If you’re trying to rein in your spending, it can be very effective to cut back on recurring expenses: like grocery costs.
Food is a necessity, but it’s easy to spend more on groceries than you have to. Here are nine tips to help you save more on groceries every month.
1: Plan Your Meals
Pre-planning your meals for the week can help you better stick to only buying what you need and can make a busy day less hectic by taking the mystery out of “what’s for dinner?” every night. Pre-planning also makes it easier to prepare healthy meals, avoid food waste, and resist the urge to order more costly (and less healthy) takeout instead.
2: Use a Shopping List (And Stick To It)
Many people find that making a shopping list helps them buy all the food they need, with nothing they don’t. It also makes it easier to avoid those costly (and sometimes less healthy) impulse buys. Passing up on unplanned impulse purchases can equate to big savings over time. Saving just $10 on your weekly grocery run comes to $520 over a year.
3: Stock Up on Basic Supplies
Having a few basic items on hand at all times can be a time and money saver at mealtimes. These common food items are inexpensive, will last for a while, and can serve as the base of a variety of meals:
- Pasta Sauces
- Rice or quinoa
- Frozen vegetables
Creating dishes out of these ingredients can be simple and low-cost, and make filling and healthy meals for your family.
4: Cook At Home More
It’s almost always more cost-effective to cook meals at home than to eat out. If you still want to support local restaurants and enjoy a night or two away from the kitchen, be mindful of how often you’re choosing to eat out and how that affects your monthly spending. Every spending decision has an opportunity cost—when you spend more on one purchase, you have that much less for anything else.
5: Organize Your Pantry
Nearly everyone has canned goods that have sat in the pantry for months. Take an hour or two and inventory your pantry from top to bottom. Dispose of expired goods and take stock of what is still good to use. You’ll likely rediscover a few useful items you can use for meals. If you find items you know you’ll never use (and they have not yet expired), consider donating to a food pantry. (But remember, food banks can make more meals out of cash donations than we can by buying donating the goods we can buy for that same amount.)
Organizing your pantry prevents food waste, helps you use everything you have before buying new, and helps you plan meals that require less food from the store.
In the United States, over one-third of all available food is not eaten either through expiration, loss, or waste.1 Helping to reduce food waste in your own home saves you money and benefits others when you donate what you will not use.
6: Make Leftovers
If you’re cooking dinner for your family at home, you’ll likely have leftovers to put away at the end of the night. Repurpose them for breakfast or lunch the next day. (While not for everyone, Ken still occasionally enjoys the college favorite of cold pizza for breakfast.) Leftover meat, vegetables, and grains can be used to create whole new meals. If you intentionally cook extra to use the leftovers, it can save you cooking time on the next meal.
7: Shop Smarter
Pay attention to unit costs when you shop. A one-pound box of pasta that’s $4.00 costs less per serving than a half-pound box for $2.50 (25 cents per ounce vs. 31 cents per ounce). And since dry pasta is shelf-stable, you’ll have uncooked pasta to use for another meal.
But this doesn’t mean you always want the bigger box. If you truly won’t use all you’re buying before it spoils, you’re wasting money. In that case, the smaller container, even with a higher unit cost, can be the better buy.
Store cards and coupons can be an important part of saving on groceries every week. Most grocery store cards are free and can offer you deeper discounts on everyday items. In addition, if you have time to do a bit of extra work, you can achieve substantial savings with virtual coupons, stores that double coupons, and looking at the store’s weekly circular to see if they match sales from competitors. But don’t go overboard—if you get a 50% discount on food you’ll never use, you’re not saving money.
Other smart shopping tips include:
- Frozen vegetables are often cheaper, can taste very similar when cooked, and pack the same nutrients as fresh.
- Try generic or store brands—many are produced in the same facilities as name brands.
- Check on upcoming sales either online or with the store manager.
- Items nearing their expiration date (especially meat and perishables) will often be cheaper. Just make sure you will eat them before they expire.
8: Try Doing “Meatless” Mondays
Many Americans eat more protein than they need to consume. If you prepare a vegetarian meal even once a week, you can not only save money, but it could be better for your health and the environment . 2 We’ve heard of reducetarians who eat meat only once or twice a week or eat less meat per meal than they used to.
9: Consider Growing a Garden
This spring could be the time to start a vegetable, fruit, or herb garden. There is some up-front cost for seeds, plants, and perhaps soil and a garden box, but growing your own produce or herbs can be thrifty and satisfying. Or check your local area for community gardens, where you can pitch in and spend much less than starting a garden at your home.
To get the most out of your efforts, select the types of produce that grow best in your environment to get the most out of your efforts. Not only will this save you money, but it’s a fun hobby that the whole family can enjoy and can feel proud of.
As you try to approach your finances more strategically, every little bit of savings can help. Give these tips for savvy food shopping a try, and remember to check in with your financial advisor about other ways to manage your cash flow.
This content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information and is provided at least in part by Twenty Over Ten. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Original content of Practical Financial Planning, Inc. only is copyright © 2021 by Practical Financial Planning, Inc.