Do you wish you could save money on groceries without having to clip coupons? Do you find yourself surprised by your grocery bill every time you run to the store? With a little planning, you can drastically reduce your monthly food budget while still eating well. Below are 7 strategies I use to keep my grocery budget for two people under $200 a month.
1) Meal Plan
Every Sunday, I plan out my meals for the week and list the ingredients I need to make those meals. Based on this list, I go to the grocery store once a week, and only buy what the list says I need. Meal planning saves me so much time and money, and helps me keep my meals healthy and balanced – especially when I take the time to meal-prep my breakfasts and lunches for the upcoming week.
Shopping with a list keeps me focused, and helps me avoid the dreaded “healthy snack” aisle at stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. When you shop without a plan, it’s so easy to grab whatever looks appealing on that aisle – and you end up with a hodgepodge of unbalanced ingredients that will send you running back to the store mid-week. A little planning goes a long way toward both your budget and your free time.
2) Get Rewarded for Shopping
Most grocery stores, like Kroger, Publix, and Ingles, have a rewards program that gets loyal shoppers discounts at checkout. Kroger will even send you personalized discounts based on what you buy frequently, and you save at Kroger gas stations. If you’re not signed up for these programs, you’re literally giving money away every time you shop!
You can also download cash-back apps like Ibotta and Ebates to get money back on everyday purchases like bread and bananas. Just scan your receipt with the app and start accumulating rewards. Ibotta gives you a ten dollar welcome credit just for signing up and shopping within the first week.
3) Buy Seasonal Produce
In addition to being cheaper, produce that is in season and abundant is better quality and has more nutrients than produce that was shipped a long way or grown in a controlled environment. This is a great way to get affordable, local fruits and veggies. You can buy more than you need and freeze the excess for great-tasting fruits and veggies year-round.
Shopping for produce at a farmer’s market is a great way to ensure you’re getting great quality fruits and veggies in-season. And by buying directly from the farmer, you can usually get what you need for even less than grocery store prices. Talk to the farmer about how they like to prepare their goods – you might stumble on a great new recipe!
4) Buy the Store Brand
Especially when it comes to canned foods and snacks, a generic brand is just as good as a name-brand product, and the price difference is often a dollar or more! I even prefer the taste of many of Trader Joe’s in-house products, like their salsas and chips. Shopping generic is also a great way to find a go-to table wine – mine is the $5.99 Bodega Norton Coleccion Cabernet Sauvignon.
5) Minimize Your Meat
I’m not a vegetarian, but a large portion of my meals throughout the week are meatless. Why? Meat is expensive. The bulk of your grocery bill is probably spent at the deli counter. And our bodies don’t need nearly as much animal-derived protein as most Americans consume. Expert researchers generally agree that 30 grams, or about 1 ounce, of protein per meal is optimal for the average person. I plan for one meat-heavy meal a week, usually as a weekend treat after a long bike ride.
6) Compare Unit Prices
The total cost of one brand may be less than another, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting a better value. You have to look at the price relative to the amount of a product you’re getting, or the unit price. Most grocery stores make this easy for you by putting the unit price in fine print in the corner of the price tag, which will tell you the cost per ounce (or pound, or liter, or gram) for a certain product.
A little more effort and attention can add up to big savings over your entire grocery list – this tip is well worth the extra step!
7) Don’t Shop Hungry
I’ve made the mistake of waiting until I was completely out of food to go grocery shopping. Yes, I’ve been known to procrastinate. When you shop right before making your next meal, everything looks delicious, and you’ll talk yourself into buying way more than you need. That whole-roasted rotisserie chicken may smell divine, but are you really going to eat the whole thing by yourself? Do you need two different pints of ice cream? I like to have a protein or granola bar in my bag, so that in the event that I have to shop hungry, I can sate my appetite a little, so I can shop with my head and not my stomach.
Using these seven guidelines, I’ve been able to drastically reduce what I spend each week at the grocery store, while still keeping my meals varied, healthy, and well-balanced. If you want to start out gradually, just try reducing the amount of meat you buy each week – you’ll be amazed at the difference that alone can make! What are you favorite grocery store hacks? Share below!