Thursday, June 12, 2014

8 Easy Ways to Cut Your Grocery Budget

I don't profess to be a financial wizard by any means. I'm too lazy to do extreme couponing, and planning my grocery list is something I always kind of dread, which is why my husband and I now do it together so it seems like a fun game we're playing instead of a chore that I have to do every week. However, we've gotten pretty good at the budgeting thing over the past year, and groceries are a huge area where we have found we can spend a lot less than we think we can. Here are a few things that have worked for us, and I'd love to hear what works for you!

  1. Don't go to the grocery store more than once a week. Every time I go to the grocery store to buy a gallon of milk, I come out with $50 worth of stuff. 90% of the time, whatever I need can wait until my weekly shopping day.
  2. Eat more produce. I swear the ridiculously cheap price of most fresh produce was a revelation to my husband. After two years of me hearing, "This bag of gummy bears is only $4," now I suddenly hear, "Yeah, get some bananas! They're so cheap!" (He doesn't even like bananas, but I do, and so does our baby, so that's good enough.) Substituting apples and pears for fruit snacks is not only healthier for your body, it's healthier for your wallet. On that note . . .
  3. Go vegetarian - at least sometimes. We try to plan at least one meatless meal per week, because it saves us some money and it's good for us to eat vegetables. We've found that we really like egg plant, that cauliflower is excellent Chinese food style, that tostadas are just as satisfying without the meat and you don't have to remember to thaw anything, etc. (Also, we've found that some meals don't need as much meat as the recipe tells you it does. Lasagna is a good example.) 
  4. Plan your menu before you go. We have a weekly family planning meeting where we sit down and look at our schedules for the week, and then plan a few meals. Sometimes these get juggled a little, but because we plan it in conjunction with our schedules, we know to fix something quick on a night when my husband works late, so we don't buy a bunch of fancy stuff for a meal we won't get to. We also know that even if we're out of pork chops, if we aren't going to make them this week, they can get pushed to next week's grocery trip, and we can just buy chicken this week. It's much easier to spread out our purchases this way, and we don't have as much food go bad before we can eat it. 
  5. Set a realistic but firm budget, and keep a running total as you go. Ice cream is a luxury in our house. If you want ice cream and you realize it doesn't fit in this week's budget, maybe you should put back the 24 pack of soda. (I'm not saying you should never buy treats. But you should buy real food first and then decide how many treats belong in your cart.)
  6. Pay in cash. Something about having the grocery money in your pocket makes it easier to put things back if you're about to go over the set budget. 
  7. Make a list and stick to it - or make trades. I know, I know. Those chips look SO GOOD. And so do those pita chips. And you really could use some new shampoo just for a change. And doughnuts. You NEED those, right? Wrong. All of those tiny little extra things that only cost a couple of dollars add up more quickly than you can possibly imagine. If you really want something that isn't on the list, figure out what you're going to cut before you add it to the cart. Steak is on sale? Great. Are you going to have that instead of hamburger this week? 
  8. Price Match. Oh my goodness guys. Do you know how easy price matching is? We never buy name brand stuff, so some of those deals go out the window for us, but we save a BUNDLE on produce by just having a list of places where it's on sale. At our grocery store, you don't even need to bring an ad - you just tell them where grapes are $0.98 a pound and you're golden. There are millions of websites that collect all of the data you need so you can just go through the list and decide if anything you need is a fabulous deal somewhere. 
You don't have to overhaul your life to make your budget stretch a little further - you just have to be thoughtful about where your money is going. 

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