A while back, I wrote a blog post about how to save money on groceries. It has some great tips in it but a recent conversation with a friend got me to thinking that it was time for an update. Grocery prices are going up and some families are really feeling the pinch. Basic tips like don’t go to the store hungry (because you’re more likely to make impulse purchases) are helpful but if you’re trying to make a really serious dent in your grocery budget what do you do?
Here’s how you can cut your grocery bill in half:
Start by embracing meal planning. Writing out and following a weekly meal plan can save so much money. There’s less food waste, you can plan around seasonal items and sales, and avoid more expensive convenience foods.
Stock up on items you use when they are on sale. Note: I said on items you use. Don’t get tempted by the low price of a product you don’t regularly use already. When stocking up, don’t go crazy and buy TOO much either. If beef roasts are on sale, don’t buy more than you can easily fit in your freezer. It’s not helpful to fill it up with beef roasts and then have no room left for anything else. It’s also not helpful to fill up your freezer with more food than you can eat within a few months. If you do that, you’ll only end up having to throw some away because of freezer burn or because it has gone bad. Last week, whole chickens were on sale so I bought four. They were about a third off the regular price and I eat a lot of chicken. I knew I would use them up within a month and I still had plenty of room in my freezer for other items. It would have been crazy to pass that kind of deal up or only buy one!
Compare prices. Apps such as Flipp make this so easy. I can type a certain product into the search bar and it will show me all the stores in my area that have that item on sale that week so I can be sure to get the lowest possible price. That does NOT mean I drive all over town to go to 4 different grocery stores. It doesn’t make sense to spend extra money on gas (and in my case, use up extra time that I could be spending on my business to make more money) just to save a little bit on groceries. I happen to live within a one mile radius of 5 different grocery stores and for the most part, they are within a block of each other so “store-hopping” is easy and makes sense for me. You know what is even better though? Price matching. Many of the stores in my area will price match any others in our city. Once again, Flipp makes this so easy. Take your phone with you to the store, show the cashier your clipped ads in the app, and reap the savings!
Eat less meat. At least one or two days a week, I prepare meat free meals. Incorporate more beans into your diet (so economical to make and so good for you especially if you start with the dry beans instead of canned), serve more pasta or rice based meals, create a simple meal like grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. When you do plan meat-based meals, use the less expensive cuts. Marinating them, cooking them low and slow in a slow cooker, and other such methods will help make sure they turn out nice and tender. And remember, for more nutritious meals, meats should not be the largest part of the meal. Instead of thinking of the meat as the main dish, fruits, vegetables, and grains should comprise the bulk of the meal and the meat should be more like the side dish. Stop buying most convenience foods like pre-cut vegetables, bagged salads, premade burgers, frozen and boxed meals IN MOST CASES. I won’t say never buy convenience foods because there are times when they make sense. For example, currently, I’m an empty nester and am only preparing meals for one or two. For me to buy the items I need to make a salad often means I’m left with rotten produce to throw out because it was simply too much for me to eat before it went bad. Instead, when the bags of salad go on sale for 79-99 cents, I grab one of those. It’s just the right amount for me to eat while it’s still fresh and ultimately saves me money. When it comes to most other convenience foods, well, I don’t need someone else to make my burgers for me, or cut up my carrots for me, and in the case of the frozen and boxed meals, they tend to be not only expensive but also not as nutritious. So think carefully about convenience foods before you buy them.
Think about how you can make use of the food items that you might normally just throw away. No, I’m not suggesting that you eat garbage but what about the bones that are leftover from some meat or poultry that you have eaten? Do you just trash those or do you use them to make some soup? Or how about those scraps of vegetables that you would normally away – the ends of carrots and celery for example? Those may be things you don’t want to eat but thrown into a pot together with water and a few other items, they can again, form a delicious broth that you can use for soup or other recipes. Turn stale bread (or the heels of the loaf if your family won’t eat them) into croutons and bread crumbs so you don’t need to buy those at the store.
Try to keep track of what food you have in the house. This is easier when you’re using a meal plan but still, there are sometimes items that get pushed to the back of the fridge where they are left “to die”. Check your fridge and freezer regularly so this doesn’t happen. Keep an eye on “best before” dates and produce that is starting to look a little less than fresh and when you see something with only a few days left, find a way to incorporate it into your plans so it gets used and not wasted. When bringing new food into the house, pull the older foods to the front of the shelves in your fridge and pantry and put the newer stuff behind it just like they do at the grocery store. This helps get those older foods used up too. I keep a clipboard with an inventory list on my pantry door and another on my freezer so that I know what’s in there. This helps with the bulk purchases I have made so I don’t forget about anything already on hand. One of the biggest expenses for many people when it comes to their groceries comes from the food that gets wasted.
Use appropriate portion control. For the sake of your health and the sake of your wallet, consider proper portion sizes when serving meals to your family. I’m not suggesting you starve them but the portion sizes most North American families serve are much larger than they should be. Bring those portions back in line with what they should be and if family members are still hungry after a meal, offer them an additional serving of vegetables or a portion of fruit.
Yes, you can use coupons but use them with caution. They should only be used with products that you would be buying anyway. It’s not a savings to use them to purchase items you will never use or that are so overpriced in the first place that they aren’t economical. But of course, if you can find some for the items that you use, definitely use them to save as much money as you possibly can! Also, check out your store’s frequent buyer or other special customer appreciation programs. At Loblaw stores having their PC Plus membership can save you money at the cash register on select purchases and can help you build up points towards getting cash back.