For me, going to the grocery store is one of the few things that I (usually) get to do alone. It's my break from the kids for some time alone. Lately, it's been getting more stressful. Every month, the grocery prices seem to just go up and it gets harder to stick to my budget (read how to set, determine, and follow a budget in seven easy steps).
How are we supposed to feed our families without going broke in the process? Here are some ideas to make your grocery budget go farther, without buying a ton of processed foods. These tips are helpful whether you're trying to build up your savings, stay on budget, or cut back so you can stay on budget.
1. Have a meatless meal once a week or more. We incorporate salads, roasted veggies and quinoa, beans, and various pastas to achieve this goal. Simple black beans and rice or an even healthier version is a great way to do this.
2. Stretch your meat. Make the meat you do eat stretch by loading up on veggies, fruits, and beans either by using them as fillers or as the meal's focal point. Check out my apple carrot turkey burgers and Southwestern taco salad to get an idea of how to do this.
3. Buy clearance meat. Stores usually mark down meat that's close to it's sell by date. Scout out the stores and stock up. Pay attention to price, though, as sometimes even clearance meat is still pricey (especially beef). Watch the quality as well, sometimes the meat is really fatty of off color so not worth the price even on clearance.
4. Buy in bulk. Often, the larger packages of foods, such as beans, rice, potatoes, cereal, etc., are cheaper when you buy a larger bag. If you're able to use it all before it expires, buy the larger bag. Buy whole chickens when they're on sale then use the leftovers in other recipes or freeze it. If it'll just go to waste, though, skip it.
5. Look for sales on items you usually buy and work your shopping around them. Avoid buying things that aren't on sale when possible. Though, never buy meat that isn't on clearance. Shop for fruits and veggies that are in season to save more. Often, bigger bags of fruit rather than picking out of bins saves you money. Around holidays, scout out the meat that's popular for that holiday and stock up the freezer.
6. Stock up when you do find items on sale. You can freeze many foods, such as meat, butter, and bread for later.
7. Plant a veggie garden. Growing your own is a great way to save money. Focus on the staples you eat regularly.
8. Buy frozen veggies. Canned is also cheaper, but not as good. Frozen veggies have all the same nutrients, taste as good, last longer, and are cheaper than fresh.
9. Look for the dented fruit and bread bins at the grocery store. Not all stores have them, and even then it's hit and miss (some can even be more expensive) but it's worth a look.
10. Price compare. Keep an eye on the items you buy most at various stores and see what store has it cheaper. Remember to factor in how far the store is and figure out if it's worth it to drive for just a few items that may be cheaper at the other store.
11. Make extra food to have for lunches through the week and to take to work. That way, you're not eating out and spending more or buying pre-made foods. Be sure to use up the leftovers, though, or you'll waste money instead.
12. Buy store brand. The off brands, except on rare occasions, are cheaper than name brands. Often this is the case even when using coupons.
13. Cut back on juice/soda/chips/cookies. Those items add up and cut into the money you have for other foods.
14. Buy fish in bags rather than fresh. If you're a seafood eater, this one cuts your costs. I buy 2 pound packs of individually frozen salmon and tilapia portions. The individual portions also help me track how much we're eating and not make too much.
15. Avoid pre-made or prepared foods, like roast chickens, baby carrots, and other convenience foods that just eat up your budget.
16. Bake your own bread. Unless you buy the regular white or wheat store brands, which aren't as healthy, you can most likely save baking your on bread. Plus, it'll be healthier and fresher.
17. Cook at home. This is a big one and really the most important of all. Eating out costs more than cooking your own at home and it eats up your budget faster than anything. If you eat out often, none of the other tips matter as you'll still be spending lots on food each month.
Check out more ways to slash your grocery spending in my follow-up article here.