Food. We can all agree on how easy it is to splurge on. Whether it’s a night out on the town or grocery shopping, it’s a tough thing to say no to food.
We are a family of 2. My husband eats large portions as he is a personal trainer and very active. I eat an average amount. Our grocery budget is $100 every two weeks, so it comes out to a little more than $200 monthly.
Besides our food budget, we have a date night fund and our personal sink funds which we use for depending on the occasion. Yet, this $100 food budget is only used for groceries which we mostly eat throughout the month. We have found that when we use these tips, we typically stay under budget.
1. Don’t Go to the Grocery Store Hungry
This is just my rule of thumb because it’s bitten us in the butt before, but this is also true because science. You are likely to buy 20% more food if you haven’t eaten than if you shopped on a full stomach according to this research . Just by eating before you go, you can save an extra $10-20 because you are more likely to buy just what you need.
2. Meal Plan
We have similar breakfasts (oatmeal, eggs on toast, cereal) and lunches (left overs, smoothies, salads). We tend to diversify our dinners based on food we have and sales. We make a meal plan for at least a week. Whatever we don’t have to make those meals goes on a grocery list which brings me to my next point.
3. Go Grocery Shopping With a List
Before you grocery shop, make a list of what you need according to what ingredients are lacking for your breakfast, lunch, and dinners according to your meal plan. You will stay focused and avoid overshopping.
4. More Veggies
We have been eating less meat which has really ramped up our veggie intake and drastically reduced our grocery expenses. And let me tell you – you can eat a lot more veggies for a lot less money compared to meat. If we don’t buy organic, we just make sure to wash our vegetables thoroughly and then bam – we have all of the dishes we want with a little sauteeing and garlic salt (our favorite).
5. Staple Foods
Along with veggies being a great main and side dish, our major meal staples that keep us full is beans and rice. We make beans and rice from scratch to be more healthy and cost effective. This combination is not only a complete protein when eaten together, but is also so diverse – we use them as sides to dishes, in combination with vegetables, or make quick meals of burritos, bean tostadas, or nachos. It will save you time and money to have these (and any other staple foods you eat) prepared in bulk for the week.
6. Look for Deals
Our list is usually pretty basic and doesn’t require major deals, but if we see a certain fruit we like on sale (aka watermelon 5lbs/$1), veggies that we like to eat organic, or healthy pantry food, we make it a point to save money on that item.
7. Just Say No to Snacks
If we start putting a lot of snacks into our basket, before we know it, we are way over-budget. Alone, snacks are cheap at $3-5 each, but put them together and you are looking at a large grocery bill. We like to get fruit to snack on between meals as they are usually a better deal.
Shopping hungry not only leads you to buying more, but you are also more likely to buy high-calorie, processed snacks. Combat buying snacks by being full before shopping and not going down unnecessary aisles by sticking to your grocery list.
8. Look at Cents/Ounce
To know if you are really getting the better deal between sizes and brands of foods, check the price sticker for cents/ounce. For example, I was buying spaghetti sauce. My instincts had me grabbing for the larger container. Come to find out by reading the cents/oz that I was getting a better deal with the smaller container and saving nearly 2 cents/oz. Over our lifetime, that’s going to be a lot of dough.
Prices fluctuate, so keep an eye on the cents/oz. On the next trip, the larger container was the better deal.
9. Don’t Pay Extra for Brand Names
While sometimes you just have to get a brand name because it really does taste better, try taking home a store brand. Consumer reports found an average savings of 25% by buying store brands which can be another $10-20 back in your wallet. More than half of the time, shoppers equally liked the store brand compared to the name brand.
All of these tips keeps our budget happy and us full.