How much do you spend on groceries weekly? The average cost to feed a family of four can be up to $1,293 per month, according to an Agriculture Dept. report.
If you’re grocery shopping on a budget, use these 10 ways to help save money on groceries.
1. Make a list
The first place to start when planning how to save money on food is to make a list. With a prepared list, you’re less likely to buy things you don’t need or already have. Create a meal plan for each week, check the cupboards and freezer for items you have, and make a list for what’s needed. When you go shopping, stick to the list.
2. Hunt coupons
Want to make it easier to stick to your grocery budget? Use coupons! No need to break out the scissors—in today’s digital world, clipping coupons from the Sunday paper isn’t necessary. There are dozens of coupon sites and apps you can use to find coupons and save money on groceries. Print coupons from your computer, and keep them organized by food type in a binder. Some retailers offer double coupons on certain days; check with your local store to see which day can save you even more money with your coupons.
3. Buy fewer pre-made foods
Grabbing a pre-made dinner from a grocery store is a convenient option on a busy day. However, those pre-made dinners can be costly if you purchase them regularly or they’re not on sale. Try to keep the ingredients on hand for a few quick meals — staples like rice, pasta and frozen vegetables are a great start to saving time and money on those hurried nights.
4. Cut your own fruit and meat
Buying fruit that’s pre-cut is handy, but it’s also expensive. Buy fruit that’s in season and cut it at home to save money. Take the time to portion it out into small containers or plastic bags so it’s ready to quickly add to lunches or grab as a snack. It may also be helpful to trim meat yourself. Meat that is pre-sliced into tenderloins or shaped into patties costs more.
5. Go generic
Name-brand products are more expensive and often have a generic alternative. Check the labels. Most of the time, generic brands have the same ingredients as the name brands, but they cost less.
6. Avoid eye-level shelves
Grocery stores strategically place higher-priced items on eye-level shelves. If you look above or below, you’ll often find a similar, lower-cost product.
7. Stock up during sales
When an item hits a low price, stock up. Typically, sales are on a three-month cycle. When you see great prices on non-perishable foods like pasta or crackers, it’s best to buy enough in bulk to cover the next two or three months.
8. Avoid buying kitchenware
If the mixer breaks or your favorite cookie sheet looks a little rough, the grocery store isn’t the best place to buy kitchenware. Search for better deals elsewhere. Check online retailers and compare prices rather than buying out of convenience.
9. Start an herb garden
Rather than purchase cut herbs at a grocery store, start your own herb garden. The cost of pots, dirt and seeds is a small investment that can pay for itself in a few months.
10. Shop without the kids
When kids join the shopping adventure, you may spend more time in the store, and they may ask for extra items that aren’t on your list. If you have children and are able, try to shop alone so it’s easier to stick to the list.
11. Buy Items You Can in Bulk
Shopping for items a few times a year often saves money not only on your purchase, but also on gas and time. Some of the best items to buy in bulk are:
- Canned food
- Dental products
- Paper products, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, and wax paper
- Dried beans and pasta
- Buy meat in bulk and store it in the freezer for later in the month
12. Skip meat once a week
Meat can be among the most expensive items on a shopping list. Try a vegetarian option at least once a week to save money. When you do eat meat, prepare one dish and stretch it out for two to three meals.
13. Buy seasonal
Fresh, in-season vegetables and fruits not only taste better than out-of-season items, they’re typically less expensive. So mix up your salads, side dishes and even entrée recipes to focus on seasonal foods. If you have a farmer’s market nearby, look for good deals on seasonal produce, as well as preparation and meal suggestions.
14. Commit to cash
You’ll typically spend less paying cash, than using a credit or debit card. The simple act of handing money to the cashier, rather than simply swiping a card, makes people more critical about what they actually need. To better stay on budget, bring only enough cash to pay for what’s on your list and leave your cards at home.
By using these tips, you can learn how to save on groceries and can use the extra money to give the family budget a boost.