It’s no secret that the cost of feeding yourself or your family is on the rise. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Expenditures Survey, the average American household spent nearly $4,500 a year on groceries in 2018, up 2.3 percent from 2017 figures. Eating a well-balanced and nutritious diet is a struggle for many families, but armed with some tips and a solid budget, you can cut your monthly grocery bill in half and all it takes is a little planning.
Read More: The Average Budget for Food for One Person
Don’t Shop Hungry
You may have heard that going grocery shopping while you’re hungry can be disastrous for your food budget. When you’re hungry, you’re more likely to make impulse purchases or buy less-than-healthy items such as processed foods and snacks. It may not seem like a big deal, but when every penny counts, shopping while hungry can cause you to spend more than you need. Having something in your stomach while you shop not only helps keep you on track with your budget, it also means you’re more likely to make better food choices.
Buy in Bulk
It isn’t enough to tell people to buy their food in bulk, they need to know which foods are best to buy in bulk. Things like dry goods, spices, meat, canned goods and fruits or vegetables are your best bet to stock up your food pantry and help your grocery dollar stretch. Non-perishable items, such as rice or canned goods, store well and will help round out your meals for less. Consider freezing bulk perishable items so you always have something on hand to prepare a meal and so nothing goes to waste.
However, before you consider purchasing items in bulk, you need to be sure you have enough space and use for what you’re buying. Buying 10 pounds of apples when your family doesn’t like apples isn’t going to help your budget, even if you get them on sale, but sticking to items you use frequently will keep the waste at bay while saving you money in the long run.
Use Seasonal Ingredients
Cooking with seasonal fruits and vegetables saves you money because not only are you purchasing something at its peak of freshness, you’re also purchasing it at its peak of production and availability which translates into lower costs overall. When produce is in season locally, it also is less likely to travel great distances to arrive at the grocery store and this helps keep the price down as well. You can also purchase and freeze or preserve excess seasonal items on sale for use later on when they’re not in season.
Prep Meals in Advance
If you’re the type of person who doesn’t relish a trip to the market, then prepping your meals in advance can save you both time and money, as long as you have the available space for storing them. Doing one or two large shopping trips per month, then preparing and storing meals, lets you take advantage of sales and provides an opportunity to stock up. If you are shopping weekly, you’re likely spending more on your overall grocery bill than if you were to shop less frequently. When you prepare your meals in advance, you’ll always have something in the refrigerator or freezer for those times you’re too tired to prepare a meal. This means you’re less likely to go out and purchase fast foods that can be a huge drain on your monthly family budget.
Use Store Circulars and Coupons
It may seem like a no-brainer to use coupons and store circulars to save money when you shop, but getting in the habit of using them every time you shop will go a long way when you’re grocery shopping on a budget. If you’re accustomed to shopping at the same stores, consider downloading their app and joining their loyalty programs. Store apps allow you to clip digital coupons, create shopping lists and view the circular before you go to the market. You can also scour your local Sunday newspaper for more print coupons, or look for coupons online. Signing up for manufacturer or store mailing lists can also deliver coupons directly to your inbox to help you save even more.
Eat Less Meat
Meat is expensive, and the more of it you eat, the more your grocery bill will be. True, you can stock up on meat when you find it on sale, but incorporating more meatless meals can greatly reduce your monthly grocery bill without any added effort. Even if you’re an avowed meat-eater, replacing a few meals a week with vegetarian options is a healthy, cost-effective way to get a handle on your food budget that you can feel good about.
Buy Less Processed Foods
One way to learn how to grocery shop on a budget is to make more of what you eat yourself because processed foods are often costlier than their homemade counterparts. By shopping around the perimeter of the market, rather than the middle aisles where the processed foods are generally kept, you will incorporate healthier whole foods into your diet while keeping your overall food budget in check. Another bonus of perimeter shopping is that many grocery stores will often place sale items at the end of aisles to catch a shopper’s attention, so you may find deals you would have otherwise missed.
You can cut your grocery bill in half without depriving your family of nutritious and delicious meals – all you need to do is plan your budget and stick to it. Be frugal, avoid impulse shopping and avail yourself of all the digital coupons and loyalty programs out there.
Read More: How to Calculate a Food Budget
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Consumer Expenditures Bureau o Labor Statistics: Consumer Expenditures – 2018 2018
- MSN: Do People Actually Buy More Groceries When They Shop Hungry?
- Clark.com: Buying These 9 Foods in Bulk Will Save You Big Bucks
- Insider: 10 Tips for Saving Money on Produce
- MarketWatch: How Eating Less Meat Could Save You More Money
- Families.com: Does Shopping the Perimeter Save Money at the Grocery Store?
Tara Thomas is a Los Angeles-based writer and avid world traveler. Her articles appear in various online publications, including Sapling, PocketSense, Zacks, Livestrong, Modern Mom and SF Gate. Thomas has a Bachelor of Science in marine biology from California State University, Long Beach and spent 10 years as a mortgage consultant.