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15 Simple Ways To Save Money on Groceries And Still Eat Well

15 Simple Ways To Save Money on Groceries And Still Eat Well

Whether you only have to feed yourself, or you’re trying to provide cost effective, nutritious food for a growing family, buying groceries is one of the largest expenses for any household.

According to the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, the cost of feeding a family of four can be as much as $954.60 per month. And it’s likely to be much more for many families.

The good news, is that there are some simple measures you can take to slash the cost of your grocery bill. Here are 15 simple ways, that when combined, can cut your grocery bill by 50% or more.

1. Shop alone

It is estimated that about 65% of the items we pick up when we shop with others are unplanned. If you have children, I’m sure you’ll be acutely aware of this problem. Consider taking control of your weekly shopping and leave your spouse and children at home. Stick rigidly to your list and you’ll save yourself a small fortune as well as a minor headache.

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2. Time your shop intelligently

Is there a particular time of day that your local shop is likely to reduce the cost of certain items? For many, it is at the end of the day. For others, early in the morning. Perhaps a few forbidden items have a nasty habit of jumping into your basket when you’re feeling a little bit hungry? If so, then have a hearty breakfast and hit the store mid-morning. Your bank balance and waistline will thank you.

3. Slice and dice

As with buying prepackaged and precooked foods, buying sliced or diced ingredients means you’re usually paying for the extra preparation process. Instead, purchase hams, cheeses and fruits in their whole state and do the chopping yourself. More time consuming, certainly. But also far more economical.

4. Shop infrequently

It may be lovely to dream of perusing local shops at a leisurely pace and buying fresh produce daily, but it’s also unrealistic for many time-starved families. Get organized and you’ll stop popping into the grocery store every other day and picking up a few impulse buys while you’re there. The less you shop, the more you save.

5. Shop for your lunch

If you don’t plan your week ahead and make your list, you’ll inevitably be dashing to pick up an expensive sandwich or meal in your lunch break. This particular habit is the cause of much debt. And if there are two or three people in your household guilty of not preparing their lunches, it adds up to a significant monthly spending. Prepare sandwiches or fresh soups from home or cook larger meals so that you are able to take leftovers into work.

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6. Check labels

Purchase items as fresh as you possibly can. Rummaging at the back of the shelf to reach for hidden items can mean unearthing the produce that is freshest and with a longer sell-by date. If you lazily swipe the front items from a shelf, you’ll likely be getting the produce with the shortest shelf-life. This simple tip means far less going to waste as you’ll eliminate the need to discard spoiled items.

7. Pay with cash

If you doubt your ability to skip past the ‘freshly baked’ donuts or are easily diverted, it helps to leave the card at home. Although it is difficult to be completely accurate in terms of cost, once you have a rough idea how much you spend on your weekly shop, take the money out in cash and you’ll deny yourself the means of adding tens of dollars worth of unnecessary groceries to your basket.

8. Check for local sales

Check the websites of your local stores for any sales on particular items. There is often a particular meat that is on sale each week and it makes sense to buy in bulk and freeze any cuts that provide excellent value. You can also build each week’s meals around the meats that are available cheap at that time. Remember to also check any promotional flyers that often litter the entrances of grocery stores. And don’t neglect the cheaper cuts of meat that are often reduced. They provide great nutrition and value.

9. Purchase groceries in-season

Purchasing groceries when they are in season is a fantastic way to get the most nutrition from your fruits and vegetables. It is also a cheaper way of packing your diet with these healthy foods when they are at their cheapest. Foods that are locally available and in abundance are almost always cheaper than produce that is out of season and flown thousands of miles to land in your local grocery store isle. Research online sites for local food producers and familiarize yourself with the food seasons.

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10. Buy spices and condiments in bulk

Adding spices to your food is a great way of packing in the flavor without having to add too much fat, salt or sugar. Find stores that sell spices in bulk and by weight. Buying your favorite spices in bulk can save you significant money, and being able to purchase small quantities by weight can also help you avoid unnecessary expenditure on those ingredients you may only use very infrequently.

11. Use a loyalty card and download coupons

It makes sense to accumulate loyalty cards for each store you visit. Sign-up to as many as you use in order to benefit from their loyalty programs. It also pays to use websites such as Coupons.com and print out any relevant coupons. Spending a few minutes searching coupon websites while you’re preparing your menu and shopping list can slash your monthly grocery bill. Be flexible with the brands you buy and you’ll be rewarded with a cheaper bill.

12. Skip prepackaged meals

Sure, prepackaged and precooked foods offer a tempting level of convenience. But they’re also far more expensive than if you were to buy the ingredients separately and cook them yourself. You also have little control of nutritional value, quality or freshness. Although time is scarce and convenience valued, it is far more economical to cook meals from scratch that can be chilled and portioned for subsequent meals.

13. Grow your own

We haven’t all got the space, climate or inclination to grow exotic fruits and vegetables. But we can usually grow our own herbs. Little shop-bought bundles of herbs can be rather expensive if you’re regularly buying a couple of varieties. By simply adding a couple of dollars to the initial cost, you’ll have a pot that will provide an ongoing supply of fresh herbs to snip at your convenience.

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14. Create your menu and list

Creating a weekly menu is one of the best ways in which you can save money on groceries. Having a clear plan of what you’ll be eating each day means that you can break down each meal into the exact ingredients and quantities you’ll need. Making a list of these items ensures that you don’t pick up groceries that you don’t need and it also means you’re far less likely to order a late night pizza.

15. Learn how to cook

If you refuse to cook, then the first three points are pretty redundant really. The importance of cooking your own meals, for taste, nutrition and value cannot be overstated. Cooking meals in the proportions you require affords you a scale of economy that buying ready-made simply cannot come close to. Learning the basics of food preparation enables you to cook quantities as small or large as you need, with little going to waste.

If you are not yet keeping track of your weekly shopping budget, these 15 tips are a great way to start cutting your monthly expenditure and start eating better food. By using your weekly list, tweaking your shop and tracking your spending, you may surprise yourself just how much money you will save on your grocery bill.

Featured photo credit: Bruce Stockwell via flickr.com

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Last Updated on January 2, 2019

How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

Do you know what mental health experts point to as the biggest cause of stress in the United States today? If you said “money,” then ding, ding, we have a winner!

Three out of four adults today report feeling stressed out about money at least part of the time. People are either worried about not having enough money or whether they’re putting the money they do have to use in the best possible way.

Your money is either in charge of you or you’re in charge of it, there’s no middle ground. Using some type of personal finance software can help alleviate some of that money stress and better allow you to manage your money effectively. Without it, you may just be setting yourself up for constant financial worry. Life is already tough enough and there’s no need to make it more difficult by simply hoping your money issues will all work out in your favor. Hint: they won’t.

This guide will help you to understand how personal finance software can better assist with both accomplishing long term financial goals and managing day-to-day aspects of life.

Whether it’s tracking the savings plan for your child’s college fund or making sure you won’t be in the red with the month’s grocery budget, personal finance software keeps all this information in one convenient place.

What Exactly is Personal Finance Software?

Think of it like the dashboard in your car. You have a speedometer to tell you how fast you’re going, an odometer to tell you how far you’ve traveled, and then other gauges to tell you things like how much gas is in the tank and your engine temperature. Personal finance software is essentially the same thing for your money.

When you install this software on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, it helps to track your money — how much is going in, how much is going out, and its growth. Most personal finance software programs will display your budget, spending, investments, bills, savings accounts, and even retirement plans, levels of debt, and credit score.

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How It Leads to Financial Improvement

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but people who regularly monitor their finances end up wealthier than those who don’t. When you were a kid, keeping track of all of your money in a porcelain piggy bank was pretty easy. As we get older, though, our money becomes spread out across things like car payments, mortgages, retirement funds, taxes, and other investments and debts. All of these things make keeping track of our money a lot more complicated.

Some types of personal finance software can help make things a little less complicated, setting you up to meet financial goals and taking away some of the stress associated with money.

Even if you already have a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) some type of personal finance software can be of great benefit. Whereas CFPs focus on the big picture of your money, they don’t handle the day-to-day aspects that determine your overall financial health.

It’s also not nearly as complicated as you might think and can take out a lot of the tedium that comes with doing everything on an Excel spreadsheet or with a pad and pencil.

Types of Personal Finance Software

When it comes to personal finance software, it generally fits into two categories: tax preparation and money management.

Tax preparation software such as Turbo Tax and H&R Block’s software can help with everything from filing income taxes to IRS rules and regulations and even estate plans. Plus, there’s the benefit of filing online and getting your refund check a lot faster than if you were to mail off your forms after waiting in line at the post office.

For the purpose of this article, however, will be focusing more on the personal finance software that aids with money management.

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Money management personal finance software will help you to see the health of your cash flow, pay down debt, forecast for expenses and savings, track investments, pay bills, and do a host of other things that 30 years ago would have practically required a team of accountants.

When to Use Personal Finance Software

So far we’ve gone over what exactly personal finance software is and how it can be a benefit to your money. The next logical step in this whole equation is determining when it should be used and how is the best way to go about getting started using it.

Below are four of the most common and practical ways to use personal finance software. If all or any of these apply to you and your money, then downloading some type of personal finance software is going to be a smart move.

1. You Have Multiple Accounts

There’s a good chance that when it comes to your money, it’s in more than one place. Sure, you probably have a checking account, but you may also have a savings account, money market account, and retirement accounts such as an IRA or 401k.

If you’re like the average American, you probably have two to three credit cards as well. Fifty percent of Americans also don’t have loyalty to just one bank and spread their money across multiple banks.

Rather than spending hours typing in every detail of every account you have into a spreadsheet, many programs allow you to easily import your account information. This will help to eliminate any mistakes and give you a bird’s eye view of everything at once.

2. You Want to Automate Some or All of Your Payments

Please don’t say that you’re still writing out paper checks and dropping each bill in the mailbox. While it’s noble that you’re doing your part to keep postal workers employed, we’re 18 years into the 21st century and you can literally pay every bill online now.

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There’s no need to log into every account you have and type in your routing number either.

With personal finance software you can schedule automatic payments and transfers between all of your imported accounts. Automatic transfers will help to make sure you have the necessary funds in the right account to ensure all bills are paid on the appropriate date. Late fees are annoying and do nothing but cost you money. It’s time that you said goodbye to them once and for all.

3. You Need to Streamline Your Budget

Perhaps the best feature of personal finance software is that it allows you track everything going in and out of your virtual wallet.

Nearly every brand of personal finance software out there has easy-to-read graphs and charts that allow you track every cent you spend or earn, should you choose. You might be pretty amazed when you see just how much you spent on eating out last month or if you splurged a little more than you should have on Christmas gifts last year.

Every successful business on the planet has a budget and using personal finance software can help you trim the fat on your spending in ways that affect your everyday life.

4. You Have Specific Goals to Meet

Maybe it’s paying off debt or saving for up something like a European vacation. Whatever your financial goal is, whether it’s long-term or short-term, personal finance software programs are one of the savviest ways to go about reaching those goals.

You can do everything from set spending alerts to notify you when you’re over budget to automating what percentage of your paycheck goes to things like retirement investments. The personal finance software that you choose should show you exactly how close you are to hitting those goals at any given time.

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How to Get Started

From AceMoney to Mint and Quicken, there ’s no shortage of personal finance software apps out there. Many of these programs are free to download and will allow you to pay bills, invest, monitor your net worth and credit profile, and even get a loan with the swipe of a finger.

Other programs may only offer you limited services and will require a one-time fee or subscription to unlock all that they offer. These fees can often vary from as little as two dollars to 50 bucks a month.

It’s best to start off with the free version and then gauge whether you’re able to accomplish everything you’d like or if it’s worth exploring one of the paid options. Often times the subscription programs come with assistance from financial planning and investment experts — so that can be a real benefit.

When deciding which personal finance software program to use, it’s also important to look at how many accounts you wish to monitor. Certain programs limit the number of accounts you can add. Be sure that if you have checking, credit card, and investment accounts to monitor, that you choose a service that can monitor them all.

Finally, when looking around for the right personal finance software that meets your needs, make sure that you’re comfortable with the program’s interface. It shouldn’t be expected that you recognize every single feature instantly, but if the features don’t seem readable and manageable to you, then you’re not as likely to use it and get the full benefits.

Final Thoughts

Personal finance software can go a long way in helping you to take control of your money and meeting your financial goals. It’s important to note, however, that some focus more on budgeting and expense tracking while others prioritize investing portfolios and income taxes. Explore several different programs and read reviews to find the one that’s right for you.

In this day and age, managing one’s personal finances in a secure manner that allows the user to have a real-time visual representation of their money is easier than ever before. With the numerous applications that are out there — both free and subscription-based — there’s no reason that every person can’t take control of their money and ensure they’re making smart money moves.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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