As the cost of living continues to rise, it can be difficult for some families to make ends meet, even when it comes to the essentials. It's important to save money where you're able, but you can't omit everything from your life.
One of the must-haves is groceries. Every week or so, you go grocery shopping to feed your family, but the costs add up. Even in a one-person household, grocery bills range up to hundreds of dollars per month. We want to help you manage your grocery spending, so you have one less thing to worry about. You can save money on groceries without going hungry or without healthy and nutritious food.
Not sure how to get started? We know that it seems overwhelming, but with enough planning, anyone can cut down their grocery bills. Keep reading for our top money-saving tips for grocery shopping.
Track Your Spending First
Any time that you're working on saving money, the first step is figuring out how much you're spending. You need to know how much money you should be aiming for, and tracking will help you gauge your success and where you need to make alterations over time.
While you should continue tracking and making adjustments throughout your process, that first pre-savings track may be the most important.
Take your receipt after a normal shopping trip and break it down into wants and needs. What did you need for meals and snacks, and what were the extra items?
Also, consider which things could have been used better, which will likely go bad before they're finished, and which have cheaper alternatives.
Once you have these lists, it's time to start your budgeting.
Make a New Budget
Regardless of the size of your household or your income level, making a grocery budget is a must. You'll be shocked at how much money you can save week to week and how easy it can be with a few small changes.
Write your budget down on paper. You can put it into a computer file later, but writing it down will make it more concrete in your mind.
Again, you want to break it down into wants and needs. You're not making a grocery list yet, so you shouldn't list specifics.
Budgets will vary depending on the week. Sometimes if you know you'll be making a lot of meals with (freezable) leftovers, you'll spend more money. This is also true during the holidays. This is a basic budget, and there should be some wiggle room built-in.
Let's say your budget for your family's groceries is 100 dollars in a week. You won't go over this budget unless you have to.
75% to 80% of this budget should be for needs (or more if necessary). This means that $75.00 to $85.00 goes to everything that you need for meals. The rest, if you have money left over, goes to things that you don't need, like name-brand snacks, sweets, and anything else that isn't on the first list.
Meal planning is everything when you're trying to save money. Not only will you save money every week, but you'll also eat healthier and save time if you decide to make all of your meals in one day.
There are plenty of websites that have affordable and healthy meal plan recipes, but you can also use your normal recipes and modify them as needed.
You're planning for the entire week, so sit down after making your budget and decide what fits. You may decide to have varied meals throughout the week and devote one of the weekend days to leftovers. This is a great way to save a bit of extra grocery money during the week. You should never be wasteful.
Make (and Stick to) Grocery Lists
Once you have your week planned out, write down everything that you need. Get a general idea of how much each item will cost by looking at the websites for your local grocery stores.
Be thorough and check your pantry first. If you're making spaghetti, for example, check and see if you already have pasta sauce and noodles, so you don't buy them again.
Write down the items by the area that they'll be in in the grocery store so the shopping trip is quick and you don't get distracted with any other tempting items.
This is also where you should put down any snacks that you or your family want for the week. Don't deviate from the listed snacks.
Use Versatile Foods
One of the best ways to save money when you're buying groceries is by buying versatile foods. How much money are you wasting by buying things that are only good for one meal?
Things like pasta, rice, potatoes, and dried beans are versatile foods. You can use them in many different ways and get several meals out of them. They're also affordable.
Instead of buying packaged flavored rice, buy large bags of white or brown rice that you can add flavor to later. This goes for cans of beans, packaged mashed potatoes, and packet pasta as well.
Swap them for more versatile options to get the most out of your grocery list.
Check Different Grocery Stores
Different grocery stores are going to have different prices every week. Some are consistently more expensive while others are cheaper. Some are in the middle, and these are the ones that you want to keep track of.
Those low to mid-range grocery stores often have great sales, and they're the stores that have everything you need in one trip. They're big-box stores that have online platforms, so be sure to check out what specials and sales that they have going on before you go shopping.
It can be worth it to drive an extra few miles if it means you'll be saving a large percentage off of your grocery bill.
Sign Up for Free Memberships
On the topic of finding sales, everyone knows that couponing is a great way to save money. More and more stores are offering free memberships and loyalty programs in lieu of traditional coupons.
There are no downsides to signing up for these programs. After signing up, look at your online portal. Some stores offer special coupons that are tailored to your shopping habits. This means that while the standard sales and discounts may not apply to you, if you buy certain things often enough (like ingredients that show up in your meal plans) you may save money on them.
You can save a lot of money by doing this if you haven't already, and it's as easy as swiping a card or typing in your phone number at the end of the transaction.
Buy In-Season Produce
If you include fresh produce in your shopping list, try to choose things that are in-season when it's possible. In-season produce tends to be cheaper due to increased availability. It will also taste better!
If you want the freshest produce, see if there are any local farmers' markets or produce boxes available. While costs vary, you can sometimes get bruised or imperfect produce at a lower cost and you'll be supporting local growers.
Consider Frozen Vegetables and Fruits
When you can't buy in-season produce, don't shy away from frozen fruits and vegetables. There's an unnecessary stigma around frozen foods, but they're a great way to save money and still get the nutrition that you need for yourself and your family.
Not all frozen foods are alike and they aren't great for all purposes. For example, fresh fruits and vegetables are better for snacks.
We love using frozen fruit for quick and healthy smoothies that pack a nutrition punch without breaking the bank. Frozen vegetables are perfect for slipping into stews or soups. You won't notice the difference, trust us.
Choose Store-Brand Options
Many expert budgeters are already doing this, but if you're not one of them, listen up. Store-brand options are almost always as good as the name-brand options.
While this isn't true for everything, store-brand staples are a must. Don't spend extra money buying name-brand salad bags, canned goods, or milk. They're the same as the store-brand versions.
Now, that said, there are some differences when it comes to certain items. These items usually fall into the "extra" category as it is.
While some cereals have store-brand options that are as good as (or better than) the name brand options, others won't fool or please picky children, so use caution. This is also true for many kinds of sweets.
Try store brand options as often as you can and see if you notice a difference. If not, you know that you've found an awesome and affordable replacement.
Don't Shop When You're Hungry
One of the biggest mistakes that people make when they're grocery shopping is shopping when they're hungry.
When we're satiated, we can walk by a snack aisle without a worry. When we're hungry, though, the cravings hit and it's harder to not grab things that we don't need. We're also more likely to grab a snack or drink for the drive home.
If you aren't working, shopping right after lunch is a perfect time. There are fewer people at the store so you don't have to fight through crowds and you should have a belly full of food so you aren't as tempted by all of the snacks that you could get.
Avoid Shopping With Children (When Possible)
Not everyone is able to do this, but if you can, it's a good idea.
If you have children, avoid bringing them with you when you go shopping. This goes for children who are old enough to walk and talk but not yet old enough to understand the value of money.
Children don't understand that they can't get all of the snacks that they want. They don't understand budgets or the need to save money for the future of your family. They'll pout and complain and you may give in and get them the snacks that they want.
It's hard to resist giving your child what they want, and it may seem harmless to give them a snack or two when you go to the grocery store, but those snacks add up.
In 2021, shopping is easier than ever. Many grocery stores allow you to place an order online and pick it up when you're able. This doesn't only save you time, but it also saves you money (and the problem of not taking children into the store with you).
Once you have your meal plan figured out, the tough part is sticking to it. When you order food online, you don't have a choice. The person who's tasked with picking your foods out won't pick out extra things for you. There's no longer the risk of temptation.
Beyond this, you can also see the prices as you shop. This means that you won't risk going over budget, and if you do, you can see where you can make changes before you're checking out. It's far harder to keep track of your spending when you're walking around the store and you won't know what you're spending until it's time to take out your credit card.
Save Money on Groceries the Right Way
We know how hard it is to save money on groceries, but they're one of your largest expenses and there's no way around them. You have to keep yourself and your family fed and healthy.
When you're more careful with your spending, you'll find that saving money comes easier. Between money-saving membership programs, meal plans, store-brand items, and opting for cheaper alternatives, you'll be shocked at how much you're saving on groceries each week.
Are you looking for more ways to save? At Yotta, we make saving fun and easy. Sign up for an FDIC-insured savings account through Yotta Savings and start saving (and earning) today. Financial stability is within reach.