Food costs are one of the highest expenses for most households usually falling right under housing expenses. This is why it’s so common to have a grocery budget and attempt to stick to it.
Even when you make a list and head to the grocery store with every intention of sticking to your budget, you may see something new or realize you forgot a few items and your cart starts to get heavier and heavier. Before you know it, at checkout you’ve gone over the budget and it’s a continuous habit every time to you to the store.
If you’re constantly going over your grocery budget and spending way more than you intend on food each month, don’t beat yourself up because you need to eat and nutritional, quality food is a must. On the contrary, don’t give up and settle for your over-the-top grocery budget.
There are plenty of ways to cut your grocery spending without having to compromise great food. While you’ve already probably heard of the common techniques like writing a strict list, buying items on sale, and using coupons, I wanted to talk about some other techniques that aren’t so widely used or considered.
1) Start Your Own Garden
The local farmer’s market is a great place to save money on certain food items, but you can produce similar foods at your home as well. Growing your own produce is one of the best ways to save money at the grocery store. By starting a garden, you’ll eat healthier and have less to pick up at the store.
You can grow as little or as much as you want but either way, you’ll be providing your family with delicious fruits and vegetables for a fraction of what you’ll be asked to pay at the store for those items. Starting a garden does require a few start-up costs, but when harvest rolls around you’ll be more fresh organic produce for less money.
2) Cook in Batches with a Crock Pot
Crock pots are too underrated these days. They’re great for soups and stews, but you can also cook various different meals in a crock pot as well like lasagna, enchiladas, mac and cheese, chicken and many other foods. The best thing about using a crock pot or slow cooker is that you just throw your ingredients in the pot and leave it alone for a few hours.
You don’t have to spend a ton of time preparing and stirring your food and making sure it doesn’t burn. A crock pot takes care of all of this making meal preparation so much easier.
To cook meals in batches, you’ll need a large crock pot and you can find this at almost any retailer that sells kitchen and home appliances. Here is a list of more than 100 crockpot recipes to help get your creative wheels turning. Whichever meal you decide to go with, use all your ingredients and freeze the left overs for a future date (either later in the week or the following week).
This method of cooking will allow you to use up all the food in your refrigerator instead of letting it go bad, plus you’ll have a few extra meals stashed away for the nights when you either don’t have time or don’t want to cook.
The reason why most of us go over on our food budget is because we love convenience but unfortunately, convenient meals and foods cost a fortune at grocery stores. Using your crock pot to cook meals in batches combats the price of expensive convenience food without compromising a delicious meal.
3) Buy Snacks in Bulk
I’m sure we all have at least one major snacker in our household. Trying to cut out snacks from your budget is unrealistic because they are just a natural part of our diet and food preferences. Plus they’re great for lunches. No one just eats breakfast, lunch and dinner with nothing in between.
Packaged snacks can be costly though and take up a large portion of your grocery bill. To avoid this, stick to purchasing snacks in bulk and making your own at home (fruit salads, baked goods etc).
Stores like Costco and Sam’s Club always sell snacks in bulk for a fraction of the costs other stores sell them for. Bulk and wholesale grocery stores are often trying to appeal to business owners and resellers who want to get more bang for their buck when buying multiple snacks and food items.
Regular shoppers like you and me can take advantage of this by purchasing snacks in bulk to last several weeks as opposed to spending several dollars for smaller portions and packages that will be gone in a few days.
4) Store Price Match Policy
If you eat meat, price matching can help you save a ton on those costs. Not to mention, with price matching you can purchase everything at one store instead of having to go to various different locations to purchase different meats that are on sale.
Price matching occurs when a specific store offers to match the price of any competitor ad if it’s lower than what they offer. Generally, there are some underlying rules that apply. In my area, the stores tend not to honor ads from stores that are more than 30 miles away so you can’t show them sales from a store that is way out of town or in another state. Most of the time, the store will honor the price on the ad and you can purchase your items for less.
You can price match on various different types of foods along with non-food items but this technique is great for meat because it can get so expensive.
5) Try Frozen Seafood Instead of Fresh
Frozen seafood cost much less than fresh seafood and it’s usually just as fresh. Seafood at the counter may have very well been frozen first and then thawed and put in the window for sale. Freezing food doesn’t strip it of its nutritional value.
I buy shrimp, tilapia, cod and other firsh frozen all the time and it tastes just as fresh when I cook it. The only difference in taste that I noticed was with salmon. To me it’s in a class all by itself. To eat canned or frozen salmon I feel like it’s an acquired taste but fresh salmon is super expensive so it’s a rate treat for my family.
6) Check Yourself Out When Shopping
Do you use self-checkout at all? If you do, I’m sure it’s only when you have a small handful of items to purchase. If you haven’t yet, I’d encourage you to checkout your own groceries the next time you go shopping. Some stores like Jewel Osco have a few full-sized self-checkout stations instead of those smaller ones.
According to a study from IHL Consulting Group, impulse purchases dropped by 32% for women and about 17% for men when shoppers used the self-checkout line instead of a staffed checkout. Their reasoning for this decrease was that self-checkouts usually operate faster and there are less tempting items to look at and purchase.
I also believe that scanning your own items will help you see what you’re actually spending money on and how it adds up. It’s also time consuming to stand there scanning everything and when it comes to looking up and weighing your items, self-checkouts really put you to work to say the least. Knowing that you are going to have to scan all your items and see your total go over budget may help motivate you to avoid impulse and unplanned purchases better at the grocery store.
What does your grocery budget look like and how do you try to save on food? Which one of these techniques are you most likely try?