How much do you normally spend at the grocery store each week? $100? $200? $300? More?
Why do we spend so much at the grocery store? For some, it’s impulse purchases—that box of cookies to keep your kid quiet while they shop with you, that $5 chocolate bar that looks too good to pass up, the chips because you’re starving and can’t resist, or the pre-made food because after making it through the grocery store you deserve the treat of not having to make dinner. Taken one-by-one these are all small purchases, but the reality is that they can rapidly add up.
For others, it is unnecessary or duplicate buying. If this is you, you are not alone! Did you know that the USDA estimates that between 30 and 40 percent of food in the US is wasted? A good chunk of this comes from food that we buy only to then toss once it has gone bad before we could use it. I mean, who hasn’t grabbed some onions at the store only to discover three sitting on the counter at home or picked up a beautiful eggplant only to throw it out 10 days later when it gets yucky in the back of the fridge?
No matter the reason, finding the balance between keeping your kitchen stocked and your grocery bills in check can be a challenge. So, here are some ways to help you to lower your grocery bills, and still have delicious, appealing food in your fridge!
1) Plan Meals
Setting out a plan for what you are going to eat over the week is one of the best ways to cut down on your food bill because it leads to less waste, fewer additional runs to the grocery store, and less spontaneous take out orders.
When you sit down to meal plan there are two things that I recommend you do, other than looking through recipes to pick out your meals.
The first is to take a look at your calendar for the upcoming week. That way you can schedule your meals around how much time you will have to cook a meal on a given day
The other is to leave one night unplanned. Having one night open will allow you to either enjoy leftovers and not cook for a night or to use up whatever ingredients are on the verge of going bad to help you reduce food waste (and therefore higher grocery bills).
For more tips, check out these 10 ways to make meal planning easier.
If meal planning is a burden for you, The Scramble can help with our planned-for-you family-friendly meal plans!
2) Make a list
Whether you are building your shopping list off of a meal plan or are just making it from scratch, going to the store with a list in hand (or on your phone) means that you are less likely to make unnecessary or impulse purchases.
When I make my weekly grocery list I do a few things. First, I add the ingredients I need to fulfill my meal plan. Then, I think through other meals or events we might need food for and add those items to the list. Finally, I check to make sure I have our regular go-to staples in the house (another way to do this is to keep a running list somewhere in the kitchen for your family to write down ingredients once they have run out).
You can make your list by hand or on your phone (The Scramble’s meal plans automatically creates a shopping list for you), but either way, I highly recommend organizing your list by area of the store. Not only will this save you time, but it will also streamline your shopping so that you reduce the risk of impulse purchases.
3) Check your pantry before you go
Do you ever feel like you have a full fridge but nothing to eat in it? Is your pantry full of canned foods and dried goods? If so, then you likely can save a bunch of cash by preparing meals from what you already have in your pantry, since you won’t need to buy as much and won’t risk purchasing duplicates of what you already have.
Personally, I also enjoy cooking from my pantry because it allows for a bit more creativity than cooking directly from a recipe. Plus, as a spendthrift, I always find it gratifying to know that I made a meal without spending any extra money.
If you need inspiration, you can use The Scramble’s search function to help you find recipes to use those pantry items!
4) Shop the loss leaders
Loss leaders are the foods your store deeply discounts to try and get you in the door with the hopes that you will then buy more items. These sales can be incredibly tempting and they can be a great money saver, if they are things you enjoy on a regular basis
There are two ways to take advantage of loss leaders. The first is to check ahead of time to see what the sale items at your grocery store are for the week and then use those ingredients to inspire your week’s meal plan.
The second option is to plan your week as you normally would, but to buy up sale items you come across while shopping. If you take this route, though, the items must both be easy to store (i.e., freezable or shelf stable) and an ingredient you will use without too much effort.
5) Know which stores have the best prices on which foods
These days, it’s quite likely that you go to at least two grocery stores to get all the different foods you like to have in your house. If this is true for you, then there is likely money to be saved as different stores have wildly varying prices for different ingredients, especially staples.
So, for a few weeks, bring a list of your favorite staples with you to the grocery stores you frequent (I like to use my phone for this) and take note of how much those items cost at each store. You might be surprised by which stores will save you the most money.
Do you have tricks that you like to use to save money at the grocery store? Share them in the comments below!