April 13, 2015

Easy Ways to Stretch Your Grocery Budget

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.

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  1. We need to work at getting better at it here. I do too much whim shopping at the grocery store, especially if I shop hungry.

  2. I am always looking for ways to save. As my boys grow, the more they eat!

  3. LOVE these tips!! we're a family of five and I've found that buying in bulk is one of the biggest ways to save!

  4. Great tips. Groceries can cost a lot of money

  5. I'm terrible at finding deals on anything, event the super market. I guess I just have to take time and notice the sale items.

  6. Love these ideas! Buying in bulk and savings are awesome. I cannot wait until we can start a garden; it saves SO much money on the things we can just easily (and probably more healthily) grow ourselves!

  7. I do a few of these but I need to avoid baby carrots and stuff like this!

  8. You have so many awesome ideas here! Great list.. we buy in bulk and freeze a ton.. we have a deep freezer in our garage so it is super helpful for that!

  9. You have covered all of the bases with this post. I love a crockpot for making a big anything including veggie chili that lasts a few days.

  10. Great tips. We go meatless often. :)

  11. These are really great tips. We do 90% of them. I love summer time because naturally we seem to eat lighter. I love cooking so doing it at home makes sense. I tease my family and say anything you can buy out I can make and make it better. It's usually true :)

  12. These are all good ways to save some dough while grocery shopping! I try to stick to a lot of these rules of thumb and it really makes a difference in our budget!

  13. these are really solid tips!! I love chopping up mushrooms in the food processor and then mix in hamburger meat

  14. I'm really good at stretching meat because I don't like a lot of it in anything I make. That automatically makes it last and last!

  15. Great tips! I cook a lot at home and it helps!

  16. I still have my youngest going to the store with me. I love it since he hugs me throughout the store.

  17. All of these are great tips! I love meal planning two weeks at a time; it seems to really helps cut down our grocery costs.

  18. This are all great tips! I see going meatless alot.

  19. Awesome tips. I like buying bulk.

  20. Buying meat that is "on sale" that week is also a money saver. Either plan to use it in that weeks meal plan or freeze it for a later date.
    For example, I am single. I buy pork chops in a family pack (often another way to save money). I bring them home,Separate portions (2 per bag = 2 dinners) for future use and freeze them. When I get the urge to make it I defrost it the night before or earlier that day.
    Sometimes I use 2 or more portions in the slow cooker to make other meals with it. Once that is done, I freeze it for a future ready to eat (once defrosted) easy meal. It could be weeks to a month after I bought it before it gets consumed. But still delicious - and less expensive. This can be done with any meat/poultry. I also like getting cuts of stew meat/ham stakes when they are marked down and freeze them till I get in the mood to eat them.
    Cook once - eat twice or 3 times. I don't understand how Singles say they can't enjoy a good meal at home. You can if you cook smart!

  21. Really great ideas! Even if you absolutely love meat, skipping it for one day a week can save a lot of money and still be delicious!


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