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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 August 20, 2019

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

Finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. And that’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

In this article, we will explore ways on how to set financial goals and then actually meet them with ease.

5 Steps to Set Financial Goals

Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task but if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps:

1. Be Clear About the Objectives

Any goal (let alone financial) without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream. And this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it is for. It could be anything like kid’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car etc.

Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives, however small they may be, that you foresee in the future and put a value to it.

2. Keep Them Realistic

It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going out of the line will definitely hurt your chances of achieving them.

It’s important that you keep your goals realistic in nature for it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

3. Account for Inflation

Ronald Reagan once said – “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman”. And this quote sums up the best what inflation could do your financial goals.

Therefore account for inflation whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far away in the future.

For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years hence, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is mere 3%. So always account for inflation.

4. Short Term vs Long Term

Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach towards achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It is important to bifurcate goals in short term and long term.

As a rule of thumb, any financial goal, which is due in next 3 years should be termed as short term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short term vs long term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

More on this later when we talk about how to achieve financial goals.

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5. To Each to His Own

The journey of setting financial goals is an individualistic affair i.e. your goals are your own goals and are determined by your want to achieve them. A lot of times we get on the bandwagon of goal setting only to realize later on that it was not meant for us.

It is important that your goals are actually your goals and not inspired by someone else. Take a hard look at this step at all the goals you’ve set for after this step, you will be on the way to achieve them.

By now, you would be ready with your financial goals, now it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

11 Ways to Achieve Your Financial Goals

Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a 2 step process –

  • Ensuring healthy savings
  • Making smart investments

You will need to save enough; and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals. So let’s get down to ensuring healthy savings.

Ensuring Healthy Savings

Self realization is the best form of realisation and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

1. Track Expenses

The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your monthly expenses. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you would be surprised to see how small expenses add up to a sizeable amount.

Also categorize those expenses into different bucket so that you know which bucket is eating the most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pump up your savings rate.

2. Pay Yourself First

Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classical mistake which almost everyone of us do. We pay ourselves last!

Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and then manage all the expenses from the rest.

The best way to actually implement is to put the savings on automatic mode i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (for example – mutual funds, retirement corpus etc) every month.

Taking the automatic route will make us lose control of our money and hence will compel us to manage in what’s left with us thereby increasing the savings rate.

3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick with It

Budgeting is the best to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be made.

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Nowadays, several money management apps and wallets can help you do this automatically. It’s easy and who knows, you may just end up doing what people fail to do.

At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

4. Rise Again Even If You Fall

Let’s be realistic. It’s not like the world will come to an end if you made one mistake. This isn’t called leniency but discipline.

If you fail to meet your budget for a month, don’t give up the entire effort just like that. Instead, start again.

Remember that flexible plans are the most realistic plans. So go forward and try to follow your financial goals as planned but if for some reason, the plan gets out of hand for you, do not give up on it just yet. This has a lot to do with your psychology rather than any material commitment.

All you have to do is to stay on the road and vow to stay on it, no matter how much you fall down.

5. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

Make Savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counter intuitive to many but there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Usually weekends are expensive. Make it a habit and you would in turn be saving a great deal.

If you are travelling buff, try to travel during off season. Your outlay will be much less.

If you go out for shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

So the key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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6. Talk About It

Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission. And it would be rather easy to lose the grip over your discipline.

Therefore in order to stay the course, it is advisable that you keep yourself surrounded with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

7. Maintain a Journal

For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

So if you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

Use this journal to write down all essential points such as your short term, mid term and long term goals, your current sources of income, your regular expenses which you are aware of and any committed expenses which are of recurring nature.

When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energised to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot more easier for you to follow you and track your progress.

At this point, you should be ready with your financial goals and would be doing brilliantly with savings; now it’s time to talk about the big daddy – Investments.

Making Smart Investments

Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However savings when invested wisely can do wonders and we are at that stage where we will talk about making smart investments.

8. Consult a Financial Advisor

Investments doesn’t come naturally to most of us therefore rather than dabbling with it ourselves, it is wise to consult a financial advisor.

Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

9. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about them.

Just like “no one is born a criminal”, no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference.

Do you remember we talked about bifurcating financial goals in short term and long term?

It is here where that classification will help.

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So as a general rule, for all your short term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less as compared to equity instruments.

10. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

Einstein once remarked about compounding,

Compound Interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.

So make friends with this wonder kid. And sooner you become friends with it, quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

Start investing early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

11. Measure, Measure, Measure

All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments; taking stock of how our investments are doing.

If there is one single step where everything (so far) can go wrong, it is at this step – Measuring the Progress.

If we don’t measure the progress timely, then we would be shooting in the dark. We wouldn’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not; whether financial advisor is doing a decent job; whether we are moving closer to our target or not.

Do measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

The Bottom Line

This completes the list of tips for you to set financial goals and actually achieve them with not so great difficulty.

As you can see, all it requires is discipline. But guess that’s the most difficult part!

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Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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