How many of you have been trying to lower your grocery costs? Honestly, our groceries have gotten out of hand during the past year. Honestly, I would love to have a grand excuse on why our groceries have gotten out of hand, but there is really only one answer – business. With my husband starting a new job last year and my schedule being much fuller, we were depending on quick meals or heaven forbid, fast food. Not only did we gain all the weight back we lost from things being so stressful, but we nearly doubled, if tripled our food budget.
After going through our budget for the last three months and seeing how much we have spent on food, we decided now is the best time to lower grocery costs. I know I’m not the only one in this situation but luckily, we know how to fix it. Actually, it is pretty easy to lower grocery costs, but it does require time, patience, and a commitment.
1. Have a Meal Plan
As someone who loved cooking meals based on our moods and what I had available in the house, I have to say that meal planning was an eye opening experience that definitely helped lower grocery costs. Not only was I able to save money by planning all of our meals, I was also able to determine how long leftovers were going to realistically last us, and plan around it. By dividing out meals throughout the week, I kept us from getting leftover burnout and drastically reduce the amount of waste in our fridge. It also gets rid of those dreaded days of asking what is for dinner since my husband or I could just look at our meal plan and determine what needs defrosting from that.
To help make grocery shopping easier, I am currently using MealBoard. Not only does it color code our daily meals, it allows me to see what I can make based on inventory from our pantry, my current recipes, and creates priced shopping lists so that I have an idea how much I will be spending before I even set foot in a grocery store!
2. Check Ads
Do you check your local ads before going grocery shopping? Even though this would seem like an obvious way to lower grocery costs, most people don’t do it. I usually base where I’m shopping for the week on who has the best ads. I match my meal plan with sales and sometimes change my plans for the week based on current sales. As well, it sometimes also means I can do a little extra, like surprise my husband with fresh berry cobbler or waking up with blueberry oatmeal from the slow cooker!
Did you know that lower grocery costs could start with taking inventory of your pantry? According to the National Resources Defense Council, the average American tosses about 25% of the groceries they buy. Wow! Most of this is from over-shopping or stuffing their pantry so full that they have no clue what is actually there. Instead of giving your hard earned money to the landfill or your compost bin, take inventory of everything, including how much is left in the container/box and expiration dates. Go through this list once a month and try using up what you have as part of your meal planning.
Before I go any further, let me make one thing clear – I am not a couponer. While they can be a great way to lower grocery costs, you have to be careful. My biggest issue with them is that they usually for junk food or things we normally wouldn’t buy. That being said, I do keep coupons that I find on company websites or by writing to them.
As well, don’t forget loyalty programs. In our area, Kroger is constantly sending us coupons based on prior purchases. By matching these coupons with weekly ads, we have been able to lower the cost of many basic items – such as eggs and coffee.
5. Buy Meat Online
One of the ways I was able to drastically lower grocery costs last year was buying meat in bulk. One of the best kept secrets out there is Zaycon. They sell high quality, low priced meat to consumers by taking out the middle man. You see, all of their meat comes directly from the farm to you, meaning it comes to you fresher, and you don’t have to pay the convenience taxes of it being shipped all over the United States to your local grocery store. Instead of going to your grocery, you pick up a case of meat on scheduled dates, have it loaded in your car, and then divide it out when you get home.
The downside (if you can call it that) is that you get anywhere from 20 – 40 pounds of meat depending on what you buy. For example, you get 40 lbs of giant, fairly lean chicken breasts for $1.69/pound. Usually, I divide the chicken into 1lb – 1.5 packages for convenience and then freeze them to be used in future meals. Currently, I buy all of our chicken and ground beef from Zaycon at amazing prices, and never have to pay high prices at the grocery store! See what is available in your area from Zaycon here!
Did you know apps are another great way to lower grocery costs? Ibotta, however, is unlike any other coupon app I have found to date. It actually gives you money back on everyday purchases, including things you would buy anyways. For example, I can get $0.50 off just by buying gallon of milk (any brand) or $0.50 off any brand of bananas. With some of their deals are name brand things I would never buy, it has given us back money on things you almost never find on coupons. It is easy to save anywhere from $1 to $10 a week just by using the app and shopping wisely. You can learn more about Ibotta here!
7. Buy in Season
Another fantastic way to lower grocery costs is to buy fruits and vegetables that are in season. If you are unsure what is currently in season, check out the United States Department of Agriculture database. They have an awesome seasonal produce guide that is perfect for helping you know what you should and shouldn’t be buying right now. If it is not currently in season or on sale, consider buying it frozen.
8. Experiment with Store Brands
Did you know forgoing name brands is another way to lower grocery costs? What many companies don’t want you to know though is that sometimes the name brand and store brand are EXACTLY the same thing. Most store brands actually have name brand retailers make their products. While some change the recipe, others are almost exactly the same or sometimes better. For example, I am a huge fan of Kroger’s Simple Truth brand (their natural and organic line of products). They are much cheaper than the organic equivalent and many times, even the non-organic equivalent. Oh, and unlike most natural and organic brands, you can find coupons for these too on the Kroger website!
9. Set a Realistic Budget
Sometimes, the best way to lower grocery costs is to have a realistic budget based on your schedule and lifestyle.. Usually, healthy eating and very tight food budgets don’t go hand and hand, unless you plan very carefully.
To determine a realistic food budget for you, determine how many days you are willing to cook at home, time you can budget for cooking, and costs for necessities based on your area. Usually, by looking at your receipts and spending for the month, you can easily see where you are overspending to lower grocery costs.
10. Check Unit Prices
Make sure to check the unit price before purchasing any item at the grocery. In most stores, they put the price of the item, as well as the unit price. Most of us assume that larger, bulk items are always the best way to lower grocery costs – wrong! For example, some weeks a half gallon of milk will be cheaper per ounce than a full gallon, based on the sale unit price.
What are you doing to lower grocery costs in your own household this year? Comment below with your own tips!
Disclosure: Budget Earth did not receive monetary compensation for this post but may contain referral links or affiliate links. All opinions are my own and may differ from our readers’ opinions.
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