If you’re taking steps to cut back on spending, one area you’ll want to look at is your food budget. The grocery shop can easily start to increase without you realizing. Food costs increase in small increments, there are always deals on, and you start thinking “one extra item won’t hurt.”
The truth is that one extra item turns into two and three and four. Before you know it, you’re adding $10, $20 and even $50 to your food expenses.
And that’s just in your weekly grocery shop. What about the one-off expenses during the week, when you’re topping up the bread and the milk? What about those late-night dinner choices or the one-off bottles of pop and bars of chocolate? They don’t remain one-offs, and you soon find you’re adding more and more to your grocery bill.
It’s time to make some small, smart changes to limit your food expenses. These seven tips aren’t going to be overly difficult. You’ll need some willpower for some, but they’re worth it. They are all tips that others have used to cut down on the costs of their food expenses successfully.
Use a Grocery List Every Single Time
Don’t go to the grocery store without making a grocery list. And when you’re at the store, only buy anything that is on the list. There’s no need to top up on ice cream, chocolate, and extra creamer if it’s not on your list. If you struggle with buying bulk, you can even mark down the exact number of items you need to buy when you’re in the store.
This is something the children can help with. They’ll love sitting in the trolley and marking off anything that’s on the list. You’ll even find they’re great at reminding you that something isn’t on the list, so you don’t need to buy it.
It’s possible to save as much as 23% on your food bills by taking this step. You get rid of the impulse purchases. Just because something is on “offer” doesn’t mean it needs to be purchased. What’s this regarding dollars? Well, it can be as much as $2,650 per year. That’s an extra $2,650 better in your pocket.
Not only does the grocery list help you reduce your food expenses, but you’ll also help to support your weight loss efforts. It’s easier to make healthier choices in the store since you’re not picking up something that looks tasty just because it’s there. You’ll limit the purchase of the chocolate and crisps because they’re not a necessary part of the weekly household shop.
You will also make sure you have everything you need. This helps you keep track of bread, milk and other small item purchases. It’s possible to plan your meals out for the week, bulk cook on the weekends, and have more time to yourself and with your family in the future.
As you get used to writing out a list, you’ll find that it stays the same time and time again. You’ll get into the habit of your food choices and find it easier to make choices when you’re out. Over time, you will forget about the extras you used to buy. They no longer seem necessary, and you don’t get the cravings for them. You’re protecting your budget and your waistline at the same time. Why don’t you want to make a list?
Stop Purchasing the Brand Names
Okay, there are times that the branded names taste better than the others, but that’s only the case in small instances. Most of the time, you don’t need to get the branded products. You can go with generic or no-name brands to save money on your grocery bills. In fact, you can save 25% on your groceries by choosing a generic brand.
If you’re not sure about this right now, do it with the cleaning products first. This is where you’ll see little changes in your daily routine, so you’ll find it easier to get out of the habit of believing brands are better. All brands are good for is increasing your food bill.
You can then move onto some of the ingredients that get mixed in with other items. Opt for no-name beans and canned vegetables instead of the branded options. The tastes get mixed in with the other foods, so you’ll forget that you even had a non-branded item. As you get used to this, you can start opting for other non-branded items, such as your cereal, porridge oats, ice cream and more. You’ll be surprised at the benefit you gain over the downsides.
The only reason the brands are more expensive is that they get to charge that. You’re usually paying for the name or the packaging. You’re not paying for the quality. In fact, some of the non-branded options can work out better for your health!
Branded products should only get added to your shopping trolley for one reason, which we’ll move onto now.
Use Coupons and the Weekly Offers to Your Advantage
Start shopping at a place that offers to price match. You can then find something cheaper in another store and buy it for that price in your preferred shopping place. Everything is in one store without feeling like you need to spend more money for that luxury.
Now take the leaflets and flyers each week. You may even be able to download an app on your phone to check the current listings on a weekly basis.
Once you’ve made your grocery list, pull out the flyers and look for your items on them. You won’t always find them, but sometimes you will come in lucky. Circle items that you’ve found and then take the flyers with you to the store. You can check which will work out cheaper and choose the best option.
This is even something you can do with meat. You’ll likely need to find the brand or exact item, but at least you’ll save money. It’s possible to save $20-$50 at a time if you’re savvy enough with the flyers, especially when it comes to the cost of your meat.
Only buy the items that are on your list in the flyers or coupons. The only time you may want to buy ahead is if you find something that doesn’t go off on offer. Coffee, cleaning products, and toilet paper can all be beneficial if you buy in the flyer a week or two ahead than normal. You’ll save money over the course of the month.
Non-perishables are those that you want to stock up when you can. Keep an extra amount aside just for the good weeks when your most common non-perishable needs are on offer. You’ll find you have something should the grocery store have a delivery problem, the weather suddenly turns, or you can’t get to the grocery store for some reason.
This is also when getting the branded products can be worthwhile. Now and then, you’ll see that the brands put their products on offer, so you can save money by choosing them. You’ll still want to compare the prices across the board to make sure you’re putting your budget first.
Do make sure the coupons are going to work in your favor. Look out for the catches. You’ll find that some offers are where you save money by buying more than X amount of a product. Buying three of something can still work out cheaper than getting four if three is all you need. However, five can work out cheaper than getting four in total, so if you were buying four then you’ll want to consider the extra!
The companies want you to buy. They want you to think that you’re saving money, even if you end up spending more because you’re getting items you don’t need or want. This is also how they get you to buy the junk food—they make you think you’re saving, even though you weren’t going to buy it in the first place!
Consider the Dollar Store
It may not sound glamorous, but it’s something you want to consider. The Dollar Store offers more than just a few stationary items and cheap birthday cards. You can also get some of your more common staples there. Things liked canned goods, wet dog food (and treats) and cleaning products are all widely available, and sometimes you can get the brand names without the extra cost.
Make it a habit to try your Dollar Store regularly. Look down the canned aisles and look at getting your cleaning products from there. It’s the cleaning products you’ll save the most on, especially if you have kids and need a lot of bleach for accidents and spillages!
You can do a quick search online before you visit the store. Most of these discount stores are available online, so will make sure you save compared to your usual shop.
If the Dollar Store isn’t any good, look out for the discount produce stores and your farmer’s markets. You’ll more likely get locally grown vegetables and fruits, which are far healthier for you and taste better than the stuff you get in the store. It’s possible to save as much as 32% on your grocery shop by opting for the right places.
Do your research first and make sure you are saving money. The great thing about the internet is that you can double check your prices to ensure you save money on your items.
Go Fresh, Not Pre-Packaged
It’s time to get out of the trap of eating the pre-packaged, processed foods. They can look cheaper at first, but they’re not in the long run. Fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, and fish, are all far better for you—both financially and health-wise. Plus, you’ll like the taste of your food more, so you’ll feel more satisfied in the long term.
Think about it; when you get the pre-packaged ham, you will usually find it lasts you a couple of days at most. If you get the real ham, you can slice it up when you need it and store it in the fridge or freezer (just remember to defrost!). It’s possible that the ham you need to cook, and slice will last a few dinners in the week and even months into the future if stored right. You save money by making your ingredients last longer.
The only time you may find packaged is financially better than fresh is when you look at canned or frozen items, especially frozen fruit and canned/frozen vegetables. The frozen vegetables and fruits can last for months, and you only need to use a handful at a time. You get all the same nutrients but at a fraction of the cost.
Frozen fruits are especially beneficial when you want raspberries, blueberries and other fruits you won’t eat as often. You don’t have to feel guilty when you don’t quite get the full packet before they go off, because they’re stored to last months.
Buy in Bulk and Separate Before Storing
There’s nothing wrong with buying your food in bulk. You can get a bulk of meat on offer and then use it over the course of a few weeks. This is the best way to save money on many of your purchases, but you need to make sure you store in the right way.
As soon as you get home from your grocery shop, split up your food into portion sizes. This is important for meat, so you can freeze in the portions and only defrost the amount that you need for each meal you make. It saves you defrosting too much, so you end up wasting it all.
If you’re not sure on the portions because you choose not to meal plan (or it doesn’t work for you) then freeze in individual portions. You can defrost big or small amounts depending on the meal you’re making.
This tip doesn’t work for meat. You can do it with vegetables and fruits too. Some of them will freeze well, and you can defrost them when it comes to needing them. Not all fruits and vegetables work for this. Sometimes it is worth going for the pre-frozen already.
When you are defrosting your food, make sure it’s fully defrosted to cook properly. Only re-freeze when the meat is cooked to avoid food poisoning. Once that dish has been defrosted, you won’t be able to freeze it again. Bacteria grow during the defrosting period, which can leave you extremely ill.
Leave the Credit Cards at Home
When you know you have a budget, opting for paying in cash for everything can be extremely beneficial. It’s time to start planning and only to shop with cash when it comes to your grocery shop. This can save you almost 20% on your grocery shop.
Buying on card leads to many of us overspending. We don’t see the physical money leaving our bank accounts, and it’s much harder to track. More one-off items are likely to land in the shopping trolley, which means you’re buying off your list and spending far more than you initially wanted to. This could see you spend more than you have available in your food budget, so you must take the money from another budget.
When you buy in cash, you see the money being handed over. This will help to keep your money needs in mind. You can’t put anything extra in the trolley, because you know you don’t have the money available for it.
This will take some time to get used to. In fact, it’s likely the hardest tip on the list, because you need to get an idea of the amount your usual food shop costs. You’ll also need to keep an eye on increasing costs.
One way to make sure your shop doesn’t go up is by having a calculator on hand. This is easy now with a phone, so it looks like you actually price checking if you’re worried about what other people think. You can stay on track throughout the shop and see if there’s any money left over for something extra. You’ll also watch if you’re getting close to deciding if you need to take something out of the trolley at a later point, rather than getting to the checkout and realizing you don’t have enough money.
Eventually, this will get easier. You’ll find you get an idea of the price of your food. The good thing about having cash is that you become more mindful of the amount you spend. You can also use the roll-up method easily. Any cash that is left over can either go back into your food budget, or you can put into a savings account or piggy bank, so you save more money over the course of time.
If you don’t feel ready to do this with your grocery shop right now, try it with your top-up shops. Take the money the next time you go to the corner shop, or you decide to buy a one-off bar of chocolate. Have cash when you want to pick up lunch at the store or grab a quick coffee. You’ll start to become more aware of the amount you’re spending, which helps you stick to budgets better.
When you do use the card, get into the habit of tracking your payments weekly. Make a budget and take steps to stick to it.
Are You Ready to Save Money on Your Grocery Shop?
Limiting your food expenses doesn’t mean you have to stop spending money. You don’t have to give up all your favorites. What it means is looking at the way you shop. You want to reduce the amount you spend on a weekly basis and make sure you only buy what you need.
With the top seven smart tips, you will find your grocery shop reduces, and you get far more for your buck. Your food will last longer, and you’ll feel healthier. You’ll also find that you spend more money on fruit and vegetables, rather than the processed food that can leave you feeling sluggish and fatigued.