There are so many wonderful articles out there on the web that discuss grocery shopping on a budget or pinching pennies at the market.
But they all assume that the reader actually has…money.
I know, I know.
That sounds ridiculous. But I mean, come on.
I’m looking for information that is going to tell me how I can eat on the cheap, not how I can make my dollar stretch at my local artisan fishmonger…
From someone who has made the decision on how to spend my last 47¢ for the next week, here are some practical tips for grocery shopping on a budget.
Buy the Stuff that You Like and will Use
Honestly, it is surprising to me how many times I have bought something that I didn’t like or that I didn’t end up using.
It was a complete waste of money.
Why did it happen so much?
Because I never took the time to make notes on my preferences.
I would buy a new veggie burger or something to try out, end up hating it, but then buy it again because I couldn’t remember if I liked it or not!
The most important tip to save money on groceries is to only buy food items you like and will use.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t make room in your budget to try new foods. Just be mindful of how you felt about those foods.
Make notes on whether you’d buy it again or try a different variation or if you wish you never even ate it in the first place.
Allowing your food preferences to be your guide through the grocery store will also make it harder for you to waste money on random sale items.
We have all been there.
You’re waltzing down the cereal aisle, looking for the oatmeal, and then you see it – the big, brightly colored display of chewy chocolate granola bars.
A box of 1,000 bars for $5.99!?! What a deal, right?
Being prepared with insight into the foods that you want to spend your money on, will reduce the likelihood that you will opt to waste the $6 on a bar of refined sugars, and instead take the chance to use it on that fancy French cheese you’ve always wanted to try.
Never, and I mean NEVER go to the Store Hungry
There really isn’t too much to explain here.
Other than having a snack or meal before you go to grocery shopping reduces impulse buys and helps you stay focused and on track.
How many times have you glanced around the kitchen before going to the grocery store, overlooked something, and come home with a bottle of ketchup you didn’t need?
Have an up-to-date list of items on hand that is in a place that you will actually see!
Print the three inventory sheets from the Grocery Shopping on a Budget Workbook! Pin them up and fill them out!
Knowing what you have at a glance, will reduce the chance of buying what you don’t need.
Plan Your Lists for Meals…but don’t Meal Plan (unless you want to)
Meal planning is a great tool for people that thrive on routine and structure.
I am not that type of human. Intuitive Cooking is more my jam.
My meal choices tend to be based on a multitude of variables…
What do I feel like eating?
How hungry am I?
Is someone dining with me?
Do I feel lazy?
And so much more…
That being said, you really can’t go wrong with having a couple of go-to meal ingredients on hand at all times.
You can always find the ingredients for spicy bean chili, classic spaghetti, or red beans and rice in my pantry.
Toss in a bag of frozen vegetables and you’re good to go!
Ingredients for meals like these tend to be shelf-stable and cost-effective. Many of these meals can actually be very nutritious and fit an array of special diet needs.
Planning for snacks is also vital! Especially now, when the majority of us are still staying home.
My kitchen is always stocked with easy to grab snacks like hummus and celery or carrots, peanut butter and honey toast, or pickled eggs (don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it)!
Make a list of meals and snacks that you want to keep on hand.
A good rule of thumb is to shy away from prepackaged or highly processed foods, they are typically way more expensive.
Check your inventory for inspiration and stock. Then craft a grocery shopping list!
Reduce Food Waste and Save Money
→ Clearance produce.
Marked down does not mean bad. Check out what fresh fruits and vegetables are reduced! You might be surprised by the selection and the great condition!
Remember! Grab only the things that you know you like and will use.
→ Prep food now.
Wash, trim, prep, and store ASAP.
Spend the time now to wash your produce and store it in ways that prolong its shelf-life.
PRO TIP: Try to keep all your fruit and vegetables dry in the fridge!
→ Freeze it for later.
Onions, bell pepper, celery, and more can be washed, prepped, pat dry, and immediately frozen.
But most vegetables need some extra preparation before they can be frozen.
Blanching is a preserving cooking method where food is boiled for about 30 seconds and then rapidly cooled in an ice bath.
This method preserves the color, texture, and taste of the raw vegetable while stoping the enzymes that degrade the food.
→ Storing leftovers.
Portioning out leftovers to single-serving sized containers makes grabbing them for lunch the next day or a late-night snack super easy and much more convenient.
A good general rule of thumb is that most leftovers keep for 3-4 days in the fridge depending on what it is.
Have some blank stickers or masking tape on hand to write ‘best by’ dates on to keep your fridge organized and clean!
→ Grow your own
No matter the size of your space, you can absolutely grow your own food.
And if you don’t want to, then you can at least enrich the quality of your dirt by composting.
Check out this great article on How to Grow Fruits and Vegetables from Table Scraps for more info!
Predict and Set a Grocery Budget
Finding out where you stand with your past grocery spending and making plans for future spending can make all the difference with getting the most out of your money.
Track Your Past Spending
Keep your receipts! Or use your bank statements to track your past grocery spending.
Use the Budget section of the Grocery Shopping on a Budget Workbook to keep track of your past spending.
That way, you can understand where you stand now in order to help you better grasp where you need to go and how to get there!
Predict Your Grocery Spending
I can’t count the number of times I have been in the checkout line sweating bullets because I didn’t know if I could pay for what I got.
Get rid of that stress by estimating your next grocery bill using your shopping list and Google.
Check online for a general cost of each item and round up to reduce the chance of going over budget!
Add the estimated costs up to be better prepared and calmer at the register!
Track the Trends
Compare your estimations against your actual spending. How does that match up against your last month’s spending? What about the average household spending?
Track those trends using the Calendar in the Grocery Shopping on a Budget Workbook!
Look for patterns in your spending.
Are there certain months that you end up spending more or less every year?
Are you seeing a decrease in overall spending since taking more time to analyze and plan out your budget?
Who knows!?! Maybe you can put the extra savings away for a rainy day!
Set a Budget
When you first start with this you really can’t set an accurate or appropriate budget.
We don’t know how much we need to spend on groceries if we aren’t aware of how we spend now or how we have been spending in the past.
Now that you are fully aware of your spending behaviors, you are ready to set a practical, realistic budget.
Remember to keep in mind the trends in your spending. Your budget may need to change from month to month, depending on your spending history.
Try to give yourself room for those fluctuations in your budget.
Write that number down. Keep track of how your budget changes or remains the same on your calendar.
Before You Go.
If you have any other tips for grocery shopping on a budget, please share them in the comments below!