How to Grocery Shop on a Budget

Raise your hand if grocery shopping is your favorite chore. Nobody? Didn’t think so. Either way, groceries are an area where many people can save money or where you can make the money you do spend stretch further. Lots of people grocery shop without thinking much about it. You’ll be amazed at the money you can save by grocery shopping with a purpose. If you’re looking to start saving more money or just want to improve your grocery shopping skills, the tips below are for you.

Meal Plan

Meal planning can seem like a little bit of a hassle, but if you really think about it, it saves you trips to the store and you only have to decide what you want for dinner once a week instead of the eternal struggle of figuring out what to have for dinner every single night. Going to the store with a solid plan keeps you from buying food you don’t need and also helps avoid additional trips to the store for things you forgot. Sit down with your family one night a week and decide what you’d like to have that week. It is helpful to only aim for 3-5 meals a week, because chances are you won’t actually end up cooking all 7 and then that food goes to waste.

Create a List

Never… and I mean never… go to the store without a list. Going to the store without a list is basically going to the store without a plan. You’re going to end up buying things you don’t need and leaving without things you do need. Lists help you stay on track and on budget.

Substitute Frozen for Fresh

Instead of spending ridiculous amounts of money for fresh strawberries in the dead of winter, substitute with frozen berries. Frozen vegetables are also often a cheaper choice than buying fresh. Plus, if you forget about them for a few days, they’re still good. If you’re not a huge meat-eater, but still like to add a chicken breast to your salad every now and then, frozen meat may be a convenient option to save money as well.

Buy in Bulk

When it makes sense, buy in bulk. Memberships at places like Sam’s Club and BJ’s are great for saving money by buying in bulk. You’re likely to save money buying non-perishables like nuts, dried fruits, pasta, etc. in bulk. But, only buy in bulk if you’re going to eat it. Just because something is cheaper per serving in bulk doesn’t mean you should buy it if it’s just going to go to waste. Also, when buying in bulk, keep an eye on expiration dates.

Be Flexible

One great way to save money is to be flexible when you go shopping. For example, say you have planned to make ground beef tacos for dinner one night this week. When you get to the store, it turns out chicken is on sale today, making it way cheaper than ground beef. Be flexible and choose chicken tacos to save money. Only buying the meat that is on sale is a way to save a lot of money without feeling like you’re missing out.

Try More Plant Based Cooking

Reducing the amount of meat you eat is another way to save money. Meat, especially good quality meat, is expensive. Plant-based protein like quinoa, beans, and chickpeas are much less expensive and still leave you full. You may even find you prefer plant-based recipes over ones with a lot of meat.

Clip Coupons

We don’t really “clip” coupons anymore, but you get the picture. Sign up for emails from local stores so that you get all their best coupons sent directly to you. You may still be receiving coupons in the “junk mail” you are throwing away, so check there too. Does your favorite store have an app? If so, that is another great place to find coupons and deals.

Shop Around

Who doesn’t have their favorite, go-to grocery store? We probably all do, but sometimes it is more beneficial to venture out of our comfort zones. Check deals online or in the newspaper (does anyone read the newspaper anymore?) before heading to the store to see where the best prices are.

Sign Up for Rewards Programs

If you are someone who has a favorite grocery store, you are probably already signed up for their rewards program, but don’t stop there! Sign up for rewards programs at multiple grocery stores in your area so that when you do end up shopping around, you’re able to get even more discounts.

Don’t Shop Hungry

This is probably the most basic grocery shopping rule, and also the one that is broken the most often: don’t grocery shop hungry. When you’re hungry, you’re much more likely to buy things you don’t need, especially unhealthy things. Try to go grocery shopping after you’ve eaten a meal so that your stomach doesn’t overpower your brain and cost you unnecessary money.

Generic is Usually Just as Good

It’s pretty common to have brand bias and refuse to buy anything other than brand name food at the store. In reality, many generic brands are just as good as the name brand. Give some generic brand items a shot and go from there. If you like the generic brands – great, you’re saving money! If not, at least you tried.

Don’t Buy Pre-packaged

It is very tempting to purchase that pre-cut fruit, pre-packaged salad, or snack-sized bags of chips, but have you ever checked to see how much you’re paying for these foods to be pre-cut or pre-packaged? Once you see the price difference in the pre-packaged version of these foods versus the regular version, buying pre-packaged will become much less appetizing. Better start Googling the best way to cube a watermelon at home.

Who knows – if you’re able to turn grocery shopping into a way to save money for more “fun” purchases, maybe it will become a chore you enjoy! For more money-saving and personal finance tips, check our Learning Center blog.

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