How to Save Money on Groceries
On June 24, 2016, my husband and I decided that enough was enough. We were finally going to get a handle on our credit cards and pay off $13,000 within a year or less. How? We created a serious plan and within five weeks, we crushed $7,000 in debt!! I will never forget sharing this news with one of my friends. Their first comment was, "Wow, so you've been eating Ramen Noodles for five weeks?" Not at all! There are a few things we are unwilling to sacrifice on this journey toward 100% financial freedom and one of them is the quality of food that we put into our bodies. Because, health is wealth!
Want to know how to save money on groceries without eating like crap? Here are the exact steps we took:
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Having an idea of what you'd like to eat each week can save you time and money. We have about 10 different meal ideas that we rotate throughout the month. Taking the guesswork out of what you're going to eat also helps you to avoid ordering takeout because you know exactly what's coming up on the menu each day. You can also take this a step further by dedicating a meal prep day to cook all your meals for the week. Most people choose to do this on a Sunday.
SHOP LESS FREQUENTLY
Ever made a quick grocery trip mid-week just to get "one thing" and before you know it you've blown $75? The worst is when you get home and realize that you didn't even buy the one thing you actually needed. We avoid this by only going to the grocery store when it's a shopping day! Otherwise, we know we will end up buying way more than we actually need and blow our budget.
DITCH THE SHOPPING CART
Of course, there will be certain times when we still have to make unplanned trips to the grocery store. In these cases, we make certain to use a basket instead of a shopping cart. This helps us to avoid buying things we don't need versus mostly wants that may be outside of your budget (and possibly unhealthy anyways). If you are doing a monthly or two-week grocery haul or if you have a large family, then for sure, you'll need to use a cart. But using a basket can come in super handy at other times or if you are only shopping for yourself.
QUIT USING COUPONS
Confession time! I used to be a "semi-crazy" couponer. Each week, I would spend HOURS grocery deals online and then even more time printing and clipping the coupons. Then, going to the store to get the deals was an entire exercise in itself! Eventually, I realized that the energy I put into couponing was actually costing me money instead of saving me money. In addition, I found that I ended up buying items that I didn't need just because I was able to get them for free using coupons! Finally, it was often difficult to find coupons for healthy foods compared to junk food.
USE IBOTTA INSTEAD
Ibotta is a free app that gives you cash back on grocery items. One of the best features about Ibotta is that you can use it when you shop at pretty much any grocery store and you can get cash back on generic items such as bananas and even store-brand items like milk. Just upload your receipt to the app and you're all set! Once you hit a balance of $20, then you can cash out using PayPal or Venmo. Alternatively, you could choose to claim one of Ibotta's featured gift cards instead e.g. movie tickets!
START SHOPPING AT ALDI
We love shopping at Aldi because this is where we get the most bang for our buck. You literally can eat WELL spending $250/month on food at this "no-frills" grocery store. On the other hand, we used to spend more than double this amount at our neighborhood grocery store for less food.
The secret to Aldi's success is that they keep their overheads low so that they can offer the best prices possible without compromising on quality. All of the food they sell is the "Aldi" brand and most things are comparable (if not better) than the regular brand name things that we were used to buying. There are just a few items that we've come across that don't necessarily fit the bill. However, their meat, dairy, produce and most snacks are top notch. We love shopping here to save money on groceries.
INVEST IN A DEEP FREEZER
I know, I know. This post is supposed to be about saving money not spending it. However, sometimes investing a little bit of money now can save you a lot in the long run. Take this scenario: A few weeks ago, Aldi had our favorite Lean & Fit Ground Turkey marked down by a lot! We were able to stock up and get a ton of packages for super cheap because we knew we had somewhere to put them...in our chest freezer at home. Without the deep freezer, we would miss out on crazy good deals on meat that allows us to stockpile.
You can look for deals on Craigslist or a garage sale.
USE CAUTION AT COSTCO
We used to shop at Costco once a week and literally spent $100 each time outside of our regular grocery budget often on things we didn't even need or end up using. Now, we only go once a month and we get the exact same items every single time: paper products and steak for my husband (I don't eat meat except for chicken). As you can imagine, we have saved a few hundred dollars with this plan.
BUY SEASONAL FRUIT AND VEGGIES
I love grapes and berries as much (or probably more) than the next person. But you won't catch me buying these during the winter time for two reasons 1) they don't taste as sweet and 2) they are much more expensive. If you are trying to save money on groceries while still eating a nutritious diet then I would recommend going for the cheapest fruit and veggies that are always in season. For example, bananas are a staple in our home as well as lettuce and cucumbers year round. When summer comes around, we go crazy with watermelons, pineapple, berries, etc. because they are a lot cheaper and so yummy.
TRY SHOPPING AT ETHNIC MARKETS
There's an awesome market near to our house, where we get fresh produce for super cheap. The drawback of this type of grocery store is that it can get super crowded (I'm not the only one in on the secret) and sometimes it's hit and miss in terms of the quality of the produce depending on the day or even the time of the day. But overall, my experience has been positive and I highly recommend seeing if you've got one in your town.
OR, GROW YOUR OWN
This is our third year growing a vegetable garden and we love it! For a relatively small set up cost (plants, dirt, fertilizer) we get a ton of tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, broccoli, peppers as well as herbs. Next year, we would love to try out fruit and possibly grow watermelon. Apart from fruit, you could also consider livestock. One of my friends has chickens and rabbits in her backyard -- can you say fresh eggs?
BONUS: SCALE BACK ELSEWHERE
Although we trimmed our budget A LOT by using these tips, because we still wanted to include steak in the budget we scaled back in other areas (steak runs $65-70 a month). The first thing we did was take a look at the all of our other bills and negotiate with every single provider. I invested well over 10 hours' time on the phone and online with these companies and ended up saving thousands of dollars per year. However, if you don't have the time to do all this work, you can get BILLSHARK to do the hard work for you. You only pay them if they save you money (essentially you will share the cost savings).
Please let me know if any of these help you or if you have any ideas that have worked for you by dropping a comment below!