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I love to eat. I will be super honest about it too. 90% of my day is spend eating or planning out the next time I am going to eat. When I am on a good workout routine, I eat every 2-3 hours. This means that groceries seem to be a never ending expense and it gets old! I honestly feel like I go to the grocery store 2-3 times a week, but I know it isn’t that often. I can’t believe how often I have to go back to the store to get one thing or another. It is so easy to drop $100 at the grocery store and walk away feeling like you barely have meals for the next week! Also, you probably forgot the one main thing that you went to buy from the grocery store.
Does this sound familiar?
One thing that helps is that I attempt to only go to the store once a week. Even though I try to make it in the fewest trips possible, it can get so expensive if I am not paying attention to what I am putting into my cart. I try to always go with a list so I know what I am going into get.
Along with anyone trying to save money, I have read over so many “Save XX amount on groceries” articles. So many that I can hardly remember most of them. I slowly started saving money, but it wasn’t until I started waitressing that I actually realized the best way to save money.
Groceries is always a struggle because it is an essential purchase. We can’t just stop eating, but it is expensive. Whenever someone is looking for budgeting advice, they are usually asking for ways to cut grocery costs. It is one of the easiest things to spend money on, but it is also one of the easiest places to cut from as well.
Here is my #1 tip to saving big on grocery shopping!
STOP taking your debit/credit card into the store
You are probably thinking that I am absolutely crazy right now unless you are already a cash only family.
Try it once. If it doesn’t work, you can’t write me nasty comments and tons of hate mail. (Please don’t actually do this.)
Only take the budgeted amount of money for the week to the store with you. If you don’t regularly carry cash, go to the ATM on the way to the store and leave the rest of your wallet in the car.
When I create my list, I guess about how much I think everything will be, this gives me a rough idea of how much I need to take to the store with me. I always take $5-10 extra with me to ensure I have enough for the important stuff!
While I am in the grocery store, I use my calculator on my phone and round up to the nearest half dollar to add it all up. This means that I can’t go over the amount of money that is in my pocket.
Of course, with any plan, there have been errors. It has caused a few embarrassing moments where I have had to ask to put one thing back because I miscalculated somewhere along the shopping trip, but it didn’t kill me. It also didn’t break my budget. I just had to decide which item I truly didn’t need.
When you don’t take your little piece of plastic in with you, you are putting an absolute limit on how much you can spend at the store. It eliminates picking up things “just because they sound good” or because they are on sale. Plan around sales before you step into the grocery store. This eliminates temptation to buy a few extra things that you definitely don’t need.
I can guarantee that your grandma would be proud.
Here are a few other grocery tips.
Keep it simple. Stop thinking you need 4 course meals every night. If you are making spaghetti, it isn’t necessary to have garlic bread, a veggie, salad. Spaghetti itself can be a meal. Or do one side instead of three. Also, stop looking at those Pinterest recipes with 15 ingredients in them. This is essential if you don’t have most of the ingredients on hand already. The more you can use your array of spices in multiple meals, the better. When searching for new recipes, always look for 5 ingredient or less. Here is a list of cookbooks specifically for 5 ingredients or less.
95% of my meals are just eating a chicken breast, some rice and some frozen veggies. I only cook for me, but I have no problem eating chicken for every single meal. I usually make chicken tacos, BBQ chicken, Salsa Chicken, Chicken Marinara, cheesy chicken and rice, chicken and veggie stir fry, and pretty much anything else chicken, rice, and veggie related.
The factor is my meat is chicken, so I can buy a bigger tray of chicken breasts and create a variety of meals. The next week, I will switch to a different meat. I don’t have to buy ingredients for a ton of separate meals because I try to plan meals using the same or similar ingredients that I can use for multiple meals. If you can buy a large thing of hamburger for cheaper per pound than a small tube, buy the larger one and use it for 3-4 meals that week.
Even if you are cooking for a family, changing the mindset that you have to have 2-3 different sides with every meal can save you a ton of money and calories!
Suck it up and eat leftovers
I know quite a few people who refuse to eat leftovers for some reason. I get that eating the same meal for multiple meals in a row can get old. If you make enough spaghetti for 2 meals, eat it for a second meal instead of throwing it out.
For me, I usually cook 2 times a week. On Sunday, I try to cook enough meals for Monday through Wednesday. Then I prep again on Wednesday for the rest of the week. This saves uses of the stove, but it also saves me energy and time in the kitchen. When I am working both jobs, I don’t have the time to hang out in the kitchen every single night.
If you are completely against eating leftovers, I suggest being very cautious with how much you make to begin with. Only portioning out what you are going to eat is important to save money. It will save you groceries that you could remake the same meal again with the extra ingredients. Cooking in smaller portions is much more time consuming, but if you can prep your veggies and portion them out so you cook and go, this will save you a ton of time!
Stop going down the snack aisles.
Another crazy tip, but most of the stuff in the aisles is junk anyway. Everything on the outside of the store is better for you, less processed and cheaper. Usually when I find myself walking down the aisles is when I find myself putting random junk into my cart that I don’t need and shouldn’t eat. Most things down the aisles are convenience food and are going to cost you a little more. While I mostly stick to this rule, I tend to keep back up “convenience” frozen food in my freezer just in case I am too lazy to cook! It is always cheaper than going out to eat!
When you stick to buying produce, meat, and dairy, your meals will be more filling and you will find yourself eating less. The main things that break this rule are frozen meats and veggies, some canned beans/tomatoes, and rice.
Buy in Bulk and When it is On Sale
If there are things that you purchase every single time, see if there are bigger bags.I just recently got my Sam’s Club Membership and I am extremely excited to start buying some things smarter. I go through frozen veggies like no other. Buying them in bulk is going to be extremely beneficial in the long run.
Some things aren’t always cheaper in bulk, but if you are going to use it, then it might be worth looking into. This is something to watch ads and see if you can get it cheaper. I have actually found that buy my veggies at Sam’s isn’t cheaper, but my chicken and coffee creamer is a ton cheaper.
This also could mean that instead of buying the 100 calorie snack packs or prepackaged snacks, that you buy a big box/bag of them and snack ziplock baggies. Portioning stuff out may take a little more time, but it is almost always cheaper. I pre proportion my almonds, yogurts, cottage cheese, as well as a few of my other snacks! It makes it easy to grab and go instead of thinking about grabbing something at the gas station along the way!
If you don’t have a Sam’s Club Membership, but Hyvee (local grocery store) or Wal-Mart is having a great deal on frozen veggies, buy enough for a few weeks. Things that don’t expire quickly are great to throw in the freezer when they are cheap! Hy-vee has a sale for the month of November that if you buy a ham, you get a FREE Turkey. For $25, I got a full ham and a full turkey that will last me forever and can be used in multiple different meals.
Ibotta and other Grocery Saving Apps
Ibotta is probably one of my favorites grocery apps.. It makes everything so easy because I don’t have to worry about anything at the cash register other than getting my receipt from the cashier. You just scan your receipt and the bar code of the item when you get home! If you sign up for Ibotta through my link, they give you $10 as a welcome gift! My favorite thing is that you can exchange your cash back for gift cards! Ibotta is how I fund my Starbucks habit for FREE.
This is probably one of my favorite ways to save on groceries! It is likely that you have a ton of food ingredients tucked away in your cabinets! If you are anything like me, you have a few boxes of pasta, tons of rice, and meat stocked up in your freezer! Use one month to not buy groceries and really get creative with the things that you make for dinner. It is likely that you will have pancakes for a few meals towards the end of the month, but is that a bad thing? Using all of the ingredients in your cabinet instead of buying other meals can really cut a grocery budget in half for one month! You might be really surprised with what you come up with!
Last tip, I always recommend doing your grocery shopping alone because you are way more likely to stick to your list and get out. If someone comes with you and they want to look at something not on your list, it may tempt you to get other items! It is always better to get in and get out. If you have a problem wandering, I recommend setting a timer and seeing if you can beat the clock! Going when you are on a time crunch can help eliminate extra wondering around the store. This will help you stay focus and only get the things you absolutely need!
These are just a few of the tactics that I use to make sure that I stick to my grocery budget. Right now, I only have a budget of $25 a week ($100 for the month!) so making sure that I stick to my amount is SUPER important! I wish you luck on your entire grocery shopping experience.
Use a marker board to plan your meals
I have an entire blog post showing how I do this, but using a marker board has keep my grocery budget at $200 for two people consistently. Keep an inventory of everything you already have on hand and brainstorm all of the meals that you could make with what you have on hand. Planning around what you already have is a HUGE money saver.
What is the hardest part of grocery shopping for you? What do you spend the most money on?