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Whether you are working at paying off debt or building wealth, you need to be intentional with your money. Your budget is a great tool to help you do that! I found that one of the easiest places I could control my spending was at the grocery store. These tips saved me hundreds of dollars each month – money that I was able to use to pay off debt and that I’m now using to build wealth. Check out these 10 easy ways to save money on your grocery budget!
Meal plan and shop with a list.
It feels like I talk about this a ton, but you guys? Meal planning.
Are you like me, constantly looking for ways to reduce your decision-fatigue. (Decision fatigue means I make nearly ALL of the decisions, big and small, for the three humans in my home, and I. Am. EXHAUSTED.)
The last thing I want to do when I get home from teaching 24 first graders is decide what I am going to make for dinner. Especially since if I’m only figuring it out at 4:45, I’m already beyond hungry, and nothing is thawed or prepped! This leads to afternoon snacking, a grumpy wife and momma, and often cereal for dinner! Which, don’t get me wrong – yum! But when we’re factoring in health and nutrition on top of finance? It just doesn’t work!
The solution: Meal Planning. Saturday mornings while my boys enjoy some Xbox-bonding time, I sip my coffee, and we make a meal plan. I take a look at the week ahead – what nights do we have stuff in the evenings? How can I plan quick meals for Wednesdays so we can get out the door on time for dance at six? Who is home when?
I plan out our dinners for the week, think about what we need for breakfasts and lunches, and then make my grocery list to match. Then when I go to the grocery store, I use my list and get only the things I need!
Shopping with a list keeps me focused at the grocery store. I know I am getting everything I need for the week ahead and I (usually!) don’t get anything extra.
Shop once a week.
Weekly shopping goes right along with meal planning. When I sit down and think about what we need, I’m looking at the whole week. I make a grocery list that covers everything from the staples we have run out of throughout the past week, to the specific things I need to make that new stirfry recipe on Sunday night.
By going to the grocery store ONLY ONE TIME I reduce the risk of impulse shopping, AND I maximize the time I have with my family. No one has to stop on the way home from work to pick up stuff for dinner, and that means more time together.
I find it nearly impossible to pop into the store for a package of pasta and NOT picking up a treat for dessert or a cute mason jar vase or a new hot sauce that I noticed and thought Dan might like. Those impulse-y purchases are all great – but they aren’t NECESSARY.
Limit yourself to the once a week shop and just say NO to cute mason jar vases. (At least most of the time!)
I don’t know about you, but the grocery store is a tough place to resist the impulse to buy all the things!!! I might think I am popping in for a loaf of bread, but it seems like I always come out with at least two bags of groceries and at least $50 less in my chequing account.
By doing my shopping online, I can skip all of the temptations of walking around the grocery store, and because I can see the total cost of my cart as I am shopping, it is easier to stick to my budget. Plus, I can shop in the middle of the night, in my PJs, if I want to!
Almost all of the grocery stores in my area now have click-and-collect options. I can hop online, add the things I want to my virtual cart and then schedule a time when I will pick up my order. Someone else gets their steps by filling my order, and I save money (and time!) by not having to do that work myself.
Are you asking yourself “What about my produce? I don’t want bruised apples and ancient broccoli, thank you very much!” I can’t speak for all stores, but I know the stores that I use pull their online orders from the produce in the back. The good stuff that hasn’t even hit the floor yet! So you are saving money, saving time, and getting the freshest fruit and veggies! Yes!
We live in a time where you don’t have to HAVE the flyers to do this. Hop online and google your local grocery stores – I bet nearly all of them publish their weekly flyers for you to peruse. Give them a quick scan and see what is on sale this week, and let that inspire your meal plan!
I don’t have time to stop at four or five different stores to get through my grocery list, but it still pays off if you see that something that you were going to buy anyway is on sale for a crazy deal at a store that isn’t your regular shop-spot.
Similarly, even if you only look at the flyer of your preferred store and plan your meals for the week around what you can get ON SALE, you are coming out ahead!
Some Apps help with this too. Try the Flipp app to compare prices at your local stores to make sure you are getting the best prices!
Speaking of Apps…
Try Checkout 51.
I am of the mindset that every extra dollar counts. There are a ton of coupon/rebate apps out there, but I eventually settled on Checkout51 as my go-to app for groceries.
Basically, if you buy the items with rebate offers, and send in a picture of your receipt after you shop, you get a credit. When your balance is over $20, they will send you a cheque. Easy-peasy, as my five-year-old would say!
I’ve been using it for about a year, and I have gotten $85 back. You might read that and think – well that’s not very much!? Why would I got to all that trouble for $85?!
You’re right. It is 50 cents for toothpaste here and $1 for sour cream there. But I was going to buy those things ANYWAYS, and I got money back with very little effort.
The app updates it’s offers every Thursday, so while I am meal planning, I also give that a scroll to see if there is anything on there that I NEED.
The key here is NEED. Yes, the delicious chip dip that I love is on there, and yes I could get 75 cents back if I buy it. But if it wasn’t going to be on my list anyway, I don’t add it. You don’t want to spend MORE money to get the deal.
Try out the app on your mobile device – using this link when you join gives me a special referral bonus, and you get to start saving on your groceries right away!
Buy store brands.
Most grocery stores sell their own version of almost all of the foods on their shelves. Because humans are creatures of habit, it is easier to reach for the familiar box or can. I get it. There are some things that I will always stick to name brand for (hello, Campbell’s Mushroom Soup). But broadening my horizons and trying the generic version of things has saved me a ton this year!
It is more than a dollar cheaper per box of chicken broth for me to buy the Walmart brand than my typical brand of broth. I use chicken broth in quite a few recipes – those dollars add up!
Lots of times the store brand is just as good as the name brand. And what’s even better is that often times, it’s the EXACT SAME PRODUCT! Stores use the same factories and sometimes even the same food, and just the packaging is different! So you are saving money and eating the same darn food!
Check out this Consumer Affairs article for an interesting read on name brands vs. store brands & generics – how to tell the difference and how they ranked in taste tests!
Switch up your grocery store.
Growing up, my dad worked for a local grocery store and getting groceries from anywhere else was basically sacrilege. It just didn’t happen.
When I moved away, though, I had to find somewhere new to shop. I started with the grocery store nearest to my house. Then I branched out to a cheaper store that was nearby. But, if I’m honest with you guys, the anxiety that store caused me wasn’t worth the savings on my food bill! The shelves were a mess, the aisles were jammed with people, and my hands were so sweaty by the time I finished my shop that bagging my groceries with people in line behind me was enough to make me cry!
For a time, my anxiety won out that battle and I shopped at the more expensive stores.
However, when we started rocking through our debt, I knew we needed to make a change. Your options depend on where you live, but for us, we chose to shop at Walmart for our groceries, and we have saved well over a thousand dollars on our groceries this past year. I schedule my shop for a time when it’s not too busy, and we do a Costco shop every few weeks as well.
Some stores have great incentives too – I know that the PC Optimum Program at Superstore has a great point-based system that can be redeemed for in-store cash rebates. You get personalized deals sent right to you and you can save money on your grocery bill fairly quickly! If you are going to be spending the money anyway, doesn’t it make sense to spend it intentionally in a way that will give money back to you? I think so!
Find an option that works for you. In Canada, Real Canadian Superstore and Walmart have lower prices than Safeway/Sobeys/Save On Foods. In the US, I hear Aldi is a solid lower-budget option, and I’m sure Walmart is too! Do some research for your area to find a store that meets your needs!
Having a designated chunk of cash in your wallet is a sure-fire way to stay on track at the grocery store. You have to stick to your budget because you only have that much money with you!
There is also research that shows it is harder to spend cash than to use plastic, whether a debit or a credit card. If you only have a twenty dollar bill, you are less likely to break it to grab a two dollar coffee; you make a point of using your bills more wisely.
If you are looking for more reasons to use cash, check out this great article about why switching to cash is cool.
Think about what you NEED – no more impulse shopping.
When Dan goes grocery shopping, he frequently comes home with a collection of foods that looked tasty or were on sale (but not on the list). When I ask him what meal he is going to use the cumquats in, he doesn’t know, and often these random things sit in our pantry or wind up going bad in our fridge!
I love this man for doing the grocery shopping, and he brings home these random things with nothing but good intentions in his heart.
But holy man does it ever ding my grocery budget!
Put on the blinders, buddies!
Shop your list!
Resist the temptations!
Remember WHY you are cutting back.
There have certainly been weeks where I just didn’t want to play this grocery store game. I didn’t want to limit myself to meals that I know cost less, and I didn’t want to plan it out ahead of time.
When this lack of motivation strikes – go back to your WHY. What is your reason for getting intentional with your finances? Are you getting out of debt? Saving for your first family vacation in three years? Trying to pay off your mortgage?
Take a deep breath and visualize yourself achieving this goal. Remind yourself that you are on a journey and you are making intentional changes to create a better life for yourself and your family.
You can do it!
No matter your reason for cutting your grocery spending, I am sure that there is at least one strategy here that can start saving you money today!
A quick recap of how to save money on your grocery budget:
- Plan your meals in advance and use a list when you shop!
- Do one weekly shop.
- Try out your local online grocery shopping options.
- Check the flyers for some great savings.
- Use Checkout51.
- Choose the (cheaper) store brands.
- Switch to a less expensive grocery store.
- Use cash to keep you on budget.
- Resist temptation – only buy what you NEED!
- Remember your why!
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