Saving Money On Food – 13 Ways To Slash Your Grocery Bill

Here you are in the checkout line of your local grocery store. Do you watch in horror as the numbers on the display register go up and up…and up? How many times have you cringed when the cashier announced your total? Yup. Me, too.

How did this happen? You just went in for a couple of items and now you’re wondering how to adjust your monthly budget to adjust for this comestible catastrophe. Well, this episode may be water under the bridge but let’s look ahead and talk about saving money on food the next time you go shopping.

With some planning and critical thinking, there are ways to slash your grocery bill!

Have A Game Plan

First, I’ll say this: All that money you (over)spent? Not entirely your fault. Grocery stores pay people to come up with ways to entice you to spend as much as they can entice you to spend. The store set-up, end cap displays, lighting, colors, shopping carts, the yummy smells? All part of their diabolical plan to make you spend more. There are 2 important things you can do to overcome this psychological warfare before you even leave your house!

Make a meal plan: This isn’t as hard as it seems. What are you having for dinner tonight? Why not double it and have the rest for lunch tomorrow? Two meals down. Maybe grab some oatmeal, raisins and yogurt for overnight oats or granola parfaits to take to work for breakfast this week? Now you’re down 7 meals. That’s ⅓ of your entire meal plan and it just took a minute. See how easy that was?

Make a shopping list: Now, use that meal plan to make your shopping list. I’m going to assume you’ll be shopping in the same store that you always do, so, with that in mind, set up your shopping list in the order that you’ll be walking the store. Does the entrance lead you to the produce section first? List all your produce items first, then (for example) all your meat items followed by the dairy items.

Once you hit the aisles of the store, group items together that will probably be in the same section (all the spices together, all the baking items together, etc.) This will prevent you from backtracking and being further tempted by all those sneaky displays!

Into The Fray

Stick to your list: Do it like it’s your job. No unauthorized purchases, no maybe-I-can-use-its, no gosh-that-looks-goods. Keep your eyes forward and only stop for the things on your list.

… Unless you don’t stick to your list: OK, so there’s that Manager’s Special on chicken. That really good special. Riddle me this: Do you eat chicken? A lot? Can you break that package down into smaller portions for storage? Do you have room in your freezer? Can afford to spend the extra money this week? If you can answer “yes” to every single question, then go ahead and pick up a package.

Stay In Your Own Lane: No unplanned off-ramps. No side trips down aisles “just to check it out”. Stick to the store perimeter and only enter the aisles that have items you planned to buy.

Stick To The Basics

Learn to read the shelf tags: These tags help you to discern the true value of an item compared to another by breaking down the cost per unit (such as ounce, pound or individual item). Once you know how to do this, the following advice is easy to check out.

Do your own prep work: Food in it’s most unprocessed form is always less expensive than pre-cut or prepared items. A few examples of this are:

  • Whole carrots compared to baby carrots or matchstick
  • Whole roast compared to steaks or stew meat*
  • A block of cheese compared to pre-sliced or shredded cheese

Doing your own prep work does take more time, but I find that it’s easier to just do it all when I get home from the store. Some like to set aside some time on their day off to all the prep work for the week while others prefer to just prep for the meal that they’re cooking. You can play around with different methods until you find one that works for you!

*I’m not going to discuss edible yield in regard to meats here as I find the bone-in/boneless argument is usually more of a personal choice than a cost point.

Size doesn’t matter: Bigger is not always less expensive. Use the shelf tag to determine which size is truly the best value.

Buy generic: Many store or lesser known brands are less expensive than the Big Guys. Make sure to read the ingredient and nutrition labels to make sure it’s as high quality as the name brand.

Put down the frozen french fries: For real. Just do it. Put back those individual packets of flavored oatmeal while you’re at it. These two items, on average, cost twice as much per unit than their unprocessed counterparts (fresh potatoes and old-fashioned rolled oats). That’s true of most convenience foods. The truth is that it doesn’t take much more time to make these items fresh.

Ban Junk Food

The average American spends almost 25% of their grocery budget on processed, convenience, pre-made and snack foods. Don’t believe me? Dig out your last grocery receipt and add it up. I’m positive it’s more than you think it is.

Ask you how much of that food was eaten mindlessly? It’s easy to prepare (if it needs any preparation at all) so it’s easy to just grab some to chow down on while you’re watching TV or working on your computer. Seriously, when was the last time you wondered why there were only crumbs in the bottom of the chip bag? And did you really eat all the microwavable pizza nuggets?

Now ask yourself if you’re really going to spend that much money on things you didn’t even enjoy eating? Surely if you had enjoyed them, you would have remembered actually eating them. Think of how much you’re going to enjoy keeping all that money right in your bank account from now on!

OK, yes, you’re gonna want cookies. These no bake cookies come together in less than 15 minutes for about $3.50, which is less than ½ the price of buying the same amount of the same cookies pre-made.

Go Forth And Conquer

Be bold. Be unafraid. Get out there and go shopping. You’ve got this.

 

All my best,

Cynthia

cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

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8 Replies to “Saving Money On Food – 13 Ways To Slash Your Grocery Bill”

  1. Some great tips here on getting the most bang for your buck when you go shopping. Unprocessed is definitely better for your health and your budget, but sometimes it is so much easier to buy precut veggies, especially when you are working late and need to get a meal ready in a hurry. Sometimes I don’t mind paying a little more in certain instances.

    Whenever I go shopping I always try to eat a meal before hand, then I don’t feel tempted by all the cooked goodies on display and it is definitely easier to resist the chocolate isle.

    1. Hey, life is busy!  I will often pay a little extra for precut or frozen veggies, burger that’s already “burgered up” or previously sliced up chicken tenders.  It’s good to eat healthily but we only have so much time!

  2. Great article for me. I am someone that notoriously goes into a grocery store to buy a few things and comes out with double what I planned to go in there for. Junk food is my big one that I always seem to pick up without planning. I will follow your tips and see if I can put some discipline in my shopping moving forward!

    1. It can be a struggle but once you set your sights on a shopping list (and decide to stick to it), shopping becomes less of a chore.  Give it a month or two and you won’t even miss that junk food!

  3. Love this post! My partner and I are avid meal planners. Great tips on sticking to a meal plan and those items. I always try to avoid the center of the store and usually shop on the outskirts where more of the fresh items are vs the junk food. It can be so easy to stray and want to grab things on the endcaps but you’re right, it’s where they get you! Especially with all of the “deals” while you’re waiting in line to check out.

    Thank you for sharing!

    1. Those center aisles will get you every time!  Now that I’ve taken on a campaign to cook my food fresh, from scratch, I find that I need very little in the center of the store.  Coffee, spices and baking goods…that’s just about it!  It feels good to be able to avoid them and save money.

  4. Thanks for this post! I appreciate it because it solved a critical problem attached to spending lavishly at grocery stores. I never knew some sellers use the diabolical means to lure buyers into overspending against their fixed budget; it’s shocking to get to know this. This is a common issue that affects most people when it comes to shopping at grocery stores, and only few know the way out.

    One of the tricks they use to make buyers overspend is sneaky displays. So, I agree with you that grouping items together and setting up the shopping lists will prevent a buyer from being tempted.

    1. I’m glad you found this helpful, Michael.  Now that you know, you’ll see those sneaky ways for what they are and you’ll never fall again!

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