When looking through your monthly expenses, you may find a large portion of money goes to groceries. While this may feel unavoidable (we all need to eat!), there are ways to help reduce grocery costs and stick to a budget. With the tips below, you may find grocery shopping on a budget is more manageable than you originally thought.
Building your grocery budget
If you're building your grocery budget for the first time, it may help to look at what you've spent in the past few months. Whether it's through bank statements or money management apps, knowing how much you normally spend at the grocery store each month can give you a realistic place to start.
Once you have those numbers, you may want to average them out to see approximately how much you're normally spending on groceries. It's then up to you to decide whether you want to maintain that average or if you think you could benefit from reducing it. You may also want to consider how often you plan to grocery shop, such as once a week or every two weeks. Once you decide that, you can divide your monthly budget by the number of times you plan to shop.
An important thing to remember is that everyone's budget is going to be different. Try and keep your own finances and spending habits in mind as you figure out your grocery budget.
Before you shop
If you're hoping to grocery shop on a budget, there are a few things you may want to do before even hitting the store that can help you stick to the amount of money you've set aside.
- Plan your meals. Knowing exactly what you need to buy to get through the week can help keep you from buying extra or unnecessary items. It may help to consider meal prepping and cooking individual recipes in bulk.
- Consider a store discount card. These usually give you access to sale prices and special discounts.
- Consider opting into receiving store emails. Many grocery stores will send out a newsletter with coupons, free offers or other extra discounts.
- Check for manufacturer's coupons. Once you have a grocery list (or need ingredient inspiration), check online for coupons from brands on specific items. You never know what you may find!
- Explore different stores. One grocery store might regularly have better sales on produce while another might have better sales on protein. If it makes sense in terms of distance and transportation costs, consider seeing at which store you can get items for the best price.
While you shop
Once you're in store with your list and coupons in hand, there are a few more things you can do to get groceries on a budget.
- Try the store brand. For many prepackaged items at a grocery store, there's a less expensive “generic" store brand version of the item. These are usually sitting on the shelf right next to the name brand item and may taste very similar.
- Be flexible. If you were planning to have Brussels sprouts with your dinner this week but you see that green beans are much cheaper, it could be helpful to consider a change in plans.
- Try bulk shopping. For things that you may use a lot of, such as rice, flour or spices, consider buying in bulk. This can save you money in the long run, as the price per unit is generally lower when buying in bulk.
- Stick to your list. Try not to wander off course from your list to prevent buying things you don't need. It also may be a good idea to eat before you grocery shop, as shopping on an empty stomach may make you more susceptible to impulse purchases.
Other budget-friendly grocery tips
There are a few other ways you can get the most bang for your buck when getting groceries on a budget.
- Learn how to preserve food properly. If you're able to make your food last longer through canning or proper storage techniques, you won't have to replace it as often.
- Consider a wholesale membership. If you're a single person grocery shopping, this may not be worth it. But if you're feeding a family or you and your roommates go in on groceries together, it may make sense to pay for a wholesale membership to help save money on items you go through a lot of.
- Try a credit card. You may want to consider paying with a credit card that will reward you with cash back. For instance, Chase Freedom offers 1.5% cash back on all purchases, which you may find helps your budget in the long term.
Don't forget that a budget is a goal. Try to find ways to meet it but remember to be flexible and give yourself grace. It may take you a few months to find a way to make your grocery budget work for you, or there may be a few months where extenuating circumstances means it won't. One of the great things about a budget is it can be tweaked and changed so that it meets your needs.
Grocery shopping on a budget doesn't have to be scary. With a few preparation steps and smart shopping, you'll find you can make a budget grocery list that works for your life.