When was the last time you took a good hard look at your finances? If you’re like most folks then you’re looking for areas to cut. We’ve found that the best way for us to get a handle on our budget is to save money at the grocery store. A little planning and strategy is all it takes.
There are all kinds of reasons we decide we need to save money – or quit spending so much. It may be that you need to build an emergency fund or pay down debt. You may be looking at your kids and counting the number of years it will be till they’re looking at college. You might be thinking ahead to your own retirement years. Or you may want to save for that dream vacation. Whatever your needs or goals, you’re ready to save money on groceries.
At our house, the need to re-examine our financial status came last fall. We got word about a significant (I mean heart-stoppingly significant!) increase in our health insurance premiums and deductibles. The sticker shock necessitated a new look at our budget.
However, like most people, many of the budget items are beyond our control. Expenses like car payments and rent or mortgage are pretty much set in stone. And while we can take steps to save money on our utility bills, there’s only so much play there. We can cut back on the electric and heating bill, but considering everything we already do to save energy, there won’t be significant decreases to be found there. However, we knew we could save money on groceries with a little more effort.
Figuring out where you can save some money
When you need to save money (for whatever reason) you first need to examine – and acknowledge – how your money is actually being spent. Knowing where your money is going is the first step to reigning in the spending so that you can save money.
Some areas where you can save money include:
- Eating out, drive-through, and take home meals: this can add up to lots of money that you’re sometimes not really aware you’re spending.
- Entertainment: even things like those cheap movies can add up in a hurry.
- Gasoline and car expenses: can you cut unnecessary trips or carpool?
- Clothing: I know how hard it can be to resist that really great basic item especially when it’s on sale (because we convince ourselves that by we’re really saving money by buying it now).
- Activity expenses: do you have memberships or automatic withdrawals for services you no longer use? A quick perusal of your bank or credit card statement may remind you about some money that’s slipping through your fingers for no good reason.
- Personal grooming: Can you save some money by skipping the professional manicure, pedicure, or salon visit and doing your own at home – at least occasionally?
Each of these areas has potential to put money back in your pocket. They do require some sacrifices though because to save money in these areas, we have to give something up.
I know – yuck. Who wants to feel deprived if they don’t have to?
So is there a way to get your budget under control and reduce expenses in order to save money?
The best part is that you really don’t have to feel deprived to do it.
For us, the budget item we can control the most is our grocery spending. The decisions we make in the grocery store – and before we even get there – can make a huge difference in how much comes out of our bank account.
I can hear some of you now. “I have teenage boys and they eat a ton!” or “My hubby refuses to eat rabbit food. He’s a meat-and-potatoes man” or (my personal favorite) “I am NOT using scratchy toilet paper!” I’ve been up close and personal with all of these realities so I definitely get it.
But it is possible to feed teenage boys, keep a picky husband happy, and not irritate your bum while saving money at the grocery store.
How do you do it?
Here’s how you save money at the grocery store:
- You plan what you’re going to cook (or have someone else cook) for the week.
- You actually follow the meal plan. This allows you to plan how to use leftovers and keeps you from throwing rotten food in the trash. Think of that (formerly) green head of lettuce as a bunch of dollar bills. You wouldn’t toss those it the trash!
- You pay attention to sales. And when something is on sale, you stock up. You try to never pay full price for items that regularly go on sale.
- You pay in cash or take a calculator so that you don’t spend more than you’ve budgeted. I find that when I take actual real money, I am very conscious of what is going in the cart.
- You shop when you know you’ll have time to compare prices and won’t feel rushed. I know that one is hard, but it really does help because there will be price differences even in the items you need that aren’t on sale.
- You don’t shop for brands. Okay, I’ll admit that there are some products where the brand label really is the best. We’ve got some definite preferences that we feel are worth the extra cost (toilet paper definitely being one of them!). But for many – many – items, the generic or store brand is just as good as the popular brand.
- And of course, you shop from a list.
Related Post: Tools To Make Meal Planning Easy
I’m a big proponent of using a meal planning pad. Here’s why I like them:
- They’re portable. Take them to wherever you’re going through cookbooks, your recipe box, or your favorite internet recipe site.
- You can hang most of them on the refrigerator to remind you what’s on the menu each night.
- Everyone else in the house can also see what’s on the menu plan. No more “Mom, what’s for dinner?”
- You can make your grocery list right on the pad with your menu plan. You can tear the grocery list part off and take it with you when you shop.
- You can tear off the menu page when you’re done with it and either dispose of it or save it for ideas later (which is what I do).
- It’s pretty. No reason menu planning has to be dull.
The choices here below are similar to the one I use. I love it and use it every week.
- This magnetic pad has sheets for 52 weeks and can hang on your refrigerator. If you’re really organized you can save the pages in a notebook or folder and recycle your meal plans for next year.
- This What’s For Dinner magnetic pad has 50 sheets and is perfect if you like a little less visual clutter on your refrigerator. It’s got the information you need but the white and gold pages have a minimalist look to them.
- This meal planner has a pocket for coupons so you can save even more money when you’re at the grocery store. The pocket makes a great place to temporarily store coupons you find until you can transfer then to your coupon organizer (or even to an envelope if that’s your coupon system).
- Finally, this one is a daily plan sheet with space to plan all of your meals for the day. Obviously, this one requires more pages to plan your weekly meals – and you can’t see the entire week at once – but it has the advantage of also being the place for you to plan out other tasks and activities that require your time. You could keep it on the refrigerator or in your personal planner…whichever works best for you.
Here’s a true story that happened to me once in my effort to save money at the grocery store:
A few years ago I made a trip to the grocery store to stock up on chicken breast and toilet paper. Both were on sale at a terrific price and we were a family of 5.
On my way towards the check out counter an elderly lady passed me and took a very obvious look at what was in my basket. I could see the puzzled look on her face and then she asked me why I was buying so much toilet paper and chicken and nothing else.
I replied that I would take the chicken home and put it in meal-sized packages for freezing because my family would definitely get around to consuming it all and that I liked to buy when things were on sale.
She looked at me like I had lost my mind.
So I looked in her cart (well, it was only fair!) and she had one little package of chicken, one can each of green beans and corn, and a couple of other assorted items. She was obviously only buying what was going to be needed immediately.
She didn’t say anything else but it was obvious that she thought I was strange.
Funny, but she didn’t get around to asking about the toilet paper.
Something to help you save money at the grocery store
One thing that has helped me get even better at saving money is the Grocery Budget Makeover. I’ll admit that my first reaction when I learned about it was, “I’m already a good shopper!” And I am – but I learned to be an even better shopper and planner after I took the course. I figure anything that helps me save money is a worthwhile investment – and I saved more than the price of the course in my first week at the store which made me super happy!
You can enroll in the Grocery Budget Makeover at any time. The course used to only be available a few times a year and you had to wait until enrollment opened to get in (a major bummer when you need to start saving money now!). But fortunately that’s changed – you can enroll and start implementing the money saving strategies today if you need to.
I highly recommend this course. Like I said, I was already a good shopper, but this course helped me hone those skills so I could save even more money at the grocery store – and that makes me really happy!
Since grocery shopping can be such a chore, I’ve picked out a few items to make it just a little simpler.
- I do not have this shopping organizer but I need it! It’s got an arm that attaches to the handle of your shopping cart and opens to give you a place to store your cell phone, shopping list, coupons, and pen. It currently comes in pink or black and if you’re serious about being organized and getting those good deals, this looks like a real help.
- Does it drive you crazy to get those groceries bought, loaded in the car, and then have them rolling all over the back of your vehicle? I despise finding out that some items have come out during transit and I’ve got to practically dive into the trunk to retrieve them…or the entire bag shifted and now I can’t reach it. This collapsible trunk organizer has removable dividers so you can customize it to whatever you’re toting home. I like that it allows me to store glass bottles upright without fear that they’re going to tip over and break (who needs spilled wine in the trunk, right?). And when you don’t need it, just fold it up and it’s out of the way.
- I have a confession to make…I rearrange the groceries hubby puts into the cart to keep contents organized and to keep like items together (surely I’m not alone). This grocery cart organizer is just genius! Four bags with wooden bars that you can carry in to the grocery store, put into your cart and spread to open up, and you’ve got organization at your fingertips as you shop. And as you check out, simply put the like items together again and they’re ready to take home. One bag is insulated for cold items and one bag has mesh pockets inside to hold more fragile groceries (like eggs or bottles). Seriously…genius!
- And finally, a good coupon organizer keeps you from leaving those little money savers at home – or losing them. This one attaches to your shopping cart handle so you’re hand’s free.
Related Post: A Frugal Idea To Make Your Home Smell Wonderful