Groceries. What comes to mind when you hear that word?
For some people, it brings a sense of joy. A way to tangibly love on your family by creating tasty meals.
For some it brings a sense of loathing and that dreaded feeling of ‘What on earth do I make to feed my people?’
For some it feels like a crushing weight: ‘How do I manage to feed everyone without killing my budget?’
For some it feels like a challenge: ‘How can I make this happen in the most economical way possible?’
No matter where you land on this spectrum, when it comes to groceries, two facts hold true for everyone: First, everyone needs to eat. And second, finding ways to save money on your grocery bill is a never-ending quest!
There are many schools of thought when it comes to saving money on your grocery bill:
You have coupons that, when used wisely, can help decrease your grocery bill. On the other hard, you have people who swear by coupons and manage to spend $2 for a huge pile of groceries, leaving you wondering, how on earth they managed to do that!
You have people who say you should buy food at the lowest price you can find and not worry about it. On the other hand, you have those who insist on getting everything organic and that you should be extremely choosy about what food you feed your family no matter the cost.
I’ll be honest, when it comes to groceries, I’ve fallen into all these categories to some degree over the years. But through the years (and as my family has grown and started eating more!), I’ve learned that there is great wisdom in using common sense and a balanced mindset when it comes to your grocery bill.
My goal is to feed my family healthy, nourishing, tasty food that doesn’t break my budget. Sounds almost impossible, right? Not if you break it down piece by piece, starting with the grocery shopping itself.
Here are some things that have helped me greatly as I shop for the food to feed my family of 7. Tips that sometimes we forget about. Strategies that have served me well. Don’t take them as something that you have to do, but rather see what ideas you can glean that might serve you well. Try one or two of them and challenge yourself to start shaving some money off of your monthly grocery bill – bit by bit.
The Power of Using a Grocery List
This first one seems almost too simple, doesn’t it? It almost feels like it doesn’t need to be said. And yet, how many times have you gone to the store without a list, gotten a bunch of groceries, and come home only to realize that you forgot half of the items you needed? On top of that, there are a bunch of things that you bought on impulse that, truth be told, you might not actually need…
It’s happened to all of us! The simple solution to reducing impulse buys and remembering everything you need? Make a list! Make your list before you leave the house and then – here’s the other big thing – stick to your list while you’re at the store! You’ll be amazed at how much simpler – and often less expensive – grocery shopping becomes with the simple, practical power of a grocery list.
Here’s a common misconception: Just because one store says that they have the lowest prices doesn’t always mean they do have the lowest prices. Stores have to advertise. They have to market themselves to get you to come in the door and do your grocery shopping at their store. Of course they’re going to make themselves sound good when they are advertising! But is what they say true?
This is where you get to put on your detective hat and find out! Set aside some time to do a little investigating. Here’s what you do:
- Pick 3 or 4 of your favorite grocery stores to check out.
- Make a list of grocery items that are very typical on your list (milk, eggs, cheese, cereal, chicken, flour, sugar, bread, peanut butter, you get the idea…)
- Go to that grocery store or go online and look at their prices for each item on your list.
- Write down not only the price, but the size of the container. (For example, 1 gallon of milk is $—-, a 24 ounce box of cereal is $—-). Writing down the size of the container seems odd, but I promise, it is essential!
- Time for a calculator! Break down the prices so that you can accurately compare them. For example, most stores carry milk in a 1 gallon jug. It’s pretty easy to compare those prices. (Store A sells 1 gallon of milk for $2.50 while Store B sells 1 gallon milk for $4. Store A obviously has the better deal.) However, there are other items that aren’t so obvious. For example, cereal. One store may have a lower price per box, but another store may charge slightly more and give you a lot more cereal. The easy way to find out? Take your calculator and plug in the price of the item divided by the measurement (like ounces). Now you have a price per ounce to compare. (For example: Store A sells a 18 ounce box of cereal for $3.75 while Store B sells a 30 ounce box of cereal for $4.75. At first glance, it looks like Store A has the better deal, but when you divide it out Store A charges $0.21 per ounce while Store B charges $0.16 per ounce. So, in reality, Store B has the better deal.)
Yes, doing this is tough. Yes, it does require some time and a calculator. But you just might be surprised at what stores in your area have the best prices. And remember: One store might not have the best price on every item!
Take Advantage of Sales
This tip can be a bit sticky sometimes. You remember all that math you did to find out where the best prices are? Sometimes, stores will run sales that will drastically change the price per ounce of each item – especially when it comes to Buy One, Get One sales! If you see a sale that is a good one (remember, not all sales are really good ones!), try to make the most of it.
The subject of coupons can be really tricky, can’t it? At the first mention of coupons, so many people start thinking about the extreme coupon phase and people cleaning out the shelves at a grocery store just so they can horde food. Let me be clear: This is not what I’m talking about!
Coupons can be a useful tool if you use them correctly, but they can also eat up a huge amount of your time and cause a lot of stress if you’re not careful. Here’s my “rule of thumb”: If you see coupons for things that you will actually buy, get it. If not, don’t worry about it.
Don’t waste hours upon hours of your week cutting coupons if you’re not going to use them. However, if you see coupons that you will use, grab them and (here’s the big part) don’t forget to use them!
Find a local produce shop
One of the best “secret weapons” that I have found is in the power of a good, local produce shop. These smaller shops tend to have a larger selection of local produce. You can get more food for your money. And you have the benefit of knowing there was a shorter path from the field where the produce grew to your hands. Many times you can find local markets with a large selection of organic produce at lower costs than you can find in the big supermarkets, too.
Buy in Bulk
When it comes to buying things in bulk, people tend to think of restaurants or people who horde food, right? Well, when used correctly, buying food in bulk can be another secret weapon to slash your grocery bill!
There is a delicate balance to be had when you are thinking about buying in bulk, though. First of all, don’t assume that just because you’re buying something in bulk you’re getting the best price. You need to shop around and compare your prices to make sure the items that you buy in bulk are actually saving you money! (Go back and check out the ‘Shop Around’ section if you missed how to do this.). Just because it’s convenient and comes in a big container doesn’t always mean it will be the best price.
Secondly, make sure that you figure out the balance between buying food in bulk and eating that food before it spoils! It’s a wonderful thing to buy in bulk, but if you’re throwing out food because it is spoiling before you’ve had a chance to eat it, are you really saving money?
If it’s not in your budget to go out and buy everything in bulk right now, start small. Pick one or two things that you use often that you can buy in bulk this week. Maybe oatmeal and peanut butter. Then next week aim to add in one more item you can buy in bulk. You don’t have to go out and buy everything in bulk right this second.
Utilize Your Deep Freezer
This tip goes hand-in-hand with buying in bulk. Let’s face it, when you buy 10 pounds of chicken, it might be easy to cook it all before it starts to turn, but, depending on the size and appetite level of your family, it might be a challenge to eat it all before it starts to go bad! This is where a deep freezer has been a life saver for me! Keep out enough in your fridge for you next meal or two, then put the rest in the freezer. There it will stay, frozen and waiting for you to pull it out, thaw it, cook it, and enjoy it!
Here’s an extra hint: Before you put the meat in your deep freezer, take a few moments and repackage it into freezer zip top bags. For example, I buy ground beef in 10 pound logs (true!). When I get home, I get 10 freezer zip top bags and divide the log up into about 1 pound chunks, then put all the meat in the freezer. That way, when it’s time to make dinner, I can easily grab the meat in 1 pound increments. Plus, it’s much easier to thaw a bag filled with 1 pound of meat than a log of 10 pounds! In taking 10 minutes to do this when I get home from the store, I save myself time later.
Drink more Water
This tip seems a bit out of place, doesn’t it? But think about it: What do you and your family drink throughout the day? Is it juice and juice boxes? It is sports drinks? Soda? Pre-packaged, flavored drinks?
Why not switch to water? It’s healthier, readily available, better for you, and easier on your grocery budget! Or perhaps you could start by switching half of what you drink to water. You’ll be amazed at the difference this little change can make in your grocery budget!
Here’s an Extra Tip: If you’re not a fan of plain water and want more flavor, try adding a slice of lemon or lime to your water. This simple thing adds loads of flavor!
Pre-Packaged Snacks Tend to Cost More
Let’s face it, convenience is, well, convenient! It is so simple to buy things that are pre-packaged into serving sizes and use those as snacks. But is the cost worth it? Sometimes, yes, but not always. When you decide to purchase pre-packed snacks, make sure you check the price per ounce to make sure that you are actually getting a good deal and not paying double what you might if you bought your snacks in a big package!
Here’s an Extra Hint: Sometimes it is far more economical to purchase a bulk bag or container of snack food. But if you buy a big tub of pretzels, it isn’t convenient for lunches or for snacks on the go, is it? So, grab some zip-top snack bags and put some pretzels in each bag. You now have the better price of buying your pretzels in bulk and the convenience and portability of a “pre-packaged” snack!
Take the Pantry-Freezer Challenge
Is your freezer full? Do you feel like you’re constantly rearranging the things in your freezer just to put things in or find something you know is in there? What about your pantry? Are you using all the things in it? Why not take the Pantry-Freezer Challenge?
It’s very simple: Take a few moments and look through your pantry and freezer. Challenge yourself to get creative and use the food that is already there before going back to the grocery store to buy more. You can challenge yourself to incorporate one thing into each meal over the next few weeks or you can get really extreme and only allow yourself to buy milk and eggs until your freezer and pantry are at a more manageable level. The big idea is to challenge yourself to use what you have before simply going out and buying more.
The whole point of this is: Your pantry and your freezer can be a huge asset to you, but when they get stuffed full of food you won’t actually eat or food that is going bad, they stop being useful and become a liability. You want your pantry and your freezer to work for you, not against you.
Making changes to revamp your grocery bill is no easy task. And it won’t happen all in one day – or even one month! You have to walk into this with a ‘long game’ mentality.
But even taking a ‘long-game’ mentality, you can start to implement changes to see improvement right away. And that improvement means that you will start seeing your grocery bill get smaller and smaller!
Keep in mind that you don’t have to do everything all at once! Small, consistent, incremental changes over time will give you the most long-term, lasting impact instead of a giant overhaul right away.
Keep at it, my Friend. Stay consistent and you will start to see results!
Are you looking for a way to keep all the food in your pantry organized? A way you can see what you have at a glance? Click here to read this post on My Top Tips on How to Organize Your Pantry and watch your pantry transform from a disorganized mess to an effective kitchen space!
- My Top Tips on How to Organize Your Pantry
- Quick, Simple Tricks to Stay on Top of Cleaning
- 10 Simple Tips to Organize Your Kitchen with Ease
- 5 Simple Steps to Take You from Scattered to Organized
Elizabeth Tatham, founder of Inspiration in the Everyday, is a homeschooling momma of 5 who loves helping other homeschooling mommas create a unique homeschooling adventure your kids will love…without the overwhelm! Join in on the journey with 7 simple steps to make your homeschooling day go faster, easier, and with less tears here.