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We all have to eat. No getting around that.
Did you know the average family spends 5-20% of their monthly budget on food?
Let’s say you spend $3000 per month, not an outrageous amount. 20% of your budget is $600 and that does not include your dining out expenses that can raise your total food bill per month to way over $1000.
Groceries and eating out are a huge chunk of every budget and it must be. Without food and energy, there is no life. However, we can control our spending with a concerted effort. We just need to think about it and plan for it.
Habits are hard to change and if you are like I used to be, a trip to the grocery store is like a kid in a candy shop. Well now that I think about it, a grocery store is a candy shop with other goodies to go along as well. We can purchase tons of everything and tons of no good food just to satisfy our cravings. But this does not serve the greater goal of financial well-being.
In order to reach our financial goals and stay within our budget, we need to change our habits.
If you are struggling to keep your grocery budget in check, actually eat everything you buy, can’t figure out what to eat even when you have food, continue on. These 15 grocery store tips and hacks are going to help bring you to greater control of your budget and your life.
1. Create a Plan and Stick to It
If you go grocery shopping without a list, without a plan you are playing with fire. Like I said earlier, the grocery store is like putting a kid in a candy shop. There are so many great foods and options there, that if you go in without a plan you are sure to come out having spent tons of money of food you already have, or do not need.
When you are at home cooking dinner and find ingredients you are missing, write them down.
Have ingredients that are getting ready to go bad?
Cook with them today and then plan to replace them later when you head to the store.
Shopping with a list and staying on point by using the list, allows you to move through the store and not get distracted. The stores are designed to get you to get sucked in looking at all the options. With the list, you can avoid falling prey to all the options.
Pro Hack: Keep a chalkboard or whiteboard on your fridge and write down the items you need as they come to your attention. This really helps to not forget things when it comes time to make the list that you bring to the store.
2. Drink Water From the Tap
Do you have water on your grocery list?
If you live in the US or in a developed country, there is absolutely no need to be drinking bottled water. You are wasting your money!
I am sorry if that sounds a bit harsh, but I just find it outrageous the amount of money that people spend on bottled water when it comes out of your faucet for essentially free. If you do not like the taste of your water, get a Brita filter. The activated carbon and ion exchange resin inside the Brita filter remove all the colorants, metals, and tastes from your water leaving if pure and nice to drink.
My wife and I have been using a Brita filter for 3 years in China to filter our water for drinking. Almost everybody buys water here, even the locals. By filtering our tap water we have saved $100s on the purchase of water.
You too can save $100s every year by ditching the bottled water and drinking from the tap, whether it is filtered or unfiltered.
3. Cut Empty Calories
I love sitting on the couch chomping down a bag of chips or a tub of ice cream. I mean, who doesn’t?
However, these snack foods and essentially filler food costs a ton. Why?
I have yet to wrap my head around why frying some potatoes slices costs so much. Though it really doesn’t matter. Chips, sodas and ice cream aren’t getting any cheaper. Interestingly enough, they are actually getting more expensive despite a stable price because the packages continue to get smaller and smaller as the years roll on.
Do yourself a favor and cut your consumption of these empty calories. You do not need to cut to 0, but cut in half, you will save a good amount every month. Your budget and your health will thank you.
4. Use Ibotta to Save
Cutting coupons from the newspaper and magazines is old school. Who even gets those anymore?
It the digital age that we are living in today, Ibotta is the replacement for old-style couponing.
Ibotta is a free money saving app that helps you to save money on groceries, mobile shopping, pharmacy, travel, etc. Pretty much everything.
Saving with Ibotta is simple. First, sign up for free using my link and you’ll receive a $10 bonus simply for signing up. Check out the 365+ stores that Ibotta supports. If you find that it has your favorite stores, and I assure you it will, you then:
- Download the app
- link you store loyalty accounts
- unlock available rebates
- shop and buy as normal.
- Scan the barcodes of items with a rebate
- Take a picture of your receipt
After that, Ibotta will send you cash back to your account within 48 hours. Easy right?
Who knew a short 12-years ago how convenient things would be today? I’m alluding to the first Apple iPhone release in 2006…
With Ibotta you can find many items with $2-$5 rebates with little effort, so what are you waiting for. Check Ibotta out today and you’ll receive a $10 bonus.
5. Shop Locally for Meat
All meatatarians unite! I love meat and I know many of you also love meat. But it is so dang expensive!!!
Balancing the desire for good locally grown meat, which is so much better than the bulk slaughterhouse meats, with the budget is difficult. Enter Zaycon Fresh.
Zaycon Fresh provides high-quality, farm fresh meat directly from local farmers to your table at prices that are the same or better than the local grocery store. The service is FREE. Zaycon is able to provide lower cost higher-quality meat because they operate at scale. The buy in bulk from the local farmers which allows them to resell it to us the consumer for less. You will receive daily e-mail alerts on local sales and events, and when you place your order they take care of the rest.
Come time to pick up your order, you bring your receipt to the designated pick-up location nearby and collect your fresh, inexpensive meat.
So far, Zaycon Fresh is available in 1,200 communities throughout the US and is continuing to expand, so sign up today to get started saving on all you meaty desires. It’s FREE.
6. Ditch Family Style and Plate Portions for Family
One thing that drives our grocery bill up more than anything else if overeating. If we simply eat less food then we will save on groceries.
One simple technique to help save on food waste is to plate food for everyone instead of making a huge pot in the middle to of the table that we all eat from. Many times, we plan on saving food for the next day or a few days into future, however, if there is food remaining in the middle of the table, I am sure to eat it. I am also sure, I am not the only one that does this.
To avoid eating all of the envisioned leftovers, you can plate the food individually for each person and then save the remainder for meals in the coming days. Easy simple, and just plain works.
7. Shop at Discount Grocery Stores
There are good grocery stores and bad grocery stores. Besides that there are expensive and cheap, but which one do you choose?
There are so many out there and the food quality is slightly different between them. However, the food quality is not that different. Here are a few examples of stores.
|Whole Foods||Food Lion|
How many of these have you been to? Do you really tell a difference in terms of food-quality of what you are actually buying?
Yes the Expensive stores, have some specialty goods and some more local goods, probably more organic foods if that suits you. However, the cheap listing has pretty much the same foods as the expensive ones without the cost overhead of keeping up an upscale facade.
Do yourself a favor and shop at your local discount grocery store to save on groceries. If you need local use Zaycon Fresh for meat and you can even look into growing a garden for your fresh veggies.
8. Sign Up For The Grocery Store Membership Card
If you are not using the grocery store membership card you are just giving up free savings. I’m not sure how you could even get past checkout without having one. Personally, I got one just to make the cashiers stop harping on them everytime I purchased groceries.
To my surprise, we started saving $5-$10 every grocery trip off a bill of less than $100. Crazy! Just do it.
9. Eat Breakfast for Dinner Once Per Week
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. So why not eat it again for dinner?
That’s not actually the point. The type of food is not what makes breakfast the most important meal of the day, but the calories that get you rolling. Despite that, breakfast food is awesome. It is one of my favorite meals of the day and I always look forward to the weekend when I can make pancakes, scones, muffins, eggs, bacon, sausage, etc.
Most breakfast foods are cheaper than an equivalent dinner, so if you make breakfast for dinner once or twice per week, then you can easily save a bit on your grocery bill for the month.
10. Cook Vegetarian Once per Week
Another cooking technique that helps to save money is vegetarian. I know this is certainly a controversion suggestion especially coming from a meat lover.
However, there are many wonderful vegetarian foods that you can eat and not even miss the meat. Meat is almost always the highest cost of your meal, so if you cut it out, then the cost of the meal declines significantly.
There are whole cultures that are vegetarian, so you can use their skill at vegetarian food to bring inspiration for dishes. Most Indians are vegetarian due to their religious beliefs. But their food is spectacular and not actually that hard to make at home. Check out a few Indian vegetarian recipes and get started saving today.
11. Buy in Bulk During Sales
Everybody loves a good sale. When you grocery shop on a regular basis you get a good feeling for the cost of different items over time. When you come across a sale and that is really good, it is time to stock up on the item so you don’t have to buy it again for a long time.
Be careful when you are doing this though because it is very easy to go overboard and buy way too much! The items should have a long shelf-life and be usable for many different dishes. Things like frozen vegetables, meats that can be frozen, cereal, etc. are good candidates for buying in bulk when sales come around.
12. Make It At Home
Many of the goods you buy at the grocery store like bread, yogurt, sour cream, guacamole, hummus, etc. can be made at home.
I still remember when I bought my favorite cooking book: The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day
I bought homemade bread at the store and it costs between $3-$5 per loaf. Really, it is just flour, water, and yeast. All very cheap ingredients. I made my first loaf of homemade bread and I will never go back. I simply cannot buy store bread anymore because of how good the homemade bread is and it is easy to make as well! The book was so good, I bought it for all my family members and we all make bread at home now.
With a little forethought, you too can make many of the grocery store staples at home and save money while you are at it.
13. Buy Off-Brand Goods
I always find it amazing how much marketing is able to sway people’s opinions. Every good grocery store has off-brand options for most name-brand items.
Did you know that many times the off-brand or store-brand is made on the same equipment as the name-brand item and is simply boxed in a different package?
I grew up primarily eating the store-brand of everything and there is basically no difference between the store-brand and name brand. If there is, you then have to weigh the cost-benefit of it and decide if the slightly increased taste is worth the 20+% price increase.
14. Use The Cash Envelope System
This one is drastic. The cash envelope system is a system of budgeting that requires you to take your monthly allocation for groceries and put that amount of cash in an envelope. When it runs out you are done buying food.
Most of us go grocery shopping either once per week or once every 2 weeks. So divide the number of trips you plan to take by your monthly budget and then make an envelope for each trip. Go shopping with your list that you made in hack 1 above. When you are at checkout and the total comes to more than you have, it’s time to take a few things back.
This is a drastic method and can be used as a last resort if the other hacks here do not generate enough savings for you.
Start Saving Today!
Food is a touchy subject for many people because they know what they like and don’t want to change. It can be extremely challenging to change your habits when it comes to spending on food. I know. However, by making small incremental changes using the 14 hacks above, you can be well on your way to saving on your grocery bill every trip. There is no need to use all of them at once. Start small and implement 1 or 2. Once you have those under control add a few more. In no time, the savings will begin to add up and bring you more financial security.
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