Anyone else’s children eat them out of house and home?
My daughter is not even three yet, but eating like crazy! I’m not sure if it’s a growth spurt, but she’ll go from picking at her plate and eating very little one meal to ravenously eating anything in sight. Mac and cheese was amazing at lunch but try to serve it to her for dinner tomorrow night and she’s not having it.
Do you sometimes feel like your grocery budget is out of control? Discover some great ways to save money on groceries below.
In my first few years post-college, I didn’t care as much about my grocery bill as I do now. I didn’t have a budget but also didn’t have many expenses. Living on take-out pizza or overpaying for convenience foods was easy. I had more disposable income and more time, but less motivation to cook my own meals. I worked 5 minutes away from my cheap apartment and didn’t have a child or mortgage. Choosing to spend on groceries and eating out wasn’t taking away from other needs.
Spending is an opportunity cost
Financial opportunity costs are fascinating to me. You only make so much money. What you choose to do with that money is completely up to you. It’s interesting that someone making $50,000 a year can feel poor, while someone else making the same $50,000 can feel rich.
Of course, costs of living are a huge factor in disposable income. I know that some geographic locations are simply more expensive to live in. Some big differences in expenses by geography are housing, food, and gas. But that aside, you have the power to make financial choices every day that impact your overall financial future, your food budget being an easy one to affect.
National Averages of Grocery Spending
The USDA publishes the average cost of food for families of different sizes and various shopping styles each month. In August 2018, the average monthly cost of “food at home” for a family of four (includes a male and female between 19-50 years of age and two children, one between 2-3 years old and one between 4-5 years old) is $563.40 per month on a thrifty plan, and $719.10 per month on the low-cost plan.
It maxes out at $1100.00 on the liberal plan. Wow, that’s a lot of guacamole! Even the thrifty plan seems high to me. If you are spending more than you would like to on groceries, there are so many easy ways you can effortlessly cut back or trim. You can easily save money on groceries by practicing some of these tips.
Save money on groceries using these tips:
#1. Meal plan
This sounds so easy in concept, but if you fail to have a plan you will likely end up overspending when you get home to a house full of hungry family members with no ideas on how to feed them. Save money on groceries by creating a simple meal plan for the week.
Looking for meal inspiration? Pinterest has a ridiculous amount of awesome, easy ideas for home-cooked meals.
Pro tip: Create a board, private or public, and dedicate it just for meals or, better yet, just for quick meals.
Also, do yourself a favor and find “easy to execute” recipes. Try something semi-homemade where you make a box of mac and cheese but add in some veggies or meat. Or try making crockpot or instant pot recipes that cook while you’re at work or running errands. You will love prepping a crockpot in advance, and coming home to a house that not only smells delicious but a meal that is ready to serve right now!
#2. Shop specials & sales
If you’re not at least glancing at the circular of the store you are grocery shopping to save money on groceries, you’re missing an opportunity to save. Looking at it in the store is great, but checking it out before you shop and using it to plan your meals is even better.
Identify items that are in sale at your local store, and use them to start your meal plan for the week. Doing this is a natural way to save money on groceries. Try planning your meals around items that are on sale. Unless of course, you have a stockpile of items already in your freezer or pantry, then use those first.
Once you know what you have on hand, use the store circular and start planning out what meals to make. Use groceries you have on hand and the items that are on sale. Eliminate stress at dinner time by knowing what meal you are going to make the next night. and take the effort to purchase the groceries and prep parts of the meal that you can in advance.
Do you know you’re having a stir fry, salad, or veggie-heavy meal tomorrow? Why not prep part of the meal tonight by chopping veggies right now. Or chop twice as many as you are going to use for Monday’s meal for use on Tuesday.
Same with fruit. In our family, we have some type of fruit with every meal. If you’re cleaning strawberries or grapes or fruit that keeps for a few days, why not clean twice as many and use tonight and tomorrow night?
#3. Leverage coupons & savings apps
This isn’t for everyone, but if you want to take your grocery savings to the next level you’re going to have to consider using coupons, either in print or digital, and leveraging savings apps.
Coupons are one of my favorite ways to save, but I know not everyone has the tolerance or patience to use them. If coupons aren’t for you, that’s okay. I get that cutting, organizing and matching up coupons with sale items isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. If print coupons aren’t for you, could you comprise and use digital coupons?
At a minimum download the app of the grocery store you most frequent and clip coupons to your loyalty card digitally. I like to view the apps’ coupon selection often and clip coupons directly to the loyalty card before I go shopping.
Or, as you’re standing in line waiting to check out, whip out the app and clip coupons for items you already have in your cart. You don’t have to go from non-couponer to crazy couponer overnight, but if you’re not using coupons today take the next best step you can and try using digital when possible.
I like to track how much I’m spending (and saving) on groceries each week; check out one of my monthly couponing reports for context as to how much we spend as a family of 3.
Another great option if you’re looking to save more is using money-saving apps. Grocery saving apps like Ibotta, Checkout51, Cartwheel or Fetch (Sign up and enter my referral code M2CNU and you’ll get $2.00 in points when you complete one receipt) are easy to use and make saving more at the grocery store really convenient. Plus in many cases, they can be used in conjunction with printed or digital coupons.
Related: Check out 15 apps you should be using today for more ideas on how to save on groceries with apps.
#4. Create a schedule
Maybe it’s meatless Monday, taco Tuesday or leftover Thursday. Create a schedule for what meals to cook each night. This type of planning can help you save a lot of money on groceries.
Don’t have time to cook? I would ask you to reevaluate where you are spending your time. It is so simple and efficient to make healthy meals at home if you have a plan and have prepped in advance. If you know the evenings are tight between the time you make it home and the time your family wants to eat, prep in advance.
Thaw the meat or vegetables. Cut the vegetables or fruit the night before. Have a plan written down so the first person home can start prepping the meal.
I’m much more of a planner than my husband. He jokes that I want to know what we’re having for dinner three Tuesday’s from now (he is joking, right?). That’s not entirely true, but after dinner last night I looked at what leftovers we had in the fridge.
We still had cooked bacon leftover from breakfast on Sunday and an avocado that’s super ripe. We decided on Avocado BLT’s. So whoever makes it home from work first tonight knows what the plan is and can start to prep/assemble. This works for us.
#5. Try a grocery delivery service
Wait, what? Why would I pay for a subscription service to have my groceries delivered?
I recently wrote a review about my new love of Shipt grocery delivery. I credit it with reducing my monthly grocery bill because it has reduced the number of trips I take to the store, thus nearly eliminating impulse purchases.
I’m usually not swayed by the diet coke or candy bars at the checkout lanes as far as impulse purchases go, but because it’s hard for me to turn down a good deal, I have a hard time not spending on something if there is a sale going on.
By not going to the store as frequently and only purchasing what I truly need, we’ve been using more of what we have at the house and have actually reduced our overall grocery spend. Check Shipt out, we’re really enjoying it (use my Shipt affiliate link and get $20.00 off groceries).
#6. Meal swap
Do you live in a neighborhood that is close-knit? You know, the kind where your neighbors are friends who feel like family. If this is you, perhaps you suggest doing a meal swap? For example, one night a week make enough dinner for your family and for your neighbors and cook for them. Either invite them over or literally walk a prepped meal over to them.
Do that once per week, and they do that in return once per week. You may find that not only do you not have to worry about dinner one night per week (or one night per month or whatever the time frame is) but that you get a taste for something new that you either wouldn’t normally cook yourself or a meal that is prepared in a different way.
It really is a win-win if you have the right neighbors or friends to try this with.
If you are concerned about how high your grocery bills are, or feel like you spend more than you want to, there are so many easy ways to find savings. Save money on groceries by planning in advance, using what you have on hand, and buying things that are on sale this week. Try a new way to save, nail that tactic, and then try something else. What are your favorite ways to save on groceries?