Makin' good on groceries

Posted October 5th, 2017

What’s the hardest spending category for you to stay on budget every month? For many families, it’s groceries.

It’s important, when you’re considering your monthly budget, to get honest about what you spend, where you spend, and if there’s room to do better.

Here are a few tips and tricks to help you cut down on your grocery store spending.

Create a Menu

Although it may not sound fun, especially if you are the spontaneous type when it comes to dining, creating a menu for what you plan to eat between shopping trips is one of the best ways to save money on groceries. Making a menu ensures that you will have the proper ingredients to prepare a healthy meal at home every night instead of going out to eat or ordering pizza.

Design a Standardized List
In addition to items needed to make dinner, you will likely need to purchase items for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and cleaning at the grocery store. Oftentimes, I find that I am so focused on getting what I need to cook meals that these items are forgotten. If I don’t leave them off my list completely, I buy far more than I need!

Consider keeping a standardized list of what you buy on a recurring basis, such as several boxes of cereal, a loaf of bread, diapers, and laundry detergent. This is a great time-saver, as your grocery list will always be partially completed before you even start.

Check for Sales
The grocery stores put their weekly sales ads in the local newspaper and online. Do some browsing before you make your weekly meals. If chicken is on sale…guess what’s for dinner, kids!

Leave the Kids at home
While it’s not always possible to avoid taking kids to the grocery store, running out on your own will likely save you both time and money. Kids often make requests for items that aren’t on your list and get hungry and demanding. It’s too easy and cave to cranky requests!

Purchase In-Season Produce
One way to stay healthy is by eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, fresh produce can be expensive. To keep the costs down on your produce purchases, try to stick to fruits and vegetables that are in season.

Choose a Budget-Friendly Store
If you feel pressed for time and can’t afford to spend time clipping coupons and matching them up to sales, focus more on shopping at stores that will save you the money with their generally lower prices. Walmart, for example, offers prices that are 20% less than competitors. Aldi and Trader Joe’s are also known to offer everyday low prices. If this is your method for saving money on groceries, avoid costly stores, such as Whole Foods and The Fresh Market. And

Pro-Tip: Don’t forget the Dollar Stores! Cleaning supplies, paper products, even some over-the-counter medications are much less expensive at Dollar Stores than traditional grocery stores.

Shop Monthly
The more times you hit the grocery store, the more likely it is you will succumb to impulse buys. Try shopping twice per month, rather than weekly, to see if it helps you stay focused on what you truly need.

Time Your Trip Wisely
Never shop for groceries on an empty stomach! Try to shop around 10 o’clock in the morning to avoid not only a rumbling stomach, but also the afternoon crowds. Additionally, ask your grocery’s deli and bakery if they discount meat and bread on a certain day of the week. One grocery store I frequent sells all its week-old baked goods for one cent on Wednesdays!

Only Buy What You Need
This may be the most important strategy to save money on groceries, as well as the most difficult to implement. You need self-control to resist the temptation to buy items that are not on your list.  

It's important to keep an eye on your grocery bill and what you spend over the course of a month. The numbers may surprise you! But with a bit of planning and awareness, it’s easy to keep those numbers in check.