I have been married and buying groceries for our household for nearly ten years now. What started as a chore has become one of my favorite tasks, as each time I shop I’m really just playing a game of “how far can I make my money stretch” and I LOVE winning. I’ve learned many tricks that have helped me reduce my grocery spending drastically, especially within the past year — taking our monthly grocery budget for a family of three from nearly $500 a month to $325. And for $325, not only do we eat well, but we also have all the toiletry and personal care items that we need.
Here are my top three tips for saving money on your family’s grocery needs:
1. Shop for TWO weeks at a time
Yes, you can do this and no, your food will not all be bad and spoiled by the second week. Use your most fragile produce the first few days and keep a few frozen veggies on hand for the final couple of days. Check expiration dates and dig to the back of the shelf for the milk that has the furthest-out “use by date” when you’re shopping. You really can make it for two weeks. Switching to bi-weekly shopping has cut my spending by $100 per month. Yes, $100.
How? First off, I’m in the store less (as opposed to when I went weekly), and you can’t spend money at the grocery store if you’re not in a grocery store. And second, I’m buying certain ingredients that will be used in multiple meals (chicken breast, salad veggies, shrimp, cheese etc.) in bulk quantities which saves me more money.
2. Meal Plan
Every Sunday, I look at our family’s calendar and determine how many evenings we’ll be home for dinner, how many lunches will need to be packed, and how many nights are busy and require fast and easy meals. I’ve found that, for our family, I typically only need to plan five dinners a week, as we usually have take out on Fridays and either a date night or eat-with-family once a week.
Also, to keep costs down (and picky eaters happy), we have one “breakfast for dinner night” a week (pancakes, bacon and eggs are not only delicious and filling, but inexpensive and easy to prepare!). Other frequent go-to dinners include homemade pizza (super easy and budget friendly) and tofu stir-fry (healthy, inexpensive and quite tasty with the right sauce). While I’m planning meals, I also take into account ingredients we have on hand and try to create meals around those items, thus reducing the number of unique items I need to purchase and decreasing waste.
Once I have the meals planned, I create a list of the items we will need then go through the house and take a quick look to see what toiletry or cleaning items we may need and add those to my list. Once I am in the store, if an item is not on my list, I do NOT buy it. Sticking to the list has cut my overall spending down by at least $40 a month if not more.
3. Coupon Strategically
Do NOT look for coupons until AFTER you have planned your meals and made a list. If you look for coupons before making a list, you will be tempted to buy things you don’t need just because you’re going to get “such a great deal!” If you don’t NEED the item, it’s NEVER a good deal — it’s more money than you would have spent had you not seen the coupon in the first place.
I personally shop three stores: Target (for specific items like Smart Ones, Cherry Coke Zero and household cleaning and toiletry items), Fresh and Easy (for most fresh grocery items) and Costco (for meats and bulk items, but just once every 4-6 weeks). I am signed up to receive Costco’s monthly coupon booklet, Fresh and Easy’s emails, and I also receive Target promotions via email and postal mail.
Once my list is made, I check all of these sources for coupons that apply to the items I need. In addition to checking through my email and mail for coupons, I also go on Target’s website and search their printable coupons. If I have enough points on my Fresh and Easy Friends card, I convert them to cash rewards. I realize everyone’s stores and offers vary, but my point here is to find out where to get coupons and offers from your own stores and match them to your list. As a final step, I check the Sunday paper inserts for coupons that apply to my toiletry and cleaning item necessities. By searching strategically for coupons that apply to me, I save approximately $30-80 per month.
I hope that you will find these tips useful and that they will help cut down on your family’s month expenses as they have helped ours significantly.
Photo via Greenwala