For many of us, the grocery bill is one of the biggest monthly expenses. In fact, in may be second only to the mortgage. Even though our income may stay the same, grocery prices seem to rise. But take heart. We do have some control over what we spend at the grocery store. Here are four ways to keep food spending under control. They may seem time-consuming at first, but if you follow them, I think it will help you to save money in the long run.
1. Make a Grocery Budget
For the next several weeks, keep all your sales receipts from the grocery store and track how much you are spending. You will probably see a pattern in the items you buy on a regular basis and what they normally cost. Use this information to create your own personal grocery budget for a week or a month. Set aside this amount for groceries and be careful not to go over that limit.
After you are comfortable with this plan, see if you can cut your budget by a little each month. This could be $20 or as little as $5. Try to cut a little more the next month. Make this plan realistic and workable. Don’t deprive yourself or your family of the items that are needed. Remember, you can always increase this amount if you find you are cutting back too much.
Now that you have a good grocery budget, let’s see how you can be creative. How much are you able to purchase with this established amount? How can you get more for your money? The following tips will give some ideas.
2. Keep a Price Book
We all love bargains and sales, but how do we know if we are getting a good deal? How do you know if the store advertisement is really saving you money? The answer is to keep a price book. I know this may sound tedious, but it really isn’t that bad once you get started. And the money you save will be well worth the initial time you put into it.
This doesn’t have to be complicated. It can simply be kept in a notebook, a phone app, Evernote or other notebook software, or even an excel spreadsheet. Write in the regular prices of the items you buy the most often. You will be able to see which store has certain products at the cheapest price, and whether a sale is really a sale. If you shop for some grocery items online, this will also be a quick reference to see if you are saving any money by doing that.
Your price book will come in handy when you browse through weekly store flyers. Are the sales listed worth driving to different stores to take advantage of the bargains? Will coupons help, or is the item still more expensive than the store brand or generic?
3. Make a List of Some Frugal Dishes
Remember, when making changes, small ones are the way to go. You don’t have to completely overhaul your meal plans. Think of a few inexpensive dishes that your family enjoys. They could be rice and beans, a big pot of soup or chili, even grilled cheese and tomato soup. Often meatless recipes are the least expensive. You can also reduce the amount of meat in a recipe rather than removing it altogether.
Now these frugal meals don’t have to be served every day. Enjoy them a few days a month. Incorporate them with using up leftovers and you may see a big difference in your grocery bill.
4. Cut Out Unhealthy or Unnecessary Extras
Before you head out to the store make a list and stick to it. All of those tempting extras at the ends of aisles or in the bakery section add up very fast. Get in the habit of skipping these additions unless you have a really good reason to buy them. You could also jot down the impulse items you were tempted to buy, but didn’t. Write down how much each one cost. You don’t have to do this every time. Once is probably enough to shock you into how much you saved by not buying the extras.
By following these suggestions, you may start to see some substantial savings on a weekly basis. The extra money can go in a savings account, go toward paying down some bills or credit cards, or anything else you wish.