11 strategies to slash your grocery spend
How much we spend on food each month ranks up there with housing and transportation expenses, sometimes even more in some households! While it's a no-brainer that eating out every night is sure to be expensive, what we spend on groceries can fly under the radar and often gets overlooked as an expense category that needs a little bit of scrutiny.
Here are 11 strategies that are sure to put more money back in your pocket.
1. Make an inventory of what you have in your freezer and pantry
You'll be surprised at the items you'll find buried up the back of the freezer or in the dark depths of your pantry. We've literally made throw-together meals from corn, coconut cream and a frozen block of ham before!
Writing down what you actually have in your house will save you second-guessing if you have the item you need or not and you'll avoid buying double.
2. Make a meal plan for the week
Now that you have a good idea of what you already have, its time to meal plan. If you don't have a plan you are planning to fail. And by fail I mean spending a motza at the supermarket! Before you jump in the car and head down to your local, prepare a list of meals that you'll cook and eat throughout the week.
If this sounds like a daunting task, just start out preparing a list of dinners rather than an exhaustive itinerary of every meal. Write down all the ingredients you'll need for those meals and try your best not to stray from your list when you're at the store. Remember, base your meal planning off foods that you already have!
3. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store
If you're anything like me you can get lost in the confectionary aisle for far too long than you care to admit. I don't blame you. Everything in there is so damn enticing! Here's a fact though, 90% of the food you need is in the outside lanes of the supermarket.
Sure, you won't see the frozen pies or cookies & cream ice cream here, but your wallet and waistline will thank you for steering clear of the center aisles. The perimeter has all of your fresh fruits and veggies, most of the dairy, eggs and lean cuts of meat and fish.
I know that "healthy" items like this can be expensive, but remember you have a meal plan and are avoiding the sweets, so you'll save money overall.
4. Read unit price labels
When looking at the price labels that sit just above or below the item you're looking at, you can usually find the price per unit listed in smaller print than the price. You're looking for the "$/100 grams" or "$/ml" section of the label. Most people would be tempted to just pick up the "cheaper" item, such as a 400g tub of margarine for $4.00 ($1/100 grams), but the tub next to it could be a 600g tub for $5.50 ($0.91/100 grams), which is better value.
5. Grab the generic brands
Picking up the "no name" brands will definitely be cheaper than the popular names. Be sure to check the ingredients label of both of them to be sure the no name brands aren't stuffed full of bad stuff, and if that checks out, throw that no name item in your cart!
6. Buy in bulk where possible
While it may not be feasible to do this at all locations, buying items in bulk is a surefire way to lower the price per unit you'd normally pay if you were just purchasing a few at a time. If you're a meat eater, ask your butcher if they are able to do a deal if you purchase a certain amount. Not a meat eater? You can usually get the same deals on rice, pasta, beans, etc., when you buy the big bag instead of the individual serve packets.
7. Sniff out the sales section
More often than not there is a cart in the middle of a random aisle that is full of assorted sales items. Usually you find things like shampoo or conditioner, cleaning products, food storage, or even some food items at times. Have a look to see if any of the items on sale are on your list and if they are, stock up!
8. Go meatless
It's no secret that a 300g cut of rib-eye is going to cost a bucket load more than a packet of tofu. Cutting out meat for a week could save you tens if not hundreds of dollars depending on the type. Even incorporating a "Meatless Monday" into your meal plan can help in reducing your grocery spend.
9. Buy seasonal
Fruits and vegetables that are "in season" are likely to be cheaper than those that aren't. In the fall, you'll find pumpkin and squash to be cheaper than at other times of the year. In spring, strawberries and spinach will be a much lower cost than buying them in winter when they're harder to source. Factor this into your meal planning throughout the year to maximize how much you can save.
10. Shop at more than one location
I know this can be an inconvenience, but some stores just have better prices than others. Did someone say Aldi? While discount stores may not have all the items on your list, they're almost guaranteed to cheaper than your typical big brand chains. You might have a local butcher that has great pricing per pound of product, or a local independent grocer just down the road from where you live. Scout out your area to see if any of these options could work for you.
11. Don't shop hungry!
Going anywhere on an empty stomach is sure to leave you with food cravings that you normally wouldn't have on a full stomach. Everything just seems a whole lot more appealing and will tempt you to stray from your list to grab that family size packet of Tim Tams. Chow down a meal or snack before you leave the house to ensure your belly stays quiet while you are trying your best to stick to your list!
Adding it all together
Using one of the strategies listed here is sure to save you a few pennies on your grocery visits, but using all of them will likely cut your bill by at least 40%. That money not leaving your wallet allows you to shuttle those savings towards paying off debt, doing things you love, and living life with a little bit of extra cash.
Blake - FIRE with a family