We have become pros at grocery shopping on a budget. One of the hardest places we found to stick to our budget was buying groceries. Once we started to implement these ideas we had much more success staying within our budget.
1. Plan Ahead. This is the first and most important tip. The same way you have to make a plan to reach any goal you have, you have to make a plan for the grocery store. Most people go in without a list or a meal plan. Big mistake. Failing to plan will also require more trips to the grocery because chances are you forgot something. Make a grocery list and meal plan before you go shopping, more on that in a bit.
2. Shop with Cash!. A profound lesson we learned while taking Financial Peace University is that when you shop with plastic, you are emotionally disconnected. When you shop with cash, you can feel and see that that money is finite. That within itself causes you to buy only what you really need and you are less likely to impulse buy.
3. Meal Plans! We know this sounds like a total downer, but this saves you from having to make up stuff while you are strolling through the aisles. Its also helps you save money because it gives you the opportunity to meal plan with what is on sale. We check the circular (ad) of our favorite grocery store and try to come up with dinner and or lunches for the week based on what is on sale. When you only buy what is on sale, it has a major impact on sticking to your budget. Once you have your meal plan finished, complete your shopping list. Here is the kicker, you actually have to stick to this meal plan. If you stick to it , this will keep you from ordering take out because you already have your plan. Don’t let cravings or a long week derail you. If you just don’t feel like cooking, make some scrambled eggs or eat a bowl of cereal. Yes, we said that!
4. Eat Less Meat. I know this one is hard for some people or families. There are some people who don’t think it is a meal without a serving of meat. But here is the thing, if you are eating good quality meat, it’s expensive. We know too much about what goes on behind the scenes at a lot of these major meat manufacturers. That is what made us re-think the kind of meat we buy. Now, we only buy responsibly raised meat and or seafood and because it’s expensive, we might only have it a few times a week. Also, pretty much all of our lunches for the week are vegetarian. Eggs are your best friend, they are the cheapest form of animal protein you can buy. Incorporate more eggs into your diet to make up for the meat. Also, if you have someone in your family who is really resistant to cutting back the meat, just show them a few food documentaries. They will be so grossed out by what they learn they won’t want to touch a piece of meat unless it is responsibly raised.
5. Get Creative. While trying to stay on a grocery budget we have been pushed to become much more creative with our meals. Re-think what you think to be dinner meals or lunch meals. Might I suggest breakfast for dinner. Try drawing inspiration from other cultures and countries. This is really what gets our creative juices flowing, because sometimes you can’t come up with a meal idea to save your life. Also, other countries do vegetarian food so much better than us. We are very meat centered here in the states, so certain dishes we normally eat are just not the same without meat. This is where we will look to other places, such as the Middle East or India for vegetarian ideas. Also, looking to other cultures just helps us when we are in a rut and can’t think of anything.
6. Do you need it? Just because something is on sale doesn’t mean you have to buy it. This is something we really struggled with. When there are items we use everyday on sale, we felt the need to buy them even if we didn’t really need it at that moment. This would cause us to go over on our budget. Now I know it makes more sense to buy things when they are on sale, but when you are trying to stick to a budget, that can be derailed by buying a bunch of stuff you currently don’t need. Sometimes when you are trying to save money, you end up spending more money if you are not careful. Our rule of thumb for buying an item that is on sale that we don’t quite need at that moment, is “will we need it in one week?” If the answer is yes than we will buy it (if it fits within our budget). This keeps us from buying things that we really don’t need.
Bonus tip: We do our grocery shopping and meal planning once every week. So we only shop for meals for that week. For the sake of our sanity we can only take meal planning for 7 days at a time. It’s too overwhelming anymore than that. Also, this keeps us with fresh fruits and veggies in our fridge at all times.