If you are like most families, you may find your monthly budget not going as far. We saw our grocery budget almost double this last year. The increase in our spending was largely due to my gestational diabetes and trying to eat healthier as a family overall. After a couple of months at looking at how to reduce spending, I came up with a few tips for spending less money at the grocery store.
1. Take inventory of what you already have
The first thing you should do before grocery shopping is take inventory of what you already have in your pantry or freezer. You don't want to come home with two cans of black beans to find out you already had five in your pantry. You also don't want to think you have chicken broth and find out you don't have any when you are about to start the risotto. I've done both.
2. View store ads before making your list
Before I make my list for the grocery store, I look at the sale ads for the stores I shop at most often. Because I go to a couple of stores, this allows me to make sure I am paying the least for an item. I won't buy orange juice at Trader Joe's if it is on sale cheaper at Fred Meyer.
Viewing store ads also helps me meal plan in a cost effective way. Meal planning can end up costing you more if you just pick meals that look good. I use the sale ad and my inventory list to plan my meals. If I know I have pork in the freezer and there are apples on sale, I will look through my recipes for a meal that will use pork and apples.
3. Make a list
Actually making a list is the critical next step. Sometimes we think we can remember everything especially when the list of things to get is short. No matter how short the list, I highly recommend writing it down and not losing it. I have a toddler that often comes grocery shopping with me. If I don't bring a written list, I will always forget something. It doesn't matter if there are only three things I need to buy.
Having the list will make sure you get everything you need in one trip. Multiple trips to the store usually ends in spending more money on things you do not really need. Chips, brownie bites, Easter candy....
4. Do not go to the store hungry
Unless you are a person of great self control, do not go to the grocery store while you are hungry. Even if you have great self control, I just don't recommend it anyway.
When I go to the store hungry, I end up buying junk food or convenience food. Maybe something from the deli counter. These small purchases add up over time. I try to make sure I have had lunch or a small snack at home before I go to the store.
With gestational diabetes, it really is a bad idea for me to go anywhere hungry. When my sugar gets low, I can't think clearly. I make poor decisions. I feel faint and have a hard time pushing through. All of these things are not great when going to the grocery store. It is not good for my health and it ends up not being good for the budget. I end up having to buy something to eat or I end up leaving without getting everything on my list.
5. Avoid prepackaged and convenience foodThe fastest way to blow your grocery budget is to over rely on prepackaged and convenience food. Going to the store and grabbing a sandwich or that delicious blackened chicken salad every time you go to the store really adds up, especially if you are also buying for kids and your spouse. Sometimes I don't have time or the energy to make dinner after going to the grocery store. Buying convenience food on occasion is understandable. I just have to ask myself if it is really necessary and not just easy.
Fast and easy prepackaged food for my toddler was also really adding up. Organic yogurt pouches average about $1.25 a piece and he has one almost everyday. I was also buying cups of mandarin oranges, peaches, and applesauce. I got tired of spending so much money on the individual portion packages. I ended up using these refillable pouches (similar) for yogurt and buying jars of mandarin oranges. It takes a little more work on my part but not so much that it isn't doable.
Some of you might be surprised that I do not clip coupons. I have found that most grocery items that have coupons are things that I do not need to buy like chips, ice cream, and other packaged foods. I also don't buy store brand products exclusively. I buy the best product for the lowest price. Some store brand products are just as good or better than its name brand counterpart, but that isn't always the case. I don't have an Aldi to shop at or other similar discount store.
I have gotten our grocery budget under control by using these five tips. Of course, I plan on trying to cut the grocery budget even more. What tips do you use to keep your grocery budget under control?