I don’t know about you, but I love going grocery shopping. I like to walk down every aisle and explore what’s new.
Don’t let the item’s package be aesthetically pleasing. That item will for sure end up in my basket and come with me regardless of the price.
What grocery budget?
Before you get all worked up, this was me before beginning our debt-free journey.
Once I made the decision to get on a budget and work towards becoming financially free, I knew my long walks in the grocery store would come to an end.
When I added up how much we were spending on food alone in one month, my jaw dropped all the way to the floor. A whopping $1,000 on food.
It’s safe to say that this was one of the first variable expenses to get slashed.
If we wanted to reach our financial goals, we needed to create a realistic grocery budget that we could actually stick to.
I sought out ways to help us reel our spending and save money on groceries.
15 effortless grocery budget tips that can help you cut your bill in half
KNOW YOUR GROCERY BUDGET NUMBER
Before you can make a realistic grocery budget, you need to know exactly how much you typically spend and then determine how to make any adjustments.
You may be surprised to learn that you’re spending more than you realize.
Start by reviewing your last three months’ worth of bank statements to get your average spend. If that’s not available to you, you can track your grocery purchases for a month and keep your receipts to know your number.
GROCERY BUDGET BY THE MONTH, BUT PLAN FOR THE WEEK
When creating a budget, most track their spending monthly. I know I do.
However, I set a $400 a month grocery budget for my family, but I allocate it as $100 a week so that we don’t overspend.
This also helps with meal planning. It’s more realistic to meal plan for a week than it is for a month. Knowing exactly what you plan to eat the upcoming week for breakfast, lunch, and dinner will help you shop accordingly.
Related: A Beginners’ Guide to Meal Planning
There are some things that we can’t go without. Coffee for my husband and fresh fruit and veggies for me. Knowing that there are some things that you must have monthly will make it easier to cut back in areas that aren’t needed for example excessive snacks, flavored drinks, or bakery items.
KEEP A FRIDGE/PANTRY LIST
Keep a running list of items that are in your fridge and/or pantry so that you know exactly what you have and how much so that you don’t buy duplicates.
This will also come in handy when you’re nearing the end of the month and your budget is low. You can pull together items using the staples you always keep on hand.
It’ll also prevent you from forgetting items to pick up items during your weekly grocery run. Going back multiple times will absolutely cause you to overspend.
MAKE TIME TO COMPARISON SHOP
Let’s face it. Many different stores charge different prices for the same exact items. That’s why it’s important to comparison shop.
Don’t pick up laundry detergent at the grocery store when it’s half price at Walmart.
I don’t recommend driving all over town just to save a few cents though. Remember, your gas tank has a budget too.
If there is a store a bit further away that’s cheaper, make a trip to venture out just once a month to maximize those savings.
You can also compare prices right in the stores. Some items are cheaper in the international food aisle versus its traditional location.
Also, consider picking up a generic brand. The majority of generic products are produced and manufactured by big-name brands. You’ll find that generics taste just as good if not better.
SHOP ONLINE, PICK UP IN-STORE
I can probably write an entire blog post about how much I love Walmart Grocery Pickup.
Whether you believe it or not, I never shopped at Walmart. I avoided it at all costs. I can’t be bothered with those lines.
But with curbside pickup, there isn’t a line nor is there await. I can shop from the comfort of my home, only purchase items on my list, and schedule to pick up my order at a time most convenient for me.
I’m not tempted to pick up anything extra at the checkout line, I don’t have to haul a toddler in the store after school or during nap time, nor do I have to lift heavy items in the car. And best of all, it’s free. Yep, you read that right.
GO GROCERY SHOPPING WITH A LIST
If curbside isn’t available in your area or you just prefer to pick your own groceries, don’t step foot in a grocery store without a list. This is very dangerous, and I don’t recommend it.
When you fail to plan, plan to fail. It’ll happen to you every time.
Another quick tip is that if you’re going in to just pick up an item or two, don’t grab a buggy. Try to only use your hands, but if you must, only get a handheld basket. You won’t be able to pick up extras because you’ll have no way to carry them to the register.
This advice is great for any store, especially Target. Everyone knows that you will go in there for one item and walk out with $300 worth of stuff, but I digress.
DON’T GET SUCKED IN BY COUPONS
Coupons used to be my jam. But when I started budgeting, I realized that I was only buying items because I had a coupon, not because I needed it. If you happen to find a coupon for something on your list, that’s great, but don’t buy something you don’t need just because there is a $0.50 off coupon available.
Plus, if you get generic items, those are typically cheaper than the name brands with the percentage off. Remember to steer clear and look for a cheaper alternative.
STOCK UP WHEN THERE’S A SALE, BUT DON’T OVERSTOCK
Buy One, Get One sales give me life. This is when I stock up on staples such as condiments, pasta, sauce, and cereal. No judgment.
However, sales, like coupons, will draw you in and make you believe that you need items when you don’t.
The money spent to stock up on extra items is money that can be used to go towards more expensive items you need for the week. Plus the less food you have, the less likely you’ll end up throwing any of it away because it’s past the expiration date. Only buy what you need.
PURCHASE LAZY FOOD ITEMS FOR TIMES YOU DON’T WANT TO COOK
I know I’m not the only one that’s beat by the end of the week. After working 40 hours a week, running to extracurricular activities and keeping a toddler entertained is exhausting.
And some days, I just don’t feel like cooking.
Each week I make sure to add a frozen pizza to our list for days like this. They come in handy for sure.
Peanut butter and jelly are also nice to have around the house especially for kids to make sandwiches to have in between after-school activities and dinner time.
DON’T EAT OUT OFTEN
Eating out is a sure way to kill your grocery budget.
These days, my family eats most of our meals at home and it’s so much more filling.
Plus, we have leftovers for lunch and/or dinner the following day. When you eat out, once that meal is gone that’s it. In a few hours, you’ll be hungry again and will end up purchasing something else.
To prevent this never-ending cycle, meal prep for a few days or the week. That way you have something readily available on hand when you want something quick.
LEARN TO LOVE LEFTOVERS
A lot of people don’t like leftovers. My husband was one of those people.
I love eating leftovers. The convenience of cooking once and eating multiple days brings me so much joy. A lot of food tastes better to me the next day anyway i.e. pasta.
Invest in some good glass food storage containers to keep your food fresh and flavorful in the fridge for a few days. You’ll be surprised how much this will make a difference.
Aside from meal prepping for the week, you can also batch cook and store full meals in the freezer. Future you will thank you.
ROTATE MEALS YOU LOVE
If you have a few meals that you absolutely love and that are quick to prepare, keep those in rotation to keep meal planning easy. For example, every Tuesday we have tacos. The family loves it and it’s a quick meal to make during the week.
DON’T GROCERY SHOP WHEN YOU’RE HUNGRY
Do you remember that Snickers commercial where the person always turned into someone else and did silly things?
This is true.
When you’re hungry, you do silly things and are more likely to make impulse purchases in the grocery store because everything looks good at that moment.
Your budget will indeed thank you if you go grocery shopping on a full stomach and level-headed. You’ll be shocked to learn just how much this tip can save you.
SHOP IN SEASON
I love fresh fruits and vegetables. Previously, I mentioned how this was a non-negotiable for me.
Buying fresh food out of season will crush your grocery budget quickly. For example, if you’d like to have peaches during the offseason, opt to grab a frozen bag instead. Plus, there’s no guarantee that indulging in fresh food during its offseason will be enjoyable.
MAKE MEATLESS MEALS
Opting to have meatless meals once or twice a week will help your grocery dollars stretch.
Meat is usually one of the most expensive items found in the grocery store especially if it’s not on sale.
A good way to implement this into your meal plan is with themed dinner days such as Meatless Monday.
LEAVE OVERSPENDERS AT HOME
I cannot, no I will not, take my husband to the grocery store with me. I also do not prefer to have him drop in during the week if we’ve run out of something.
Why you can ask? Because he can’t go in, buy the item needed, and come right out. He comes back home with a ton of stuff that we don’t need.
In your case, if your kids are the culprit, leave them at home with your spouse. Adding “not on the list” items to your cart can increase your bill tremendously.
Related: How to Make Grocery Shopping with Kids Easier
USE SMARTPHONE APPS
How awesome would it be to make money just by grocery shopping? You can do just that by downloading and utilizing cashback and reward apps. Ibotta and Fetch Rewards are just two of the many smartphone apps you can use to help you save money. While these apps won’t give you a discount upfront, you’ll see the savings almost instantly.
LEARN SALES CYCLES
Most grocery stores recycle their sales. Once you learn their sales schedule, you’ll know just when to replenish staple items and save the most money on the items you need. The goal is to be able to anticipate the sales before they hit so that you can create your meal plan to align with them.
IF YOU BUY IT, USE IT
Don’t buy food that represents the healthy lifestyle you wish you had. Buy food that you’ll actually eat. This will prevent food from going bad in the fridge or hanging in your cupboard past the expiration date.
Try your best to use what you buy at the grocery store. Keep your fridge/pantry list up to date so that you’ll always know what you have on hand. Don’t let any food go to waste.
Changing your grocery shopping habits will help you lower your grocery bill, stick to your budget, and reach your financial goals. That means more cash in your pocket to go towards debt, have a bit of fun, or save for a future expense.
Next time you go grocery shopping, try one of these grocery hacks and watch your savings grow.
Do you have any hacks you use to save money at the grocery store?
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