Grocery shopping used to be a big struggle for me. I’d desperately want to stick to a budget, but was also raised with the mindset of “what’s the point of earning if you don’t eat well?/eat what you want!” As a result, in the early years of my married life, my grocery shopping method was a strange combination of window shopping & impulse buying. I’d push the cart around the store for an hour and come home with 15 boxes of processed meals, and some random items like gourmet olives, Korean BBQ sauce, and lots of fancy cheese. Most of my impulse buys went bad or passed their eat by date and were tossed.
Fast forward to 2011 and my family hit a major financial speed bump that forced us to rethink all of our food habits. Our grocery budget was so tight that I would walk around the grocery store with a calculator. There was zero room for splurges, and even the things we had known as essentials had to be skipped sometimes. It was during those lean years that I started learning to cook, and to grocery shop effectively.
With the holidays behind us, and post holiday credit card bills on the way, I thought it was the perfect time to finally share my top tips for saving on your grocery bills with you guys. I’ve intentionally left out tips upon coupons, flyers, price matching etc. In all honesty, I don’t have the time or mental capacity to add those to my list, but these are practical simple things I can do (and have done.)
8 Practical Tips for Saving on Your Grocery Bills
Stop grocery shopping on a schedule
So many people I know grocery shop out of routine. It’s Sunday, I always do groceries on Sunday. Cool, but what if you have enough food in the fridge to make it until Tuesday? Shifting my mindset to grocery shopping when it’s needed instead of weekly keeps my grocery bills down.
Our rule is if we only need 1-3 things (which is usually just milk, eggs, bread, or maybe granola bars for the kids) we’ll make a run out for just those things and skip a full grocery shop for a few days. Honestly, we cal have so much food in our freezers and pantry’s we really don’t need to shop weekly, speaking of which….
Eat out of your pantry or freezer for a week
Every couple of months I try to do a pantry or freezer eating week or two. Trust me when I tell you, if you shop weekly most of the time, you have at least a week’s worth of meals in your house already. As a result, I can sometimes skip an entire weekly shop minus milk. Free money!
Shop with a list & your meal plan
So most of us know that we should shop with a list, but the trouble with only having a specific list is, you can’t make substitutions based on in-store sales or deals. For example, you might be planning to make chicken fajitas one night so you write “boneless chicken breast” on your list, but when you get to the store you might find that ground turkey is on sale. You can easily substitute ground turkey for the chicken breasts, but only if you are thinking about meals, not specific items.
I usually make a note at the bottom of my list of meals I have planned for the week so that I can make substitutions as needed.
Buy less fruits & veg than you will need
Okay, I’m not trying to say don’t eat healthy, but we all know that we are wasting fruit and veg. Trust me on this, if you think your family will eat 6 apples this week, buy 4. Or if you think you will make vegetables 4 times this week, but 2 types of veggies. Here’s the thing, in the worst (and kind of the best) case scenario, your kids will eat ALL the fruits in your house and ask for more. More likely though, you’ll waste less food and save money.
If you are super worried about having fruit and veg on hand, buy some frozen options so you can pull them out in a pinch. But if my powers of estimation are correct, I’m guessing you already have a few bags of mixed veg in the back of your freezer right?
Shop generic (without compromising flavour)
Okay, so there are some things I won’t change my brand on. These include ketchup, pickles, chicken broth, and almond milk. But there are plenty of things I have found generic alternatives for that are perfectly good when it comes to quality and flavour like tomato paste, pasta, all-purpose flour, and canned corn. If you can find generic alternatives for at least some of the items you buy regularly you’ll save dollars each week.
Leave over spenders at home.
Truthbomb; my husband is worse than my kids when it comes to buying unnecessary things at the grocery store. A simple way for me to keep my budget in check shop solo. If you can leave your kids at home, do it.
Shop with a calculator
I guarantee you’ll spend less. Even though I’m grateful that I don’t have to shop with a calculator anymore, I still do it often. Somehow knowing the total as you go forces you to spend less.
Check your receipt (or watch prices as items are rung in)
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve caught items that I thought were on sale but they weren’t, or items accidentally rung in twice. Also sometimes cashiers mix up bin numbers or ring cilantro through as basil, all those little things add up.
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