If you have reviewed the basics of Getting Started and made the very, very wise decision to become the true master of your money’s destiny, one of your first and most important tasks will be deciding how much of your income goes towards groceries each month/pay period. DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THIS STEP!! When I first put grocery spending on my radar, I was astonished to see how much money I was wasting there every month. It blew my mind because I rarely spent over $50 per grocery run, but the problem was I was not regulating the number or necessity of those “quick trips” to the store to “grab a few things”.
Here is the good news: I have already struggled through the process of ending the G-store’s knack for capitalizing on my weakest moments (laziness, hunger, PMS, did I say laziness?), and I want to help you so your journey doesn’t have to be as bumpy or slow as mine. I have compiled a list of “Grocery Game Changers” that has decreased the amount of money I spend at the grocery store by $50 to $100 per month (previously my spending was very inconsistent). That is $500 to $1000 per year! When posed with the choice between eating expensive granola every morning or hopping on a plane that’s headed to Cancun in January, I’m choosing the beach!
The great part of this list is that I can provide you with tools that can help you save money while grocery shopping, but you have the choice to utilize them in a way that suits your lifestyle. I won’t tell you exactly what foods to buy, what grocery chain you should be shopping at, or how often you should be going. But I will tell you that these game changers work for me and save me money every month. Mold them into your own so that they help you keep your wallet fat and your belly satisfied. Granola or Cancun? The choice is yours!!
GROCERY GAME CHANGERS
- Decide on your monthly allowance for groceries. This will take some trial and error because you have to become aware of your habits (good and bad) and what you really need. Need is a funny word when it comes to food, isn’t it? Whatever number you decide on, you should be using it all by the end of each pay period—Now that I’ve found my number, I don’t think I have ever had more than $10.00 left over. If you have a lot of money left over at the end, chances are you are putting too much money towards groceries. No biggie—just pull back until you hit that number that makes you hold out on at least one thing you want (but don’t need). If you don’t feel the budget, it’s probably not a very effective budget. No pain, no gain.
- Once you decide how much you are going to spend on groceries each month, take out the cash you need each time you get paid. USE ONLY CASH FOR GROCERIES. Sticking to a grocery plan with a debit card and full checking account can be very difficult for some people. This is an easy fix: Don’t take your credit or debit cards into the grocery store. You can’t spend what you don’t have—and if you are all out of cash and you didn’t bring your plastic, you don’t have anything. End of story…and shopping trip.
- Use your brain when you are buying in bulk. Yes, buying in bulk can get you some really good deals, but you lose the deal if the food goes bad before you eat it.
- Be honest with yourself about what you are actually going to eat. Looking at all those carrots in your fridge might make you feel healthy—but does throwing them in the trashcan when they are rotten make you feel the same way? Didn’t think so.
- Don’t be afraid to take advantage of your local Farmer’s Market. You will be surrounded by fresh produce at a great price.
- Try not to shop when you are in a hurry. Impulsiveness can be fun in the right setting, but at the grocery store it usually just costs you money.
- Go beyond your microwave when it comes to cooking. Some people don’t like to cook, and that is totally understandable. But if you stop buying pre-cooked/prepared meals, you will save a lot of money. Those things are overpriced. Do a little bit of research pinterest counts as research in the recipe world), and you will find that there are a lot of easy recipes out there.
- “Healthy food is more expensive” is a BIG FAT LIE. In fact, if you really look at prices and how much bang you are going to get for your buck, healthy food is all you can afford. Did you know a box of Lucky Charms costs more than four dollars?!? I was outraged when I saw that. I can get a bag of quinoa that will help me make over 10 meals for less than a box of Lucky Charms that my boyfriend is going to finish in two days.
- Know what is in season and know how it will affect the taste and price of your favorite produce.
- Routine is good. I have my basics in stock at all times and when I know that I can spend a little less on them, I use my money to try something(s) that are outside of my basics. Even more important if I like something new, I find a way to fit it into my set budget. It’s a simple game of give and take. Your routine shouldn’t bore you; it should keep you happy. If you’re not enjoying your food, then you need to change what you buy (not how much you are spending). Quality over quantity
- Don’t shop while you are hungry.
- Be aware of your daily life and how that will affect what you eat. If you have a job that doesn’t allow you to sit down for a true lunch, buy foods you can eat on the go. If your boss expects you to go to out for lunch hour, don’t buy things that you will never put in a lunchbox. Don’t make the mistake of buying what you think you should. Buy what you need to get through your individualized day.
- Get a pen and a piece of paper. Write your list before you go to the store. Buy only what’s on your list.
- Learn how to tell yourself “no”. I’m not advocating for you to starve yourself, but in today’s culture we are prone to take more than we need and waste more than we should. Sometimes it’s important to reevaluate why we keep telling ourselves “yes”.
“Good habits are worth being fanatical about”—-John Irving
We want to hear from you: What is the most difficult part of grocery shopping for you? What are your tips for spending within your budget?