It’s been a while, but I wanted to continue with my series of Ways We Save Money. (See all of the saving money posts here.) As a reminder: just because this is how our family does it, does not mean that you have to do things this way as well!
With the predicted rising costs of food looming over us, I thought it might be helpful to share some ways that our family saves money shopping for groceries.
We have a grocery budget of $50 a week. I know to some of my readers that may seem like a small amount, and to other readers, that seems like a lot for just 2 1/2 🙂 people. I personally don’t feel like we should spend as little as we possibly can on food, since it is the most significant investment we make in our health. It’s okay to spend more on whole, real foods and skip the junk food easily obtained through coupons and sales. If I could spend more on groceries, I would. I would buy all organic produce, grass-fed beef, raw milk, pastured eggs, and locally raised chickens. But since we currently cannot afford all of these things, we do the best we can and buy the healthiest foods possible with the resources with which God has blessed us.
In this part, I’ll talk about planning and shopping, and in part two, I will cover cooking.
1. Menu plan
I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a plan (albeit rough sometimes) for your meals each week. I used to plan my meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks) to a “T,” but I’m not quite so exact anymore. I usually plan out at least all of my dinners before shopping. We eat pretty much the same things for breakfast each day (oatmeal, eggs, whole wheat bread, etc.) and we eat leftovers for lunch a lot, so it makes the most sense to just plan out dinners. How can this help save money? Well… have you ever stared at your fridge trying to decide what to make? Have you had to run to the store to buy one more ingredient for dinner (and, if you’re honest, didn’t you end up with a few “extra” things in your cart)? Have you ever forgotten to thaw something for dinner and ended up getting take-out or fast food? I’m sure I’ve done all of these things at one point or another, which is why I now make a conscious effort to menu plan. You don’t even have to designate exact days for the meals if you don’t want to. Just list what you want to make at the beginning of the week and then each morning decide what you will make for that evening.
2. Use a grocery list
Make a very complete list before you shop (after you’ve menu planned) and stick to it! Don’t allow impulse buys to eat away at your grocery budget. I’m notorious for putting back items that I grabbed on impulse before I check out. Don’t shop when you’re hungry, and, if possible, avoid taking people with you who will beg for food or grab it straight off the shelves (not naming any names).
3. Shop at Aldi
If you have an Aldi nearby, check it out! Aldi is a real blessing to our family and allows us to stay under budget when we shop there. While they have lots of processed foods and junk, they also have pantry staples, dairy, produce, and meat for good prices. At Aldi, my favorite items to purchase are: old fashioned oats, olive oil, spices, milk, eggs, cheese, cream, butter, fruits & vegetables, beans, canned tomatoes, bacon, frozen chicken breasts, frozen vegetables, and frozen wild caught salmon.
4. Shop less
I try to shop every other week, when possible. Because the closest Aldi is 35 miles away, I can’t afford to go there every week. Some months I can only afford to go once. I shop at Walmart or Food Lion when I can’t get to Aldi. If you shop a few times a week, try only shopping once. If you shop every week, try only shopping every other week. The more you shop and the longer you stay in the store, the more money you will spend!
5. Buy in bulk
This is something we have recently started doing with certain items. I purchase wheat, oats, sucanat, some spices, popcorn, sea salt, and a few other things in bulk at a place a few hours away from us. We only get over there 3 or 4 times a year, so I try and stock up on what I’ll need until the next time we can go. If you have Amish stores near you or other places that sell items in bulk, check them out and see if the prices are good.
6. Use a cash envelope
We have been using a cash envelope system for groceries for almost two years. I blogged about that previously, but I will reiterate how helpful it has been for us! It has kept me accountable to my budget (you can’t spend cash you don’t have!) and it has allowed me to save the “extra” money I have each week towards bulk purchases, stocking up, or extra “fun” items (food for holidays, treats for our family, etc.). We are still hoping to transition to using a cash envelope system for more line items in our budget because of how well it has worked for groceries.
So how about you? What ways does your family save on shopping for groceries?