you don’t want to be tempted to buy outside of your grocery list, an easily solution is to place online/mobile grocery orders. This means you won’t even need to go into the store, which is especially great if shopping with others is unavoidable.
Buy Larger Quantities - I share this tip with caution. Buying in larger quantities is not always a guarantee of savings. To determine if you’re getting a good deal on buying a club pack or in bulk, you will need to know your costs. Thankfully phones come in handy for quick reference checks; but do crunch your numbers so you can ensure you’re getting the best deal.
Buy Store Brand - Purchasing unbranded or store brand products can save you huge. Even 0.25-0.50, can quickly add up when you’re buying a lot of products this way. This said, not all store brand products are the same as the original or the brand you’re familiar with. I encourage some trial/error with this one to see what store brand substitutes to you can switch to.
Evaluate at End of Month - It is important to stay on top of your grocery budget and a big part of this is to evaluate what is working and what needs improvement. If things aren’t working, you are unlikely to keep it up; therefore it’s crucial to monitor. You may find, especially in the beginning, that you will need/want to do this weekly; but once you get into a routine - you won’t need to as often.
If you’re a grocery budget pro or a relative newbie to being more frugal with your food; we would love to hear from you! We’ll be sharing our experience in curbing grocery spending; so stay tuned for updates and future tips!