The grocery bill…the one expense we have the most control of. Cutting grocery costs can be a challenge, especially if you are new to the idea.
With some self-control and a few tips to get you started, you will be on your way to keeping some cash in your wallet.
Personally, I was never much of a meal planner until we started eating less processed food.
We started having a lot of food waste because I would buy stuff that was “healthy” but I had no idea what to do with it. Our grocery costs were soaring and my husband was not happy that our new diet was so expensive.
Eating healthier was very important to me so I knew I had to find a way to make it work with our food budget. That was when I knew it was time to give meal planning a shot.
Everyone seems to have their own meal planning and cooking styles, but I do think it is helpful to take other ideas into consideration.
In this post I outline how I meal plan.
Always use what you have first.
This is kind of a no-brainer and you may have heard it a thousand times…I have.
However, I think there is something to be said about ideas that get passed around so much! They are usually timeless ideas and make a large impact in comparison to their relative ease of use.
That is how I would describe this tip. It is so simple that many times you may overlook it. Every item you use from you pantry, is one less you have to buy at the grocery store.
So before you make your meal plan, take a quick inventory of your fridge, freezer and pantry and decide how you can incorporate those into your meals for the week.
Stock up on sale items.
After reading the last tip, this one might seem counter-intuitive. But there is a method to the madness…
Having a good stockpile is essential for real savings and not having to wait for that next paycheck to get some groceries in the pantry.
By setting aside 10-20 dollars a week to stock up on sale items you can accumulate a rather large food supply in a matter of a couple months.
For example, our neighborhood Kroger just reduced the price of many store brands by 10-20 cents per item. I don’t know how long the prices will stay that low so I wanted to stock up. I set aside 20 dollars of my food budget this week to buy canned diced tomatoes and tomato sauce for 49 cents per can. I was able to get 40 cans total with my 20 dollars! I use a lot of canned tomatoes so this was a great deal for me.
Just be sure to watch your dates! I will not eat out of date food so I watch those things very carefully.
Related Article: Creative Ways to Save Money
Buy what you know your family will eat.
This is another tip that may seem like common sense but a trap I fall prey to when I let my money-saving guard down.
Just because something is a good deal doesn’t mean your family will eat it! Trust me on this one.
Remember, the most expensive food is the food that gets thrown away!
Another thing to mention here is that I am all for trying new things but wait for those new things to go on sale before you buy them. Just in case they are a flop. It is less of a blow if something ends up getting tossed in the trash.
Cut back on meat consumption.
If you are like me and want to buy humanely sourced meat you know how expensive it can be. When you are feeding a family it can be cost prohibitive.
Although, if you look at meat as more of a flavoring agent and not the star of the show, then buying less meat at a higher price is possible.
This works for us because our kids do not like chewing meat. So I don’t cook a whole lot of it and if I do it is usually slow cooked in a soup or stew.
Alternatively, if you have a tight budget to work with and really want meat in your meal plan, then look for the buy-one-get-one sales and focus your meals around that.
Learn how to cook frugally.
Many recipes out there these days have huge ingredients lists.
Take a page from our great-grandmothers who lived during the Great Depression. The meals were so simple out of necessity, yet they tried hard to make them nourishing, filling and comforting.
Over the years I have figured out how to reduce ingredient lists in MOST recipes. Usually, I can par down an extensive ingredient list to just 5 main ingredients.
Also, cooking with beans will really keep your costs down as well. That is if your family will eat them. Mine does and I consider myself lucky in this department.
Cook fewer, but larger meals.
Now, this may not work for everyone, but it is a pretty good money saver for us.
This will require your family to eat leftovers. I have always cooked so we could have leftovers so my bunch doesn’t know any different. As for my husband, he is just happy to have a meal, leftovers or not.
My husband also likes to take leftovers for his lunches most of the time which also helps keep our costs down.
Related Article: Frugal Family Meals
Know what products are more economical to make versus buy.
Once upon a time, I had these huge dreams of being Super Suzie Homemaker who makes everything from scratch, out of organic or foraged food from our landscape.
Then I got real. There is an old saying that says “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” That applies here.
One of my greatest reality checks was when I tried to make organic homemade ketchup for our kids. They were used to eating Heinz ketchup their entire lives. When I put my homemade ketchup on their plate, that I even put in an old Heinz bottle, you would have thought I was asking them to eat poo or something equally awful.
I threw it out and vowed that I would never attempt to make ketchup again.
There are some things that are just aren’t worth making, and ketchup was one such item for me. Other items I don’t make are taco seasoning, ranch seasoning, curry paste, homemade “Bisquick” BBQ sauce, honey mustard. Been there, done that. It takes too much time and didn’t really seem to make that big of an impact on cutting grocery costs.
Stay out of the stores as much as possible.
The world of online shopping is a beautiful thing these days!
I love ordering my groceries online. There are so many delivery services out there. Shop around and find the best prices. Also, see if your local grocery stores offer online ordering and you just go pick it up. By doing that you can still utilize the sales and use coupons.
There are things that I insist on buying locally, like meat, dairy products and produce. We happen to live in the middle of Amish country so I try to source our perishables from the farm stands and country stores. However, I do like ordering non-perishables from Amazon Pantry and Thrive Life.
By staying out of the stores you don’t become a victim of impulse shopping. I find it much easier to be mindful of my purchases when I am filling an online shopping cart rather than cruising the aisles of Kroger.
Shop alone when you can.
If you have to shop in a store, go alone.
Over the summer I spent about 20% more on weeks that I took our kids to the store with me. Partially because they ask for things and I can be a bit of a softie, and partially because I became too distracted to pay attention to prices like I usually do.
The lesson here is that distraction comes at a cost and for me, that was to the tune of an extra 20% a week.
Cutting grocery costs takes some practice and time to get used to. Try not to get too discouraged in the beginning, especially if you are trying to build a stockpile.
Pretty soon, you will begin to see your hard work pay off.
In the meantime keep on keepin’ on.