Just about a year ago, I told you about my golden guidelines for a spending plan. Here’s my breakdown— and of course, there’s alliteration involved: of what you spend, 70% should go to Essentials like rent, utilities, car payments, and so on, 15% should go to Extras— which, of course, is the fun stuff, like vacations, eating out with friends, that jacket you have your eye on, and the last 15% is for your Endgame— and that’s retirement savings, a college fund for your kids, a new roof for your house, the big expenses that won’t hit until the distant future. Pretty simple right?
Within that category of the Essentials, the biggest expense is likely your rent or mortgage; the second largest expense is probably food.
Food is a critical expense; you need it to survive… and that’s what makes it such a sneaky financial blindspot. You go to the grocery store and you think, “girl’s gotta eat!”— so you spend $25 on saffron because Bon Appetit told you to. Fast forward to dinner time, and you just spent more on groceries than you would have if you had gone out to eat. That stops today!
You already know the common budgeting advice (coupon-clipping or using coupon apps, buying generic, and meal planning), but if you’re looking to level-up your budgeting game, I have some fresh tips for you.
I want to make myself extremely clear here: I am not saying that you should buy less food than you need. That is not how to budget. In fact, if you’re budgeting correctly at the grocery store, you should be able to buy exactly as much food as you need.
So, let’s get into it. Here are my eight favorite ways to save money at the grocery store.
1. Get Blue Apron, or a similar meal kit. You’re surprised to hear me say this, aren’t you? You thought I would tell you that the only way to save on food is to do your own grocery shopping— no meals out, and no food delivery service. But with a subscription service like Blue Apron, you can easily make a budget because your weekly food spending will be pretty much the same every week. Plus, with gas prices right now, it might be cheaper to have meal kits delivered and stay at home.
2. If you are shopping in-store, don’t shop at eye level. Grocers tend to put the most expensive stuff at eye level. Brands actually pay for that placement, because products sitting pretty at eye-level are what shoppers focus on first. So squat down or go on your tippy toes to find the best deals.
3. Rethink buying in bulk. You may think big bulk buys save money… but do you really need all that? A 10lb tub of peanut butter… really? Because, let’s be real: when we buy in bulk, we often end up throwing out the excess.
Americans throw away around $165 billion worth of perfectly good food every year. In fact, 40% of all the food in the United States today goes uneaten. Are you guilty of this? I mean, it’s not that hard to do, right? You go grocery shopping without a list and you buy random ingredients that don’t actually work with anything you have at home. Or, you find a new recipe that you just have to try. So, you go grocery shopping again and all the food you got on your last trip gets pushed to the No-Man’s-Land section of your fridge.
Don’t overbuy and think that you’re saving. Just because it seems like a deal doesn’t mean it’s a deal for you.
4. Leave the kids at home. Sorry, parents– I know this sounds harsh— but you know what I’m talking about. With the kids at home, you can focus on the task at hand: comparing prices and getting quality food for good meal prep. Kids begging for expensive, unhealthy items derails that mission faster than you can say “Fruit Roll-Ups.”
5. Eat healthier. Quick: what’s cheaper, an apple or a bag of Cheetos? Sadly for us snackers out there, it’s the apple. Meat is often the most expensive item so it might be a good time to try plant-based. Studies have shown that buying healthy food and cooking at home (as opposed to “cheap” fast food and prepared meals) are actually less expensive in the long run: a typical family of four will spend nearly $30 for a meal at the drive-through window, while a basic and nutritious meal of rice, beans and fresh vegetables makes enough for a few days’ worth of left overs for less than $10. Winner, winner, tofu dinner! Plus, you’ll skip those hospital bills that you may incur if you get a kidney stone from all that salt or, if your whole body turns Cheeto-orange.
6. Negotiate at the store. Yes, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: everything is negotiable. If a perishable item is nearing its sell-by date, ask for a discount! The worst thing the cashier could say is no, so why not try?
7. Stalk social media. We all know how to Instagram-stalk in our personal lives, now do it for the brands you like to save money! And sign-up for your favorite grocery stores or restaurant’s email list. I’d recommend setting up a separate email for promotions and loyalty programs, so you’re not bombarded every time you log onto email.
8. Order curbside pickup. This helps you stick to what you need and aren’t tempted by the candy aisle at checkout. Especially do this if you’re hangry! Plus this saves you a ton of time and we all know what time is…
Leave a Reply