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5 DAYS TO A BETTER BUDGET

Let’s chat about FOOD. We love it and can’t live without it (literally) but for most people and families, it is one of the biggest budget categories. But the good news is that it’s also one of the easiest categories to cut. 

And because the food budget is one of the largest, it’s often an area where many overspend. Add to that the insane prices we’re seeing at the grocery stores, and it’s likely your wallet has been feeling the pinch.

That’s the bad news.

The good news?  It doesn’t have to be.  With some careful planning and the use of a few helpful tools, you can be slashing that grocery budget in no time which can free up more money to pay down debt or invest.

It’s not your salary that makes you rich, it’s your spending habits.

CHARLES A JAFFE

How To Save Money on Groceries

When you have a very tight budget, every little bit counts. These 11 tips will help you see substantial savings at the grocery store, even during this time of high inflation.

1. Don’t Shop Hungry

This is crucial.

Sometimes you might not even realize it, but think back to the last time you spent way too much at the grocery store; I bet you hadn’t eaten.

Everything on the shelf looks tempting and unfortunately, most of it ends up in your cart.

Believe it or not, there have been studies done that show you will spend more money shopping for anything when you’re hungry…not just groceries.

Eat a good meal before heading to the store, and you’ll notice a difference…and so will your wallet.

2. Bring Cash

Bring only what you want to spend and leave your debit (or credit) card at home.

You literally cannot spend what you don’t have.

It may be helpful to use a calculator the first few times, so you don’t feel embarrassed if you’re stuck at the checkout asking to put items back…it sounds like a pain, but it’s not a big deal, just be sure to give yourself a few extra minutes to shop.

Another option is to use a grocery clicker.  I’ll let you in on a little secret…these nifty little things are made to count laps in a pool, but they work so great to easily tally up what you’ve spent while shopping, and easier than a calculator since you can’t accidentally clear the total.

READ MORE:   How monthly meal planning will save you time and money

3. Buy in Bulk

Buying in bulk can absolutely save money.

I’ve price matched a ton of different items between Sam’s Club and Aldi, and believe it or not, Sam’s won each time (or tied), but bulk shopping can be a slippery slope as the average item price is substantially higher. Plan carefully when making your bulk purchases, so they don’t bust your budget.

Another example is purchasing bulk meat direct from a farm, co-op, or delivery company like Omaha Steaks. While this can save money over time, if you don’t have a way to properly store it or your family likely won’t eat that much, you’ll essentially be wasting your money, not saving.

4. Plan Out Your Meals

Consistent meal planning is one of the most effective tips on this list.

Planning out your meals ahead of time, using that plan to create a detailed grocery list, and being disciplined enough to stick to that list will help you save a lot of cheddar.

Yes, meal planning can be time-consuming, and some people struggle with not having enough recipes or knowing what to make.

If this sounds like you, don’t be discouraged.

Meal planning services like Eat at Home Cooks offer dirt cheap done-for-you meal plans that save a ton of time.  Once you sign up for a membership, you’ll receive an email each month with a link to your new meal plans for the entire month at a time plus, they include a detailed grocery list you can take with you right to the store (or to the computer if you order your groceries online.)

If you struggle with finding the time to take inventory, meal plan, shop, cook, etc. I highly recommend giving this service a try.  It is a small investment that absolutely pays for itself in the first month.

Download these sample meal plans for free.  You’ll be hooked when you see how much time and money you save.

5. Shop the Sales

If you get the newspaper, you likely receive the circulars from your local stores. Another option is to visit the store’s app or website to view their circular.

Using these to create your meal plans for the week (or even to fill a freezer stash for later) can help you take advantage of the best prices around.

Maximizing your savings would likely require you to visit more than one store, so if you have the time to make a few trips, it will likely be worth it.

6. Use Cashback Rebate Apps

No, they’re not a scam, yes, they do work, and they literally give you free money.

Ibotta is a great app to get cashback rebates when you purchase specific items.

Use the app to search available rebates for items you plan to purchase. After you make your purchase use the Ibotta app to scan your receipt and collect your cashback.

Be mindful of getting sucked into buying things you don’t “need” just to earn the rebate.

But hey, free money is free money, right? You can even get $10 free when you use my link to sign up for Ibotta and purchase your first item!

(Note: once you sign up, you have a time limit to make your first purchase to earn your free $10.  Don’t ignore all the reminders they send you, or you will miss out on your free money as I did)  Here’s a screenshot of what I earned in the last two weeks.

Another great app is Fetch Rewards. Fetch will give you points for every single receipt you scan. In most cases, you will receive 25 points, but often time you’ll receive bonus points for specific items.

This is such a time-saver because you don’t have to waste any time scrolling through the app searching for deals, and anything that saves me time sits high on my list.

7. Use Coupons

Couponing may feel antiquated to many, but it’s still a great way to save money – especially if you don’t shop at discount stores (such as Aldi) and purchase mostly brand-name items.

Couponing takes time, and it’s a bit of an art but if you have the patience and organization skills you can save some major cabbage. Ditch the scissors and download the apps for the stores you frequent as most grocery retailers offer digital coupons on their apps.

8. Join Warehouse Clubs

Warehouse clubs can be a huge money saver. You pay a yearly membership fee to join but easily earn it back in savings very quickly.

But, they, too, can be a slippery slope if you’re not careful because it takes willpower to stick to your list, and it can be easy to overspend and purchase items you don’t need.

Most warehouse clubs also offer savings on gas as well.

If you’re health conscious, check out Thrive Market, which is unique because it is completely online and specializes in healthy food items at much more reasonable prices.

9. Subscribe + Save

Consider using Subscribe and Save programs for items you purchase over and over again. Merchants like Amazon, Target, and Chewy, offer discounts for ordering items on “autoship” where they are shipped to you automatically on a schedule you create (and can modify at any time.)

This is especially great for baby and pet items, so you never run out. These programs allow you to edit or cancel at any time. In addition to a discount, most retailers also offer free shipping on Subscribe and Save items.

10. Order Your Groceries Online

Seriously, how cool is this?  I mean, if this doesn’t show you what a different world we live in these days, I don’t know what does.

I know it might seem crazy to do your grocery shopping online, but here’s the best part: you can see a running total in your “cart” the whole time you are shopping.

You can immediately see if you are over budget and easily make adjustments to get back on track!  It’s basically like using a calculator while you shop without needing three hands to push the cart, grab your items and keep your tally.

Simply pay and pick up your groceries when they’re ready. How easy is that?

Another option is to pay for your groceries to be delivered. Of course, you’ll incur additional costs for the delivery, but some stores like Walmart charge a flat fee for the entire year and do not mark up the prices on the grocery items.

Amazon Fresh also offers free 2-hour delivery on tens of thousands of products saving you time and money.

READ MORE:  13 Reusable Household Items That Will Actually Save You Money

11. Shop at Discount Grocery Stores

Shopping at discount grocery stores is underrated!

Some popular stores include Aldi, Trader Joe’s, LIDL, and many more.

Aldi has a bit of a “learning curve.” You have to deposit a quarter to use a shopping cart (which is returned when you return the cart), and it’s much smaller than your typical store plus, you have to bag your own groceries, but you can save anywhere between 30-50% on your weekly food bill.

It may take a few trips to get used to, and you will have to be okay with “Aldi” brands instead of national brands (which they do carry in a limited selection), but their food is really good quality and tastes great.

Just switching to Aldi can save you hundreds of dollars each month.

Take action and put some of these tips into practice to start saving big! Do you have any of your own tips to add? 

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Kristin Stones is the owner of Cents + Purpose, an online community dedicated to sharing practical personal finance content. Her mission is to equip women with the necessary tools and knowledge to take back control of their money and live a more purposeful life. She creates actionable content to help her audience achieve financial wellness using her simple approach to managing money - all learned through her personal experience of paying off almost $55,000 of debt in under two years.

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