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It’s no secret that grocery prices are rising rapidly. Every time I walk out of the grocery store, I find myself feeling the sticker shock as I look at my grocery bill. Food is getting expensive!
My kids like to eat for all meals, snacks and desserts. With a family of 4, it’s not out of the ordinary that our grocery bills doubled over the past 2 years.
After doing a bit of research and implementing some of these strategies myself, I’ve compiled a list of tips to stretch your food budget and make your dollars go further. Thankfully, there are practical ways to save money on groceries without compromising on my family’s diet and health.
1. Plan Meals Ahead of Time
Before heading to the grocery store, make sure to plan your meals and make a list of things that you need to buy. Check the local store fliers and see what might be on sale.
Then, assess your fridge and freezer to see what you already have on hand, and make note of things that need to be used before they go bad.
Sticking to a strict meal prep plan and grocery list can make a difference as you’re not getting unnecessary ingredients that will all add up.
2. Shop With A Calculator
I’m not saying that you need to bring a calculator with you to the grocery store, but have a budget in mind and hold yourself accountable by adding the cost of items as you’re shopping.
If you think you have $50 to spend, mentally add up the items as you add them to your cart. When you’re over your budget, assess if everything in your cart is needed, or if you can do without an item.
3. Use A Smaller Basket At The Store
Well, this really makes a difference.
If you’re carrying a smaller basket at the store, you can’t really fill it up with unnecessary items. This helps to control impulse purchases.
If you’re only running into the store for ingredients for today’s dinner, see if you can manage without a basket. That way, you’re only getting what you really need in one armful.
Be a minimalist with your food purchase.
4. Shop Bottom Shelves and Outer Aisles
If you don’t already know, the psychology of consumer behavior is studied heavily in supermarkets as well as other retail spaces.
Grocery stores often rely on behavior-based strategies to encourage shoppers to buy certain foods.
They usually like to put pricier items at eye level, so remember to scan from top to bottom before you purchase something. You will usually find cheaper items at the bottom shelves.
5. Pay Attention To The Unit Price
Sometimes the packaging can be deceiving. A big box of item can have less overall.
When comparing prices, be sure to compare the unit price on the price tag. One item may seem more expensive, but it may have better value overall.
6. Stock Up When There’s A Sale
This will only work with household staples that have a longer shelf life or food that can be frozen.
When one item comes on sale, be sure to stock up and buy enough so it will last you about 2 months.
Then when the next sale comes on again, purchase enough for your next cycle.
For example, when ground meat comes on sale, I usually buy in bulk and split them into smaller bags before freezing them.
7. Invest In Kitchen Gadgets
If you know an item will make a difference in your kitchen, don’t be afraid to splurge on it.
For some families, it could be a crockpot or an instant pot to help with meal-making.
For me personally, I like to vacuum seal my meat when I purchase them in bulk. For example, when chicken breasts comes on sale for 1.99/ pound, I usually buy more, then use a vacuum sealer to store them properly in the freezer.
It is important to get the air out before freezing to make the meat last longer in the freezer.
If you think it’s expensive to invest in one, just do the math and you’ll soon realize that it will pay for itself. If you don’t freeze your food properly, you’ll end up throwing them out and you’ll be wasting the money by buying in bulk.
8. Meatless Meals
Meat is probably one of the most expensive purchases at the store. If you want to save money, plan a few meals without meat in it.
There are many meals that are equally delicious without meat as an ingredient. For example, vegetarian baked lasagna or the classic penne dish with ricotta cheese are some of my favorites.
Alternatively, you can substitute proteins with beans, tofu and eggs. Personally, I like to make rice bowls with vegetables and tofu and egg. My kids love them too!
9. Skip individually packed portions
With little kids, it is very tempting to buy individually packed snacks so you can just toss the bag into their lunch boxes.
However, these snacks that are individually packed cost way more money. Buy in bulk, then divide them yourself.
In addition, these individually packed snacks have smaller portions. My kids usually need 1.5 bags of each snack, and it’s annoying to have 0.5 bag of snacks left.
Nowadays, I just buy bigger portions and pack individual snack boxes. The only thing that I continue to buy in individually packed portions are granola bars because I don’t have time to make these from scratch at home.
10. Visit Ethnic Grocery Stores
If you have never been to an ethnic grocery store, you should.
These places usually have better prices for some items when compared to the local grocery store.
For example, if you like eating Bak Choy, they are usually cheaper at a Chinese grocery store. They are also fresher too!
11. Pay Attention To The Expiration Date
You may be tempted to grab and go to save time, but taking the extra minute to check the expiration date can do you some good.
If you buy a bag of salad mix that is going to expire 3 days, chances are, you probably won’t get to it before it goes bad, and you’ll have to throw it out.
Always check the expiration dates on perishable items. I usually like to grab the ones from the back of the section because that’s where they put the fresher products.
12. Get A Rain Check On Sale Items
If an item that is on sale is out of stock, don’t give up on those savings.
Approach an associate in the grocery store to issue a rain check. Then, purchase the item at the sale price when it comes back in stock.
13. Buy Some Items Frozen
Not everything needs to be fresh in your recipe. For example, if your recipe calls for peas, carrots and spinach, you can throw in frozen peas and they will taste just as good.
Frozen items are usually cheaper and easier to use too. For example, if your recipe calls for some shrimp, instead of buying a whole bag of fresh shrimp, buy frozen ones and you can use what you need, and keep the rest frozen.
So, here you go. These are my favorite ways to save money on groceries without clipping coupons.
Just remember, little changes can add up to big savings, so start implementing these strategies today and see how your grocery bill goes down.
What are some of your favorite ways to save? Leave a comment below so I can add them to the list!
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Before you go, check out my other post for some easy tips on how to grocery shop with kids in tow.