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.
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.
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.
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.
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