When it comes to grocery shopping buying food can take a large bite out of your paycheck. We all know that eating out is expensive, but when you go shopping every day is home cooking any cheaper? There are ways to make your meals more affordable, stretch further, and be tasty too. Here are some ways to save money on your groceries without having to eat only Raman noodles or beans and cornbread:
- Plan Ahead – One of the biggest things you can do to make a positive impact on your grocery shopping is to plan ahead. I always spend one day a week, usually Sunday, planning my meals for the week. Then after work Monday I go shopping. By planning ahead I spend less time at the store trying to figure out what I need. I always make a list and try to make sure that all the meals are properly balanced. If I know I will be late getting home or I will have something to do after work I plan a meal that day that I can cook ahead of time or heat up quickly. This way I avoid the temptation of stopping to get something already prepared, like fast food or pizza. While it is not bad to eat out once in a while it can quickly add up, both in price and in calories. By having a list I am less tempted to grab easy to prepare items that are unhealthy or expensive. I can also make sure I have all the ingredients I need for every meal before I start cooking. There is nothing more frustrating or disheartening then having to stop mid-preparation to get something you forgot. Planning ahead also lets me look up interesting new recipes that I would like to try instead of eating the same old things every week.
- Shop Once – As part of my effort to cut down and plan ahead, I only shop once a week. Some people can go only once a month, especially if they live far from the stores, but I can only manage once a week right now. By shopping at one time I am less likely to make impulse purchases and go over my budget. I also make sure I am not hungry or tired when I go shopping. Shopping early in the week means that I am not in a hurry or too stressed. That way I can make rational decisions about what I really need to buy. It has saved me a lot of time and money not having to go to the store every day or every other day. Even grabbing a gallon of milk often costs over twenty five dollars once you spot another item or two you desperately need.
- Look for Sales –When I go on my weekly shopping trip and make up my plans I always look at the sales. My mailbox is always stuffed full of sales flyers from my local grocery stores. Taking a look at them I can see what ingredients are on sale. Then I can not only shop at the right store with the best prices for what I need but I can also plan my menu around the sale items. Many stores also let you take ads and show them the sales and they will match their competitor’s prices. That makes it much easier than hopping from store to store for the best deals. If you can plan your menu around what is on sale then you will not only save a lot of money but you also will have a varied diet and get to try all kinds of new foods you may not have tried before. I have found some of my family’s new favorite dishes with this method!
- Shop Seasonally and Locally –Thankfully many stores put on sale what is seasonally available. Like the fact that berries are cheaper in summer and pumpkins are cheaper in fall, many stores sales coincide with the seasons. This makes it easy to shop and eat both seasonally and locally. Many stores support local farmers and the produce they have is both fresh and tasty because it has not had to be shipped around the country. Farmers markets often have great deals on local and seasonal produce that is very nutritious and delicious for your family. Eating seasonally is good for you too as many of the plants that are producing during each season have just the right vitamins and minerals that you need during that time. Seasonal cooking is also a fun way to get in the spirit of the season. Think warm and filling soups in winter and light and citrusy snacks in summer. By shopping and cooking according to the season you can live a healthier lifestyle and find fun new recipes.
- Use Coupons –I think we all can figure out what good coupons can do. There are all kinds of coupons both online and in your mailbox and newspaper. However you should not go overboard with couponing. Many coupons are used for processed items that are really not that good for you. Instead try to sign up for store deals and coupons for items like dairy and produce. Many stores offer discount days or coupons for those items only if you sign up.
- Eat Less Meat –Another great way to save money on groceries is to cut down on the amount of meat you eat. Meat is expensive when you think about it and we tend to cook and eat far more than we really need. Try to cut your meat in half for many recipes and you will never notice the difference. You can also substitute things like soy, beans, rice, and so on. These filling meat alternatives are much more affordable and healthier for you. I often add beans, rice, or oatmeal to my hamburger dishes to stretch the meat and no one even notices! Cutting meat thin or in pieces is another great way to make it look like there is more to it.
- Fill Up on Vegetables – Speaking of cutting down on meat, you should replace meat with vegetables as your main dish. This can be hard to think about, but it is actually quite easy. By serving and eating the vegetables first you can fill up on those before you ever get to the meats. Think about serving a salad course before the rest of the meal. Your family will be hungry enough to eat all the vegetable’s while they wait and then will be too full to pig out on the less healthy portions. You can also serve fresh fruit for dessert to cut out unhealthy calories and save money too!
- Skip the Processed Foods –Last but not least, skip all the processed foods. I know it is easy to eat prepackaged and processed foods but it is not healthy for you. In fact although they look cheap they are actually full of junk calories that offer little nutritional value. It is better to spend money on good food that will satisfy you rather than junk food that will leave you craving more. Prepackaged meals are usually not as healthy or as bountiful as your family needs. Stick to making your own healthy meals and you will be better off.
As you can see, saving money on your groceries is not hard. It just takes some prior planning and preparation to make your grocery trip successful. Remember to check what is in season and on sale, make a list and stick to it! Your grocery bill will go down and your family’s healthy will improve. It is a win-win for everyone. Happy shopping!
This is a guest post by Liz Nelson from WhiteFence.com. She is a freelance writer and blogger from Houston. Questions and comments can be sent to: liznelson17 [@]gmail[dot]com.