How much do you spend per week on groceries? $100? $200? Maybe more? Here are some tips on cutting your grocery spending! For our family of four (two adults, two small children) we average $55/week, including extra food for visitors and pot lucks. So how do we do it? Read on, friend, and you will find out!
Eat More Simply
I’m not advocating eating beans and rice for supper every evening, although that would really cut your grocery spending. However, daily meals do not need to be gourmet affairs every night. For a healthy, balanced meal, you need meat, vegetables, and starches. The meat can be ground beef or turkey rather than t-bone steak, the vegetables a simple bag of frozen veggies, and the starches potatoes or pasta or rice.
Let’s face it, we in America eat too much. Eliminating expensive, pre-packaged between meal snacks and sweet drinks will kill two birds with one stone-you’ll spend less money and consume fewer empty calories. If you need to snack, try fruits and veggies, bought fresh, and peeled and chopped yourself. Cutting portions just a tad will also stretch food farther. Do you really need that second helping? Or are you full Ã?Â¾ of the way through your meal? Wrap up the leftovers for tomorrows lunch.
Cook From Scratch
You don’t need a chef’s kitchen or a home economics degree to do this. Cooking from scratch is healthier and cheaper than buying things from in a package. It takes slightly more time, but that is a small price to pay for the money you will save. Take some time to learn how to read a recipe, and start experimenting. Following the “Eat more simply” rule will help you keep cooking from getting overwhelming. An example of a simple cooked-from-scratch meal: pour your favorite salad dressing over chicken breasts, and bake in a 350 degree oven for 1 Ã?Â¼ hours. At the same time you put the chicken in, wash enough potatoes for each person, pierce the skins with a fork, and stick them in the oven too. Ten minutes before you eat, put frozen veggies into a pot, add a few inches of water, and boil until tender. Voila! Cooking is that simple. For breakfast, instead of loading up the table every morning, or relying on boxed cereals (which are insanely expensive), try oatmeal with some brown sugar and raisins, or an egg, toast, and orange juice. Lunch needn’t be expensive, either. Get creative with sandwiches-PB&J, chicken salad, egg salad, honey/butter, occasional cold cuts (sliced deli meats), etc. Even a large, home-made brown-bag lunch is cheaper than eating out. In the interest of both simplicity and saving time, you may want to research the use of crock pots and slow cookers.
Plan, Plan, Plan
You will always spend more if you enter the grocery store with a credit card and no list. “Aha!” you will think, as you approach the loss-leaders in front of an aisle “This is exactly what I need! I don’t know what I’ll do with an artichoke, but I’ll find some use for it.” And then of course, the artichoke will sit in the bottom of your fridge for a week and rot. Even if you do use what you buy just because it’s on sale, you will end up eating more than you really wanted or planned to, just so that food doesn’t go to waste.
Instead, plan each week’s menu the week before. Keep a list on paper or in your head of the meals your family likes. Remember, the meals don’t have to be fancy. As you look over your menu, determine which ingredients you already have in stock. What you don’t have, write down on your list. If you know your grocery store well, try to organize your list according to the layout of the aisles. That way, you won’t be wandering aimlessly up and down, being tempted by sale prices and things you don’t need to buy. Also be sure to watch the sales fliers for the grocery stores in your area. In our town, I can often get a 3 lb bag of skinless, boneless chicken breasts for $3.99 at one store, while at a “brand name” store, the same item regularly goes for $10! If you’re really serious, skip the plastic, and only take cash with you to the store. Using sales flyers and your knowledge of prices generally, you should be able to get a close estimate of what you’ll need. Round up a little if you are afraid you’ll run short, but don’t take along $200 (or a credit card) when you’ve planned to spend only $100.
Buying in Bulk, is it worth it?
For our family, the answer is no. We aren’t a large enough family to make buying in bulk worthwhile. For us, we’d either waste a lot of food, or we’d eat too much just so it doesn’t go bad. And I can usually find a good deal on paper products or laundry detergent without needing to purchase a membership at a shopping club. However, if you have a larger family, and often need large amounts of something, or if you buy things that will last a long time (a bottle of olive oil, for instance), you might find the yearly fee worthwhile. The best way to decide is to compare price per unit (ie: how many cents per ounce/package/piece).
Make yourself a challenge! Have a family meeting and determine the foods everyone would like to see on the table each night, and then get organized, plan your menu, write your list, and see what kind of money you can save! Turn this into a game, and you will soon find that budget cutting isn’t drudgery or boring. With the right attitude, and the right motivation, you can have a lot of fun with this.