Groceries are expensive. Period. No matter how you slice or dice it, trying to purchase food for a family is stressful. Not long after my husband and I married, I resolved to spend as little as possible on groceries while maintaining a healthy lifestyle AND my sanity. I am not a crazy coupon lady (though I do use coupons), I do compare prices (though I typically only visit two stores per week), and I do meal plan (though I try to make it flexible). If you want to spend less on groceries but are feeling overwhelmed, my fellow contributor Tabitha and I have our top five tips for you! Tabitha is on the expert level of savings (see her blog Saving Toward a Better Life) and I am an underclassman, so between the two of us, we should have all levels covered! So, without further ado, here are our top five tips for grocery budgeting:
#1 – Make a plan (and stick to it).
Let me be blunt: if you do not have time to make a meal plan, you really don’t have time to save on groceries. This is without a doubt the biggest money (and time) saver among our tips. Taking thirty minutes to sit down and map out your meals for the week and then make a grocery list based on that plan, will soften the blow to your wallet every single time. Here is how both Tabitha and I approach meal planning:
- Determine the number of meals you will be cooking this week.
- Consult your grocery store’s weekly ad (can be found online) for sale prices, particularly on meat.
- Base your meal choices around the meats and other ingredients that are on sale (e.g. if hamburger is on sale, tacos and/or spaghetti would be great options.)
- Make a list of all the ingredients you will need to execute the meals you have chosen. (Be sure you aren’t listing any items you already have on hand — speaking from experience here).
- Fill in your list with items for breakfasts and lunches, again, focusing on items that are on sale.
#2 – Avoid budget busters (AKA impulse buys).
When I asked Tabitha to name the most common budget buster when it comes to groceries, she did not hesitate to say impulse purchases. So, think about the items you buy that you do not need and what causes you to purchase them. Here are a few ways to cut out impulse purchases:
- Eat a snack on the way to the store; never, never, never shop hungry.
- If you can shop without kiddos, take advantage of the opportunity (I know my son can add plenty of $$$ to my cart when I take him along).
- If you will have your child(ren) with you, go prepared with snacks and entertainment to try to cut down on items they may add to the cart. Also, take advantage of in-store freebies. My son gets equally excited about his free cookie and his deli meat sample at Publix, and we usually make it out of the cereal/fruit snack/kid snacks aisle before he finishes eating them. 🙂
- Carry a physical list, and if you pick up something that is not on it, write it in. This helps remind me to evaluate if I truly need the item or not.
#3 – Think through your store choice.
Tips #1 and #2 will work no matter where you shop, but choosing your grocery store carefully and really getting to know your store will definitely help you save! Tabitha and I both love Publix for their weekly BOGOs (Buy One Get One free) and their in-store coupons. But, there are many great options out there!
- Walmart is fabulous for the pick-up option alone! I typically purchase staples at Walmart via their app and pick them up on my way home from Publix. (I find that sale items at Publix are often less expensive than Walmart). This way, I only take my toddler into one store but still get the advantage of shopping at two. 🙂
- Aldi is a wonderful option for saving! I LOVE shopping there but struggle with sticking to my list when I do. If you have more willpower than me, it may be the best fit for you!
- If you have a child (or children) in diapers, Costco or Sam’s may be a great fit for you. Just think through how many things you could feasibly buy in bulk and make sure you would be getting your money’s worth out of a membership. We have a Costco membership for paper products, beer and wine, and for freezer cooking purposes.
#4 – Use coupons and/or apps for further savings.
I know for moms this task seems daunting, so do not be discouraged if it is not your thing! I coupon on a very basic level, but if you are interested in more, reach out to Tabitha for more tips! I purchase a Sunday paper each week and clip the coupons for anything we ever buy. I then pull out the ones that apply to my shopping list. The biggest savings for our family come from coupons for things like allergy medicine and toiletries (and Tums during pregnancy!). If couponing won’t work for you, be sure to check out rebate apps like Ibotta and Checkout21. Both are very user-friendly, and you can scan your purchases for additional savings while those kiddos are napping!
Bonus Tip: Publix will allow you to combine their in-store coupon with the manufacturer’s coupon (from the paper) for extra savings. 🙂
#5 – Give yourself grace!
Grocery budgeting is 50% science and 50% art. Give yourself time to find a system that works for you! Be encouraged by your successes, both big and small. Experiment with the tips I have mentioned and find the right balance for you and your family. Add one step at a time and then continue as you feel comfortable.
Finding a system that saves on groceries has greatly blessed my family. I hope these tips will do the same for you! Here’s to winning the grocery game in 2019!!