If the bill for your weekly groceries has been adding up more than you’d like, it’s time to reassess what you’re doing and make a better plan.
Do you find yourself spending more than you want every week on groceries?
Being a food lover has its downfalls. Especially if you’re always interested in trying out different types of foods and cooking new recipes, you may not paying close attention to your budget.
Follow along for tips to reduce your weekly grocery cost!
1. Know that small expenses add up.
Think of all the little things you buy here and there— coffee, sodas, movie tickets, a bag of chips, snacks while you’re shopping, little things that you don’t think matter much. But over time, they add up! If you spend $3 a day on random stuff, you’re spending over $1,000 a year on those random things.
2. Track how much you spend in one month.
Do a little experiment and see how much you are actually spending on food per month. For a whole month, save every receipt or look at you bank statement. Keep the totals on an Excel spreadsheet, and at the end of the month, total everything up. Think about where you spend food– grocery store, restaurants, school lunches, soda machines, popcorn at movies, coffee, snacks.
When you have your totals – what surprises you? Did you spend more than you thought you would? Do you need to eat out as much as you do? Are your recipes that you choose for weeknight meals too expensive?
3. Don’t shop when you’re hungry.
Avoid shopping when you’re hungry, which is when you tend to stray off your list. Shop when the store isn’t crowded. Grocery shopping can become a huge hassle when you can barely make it through the aisles, or there’s a long line at checkout. Leave the family at home if they tend to distract you or beg for items not on the list!
4. Know where to buy your weekly groceries.
It may be most efficient to shop at one nearby store with reasonable prices– because it takes time to go to different stores. You can save the most money by making a menu and a list rather than shopping at several stores.
- Warehouse stores are less expensive, however it is tempting to buy bulk packages of things you don’t need just because they’re cheap.
- Convenience stores, such as ones close to gas stations or on busy corners, will charge higher prices for their foods. If all you need is milk or bread, it may be easier to pick these items up here instead of going into a larger store and risk buying extra things you don’t need.
- Farmer’s markets are a great place to get local produce, but sometimes will charge more. You may be willing to pay more to support the local economy and buy more nutritious foods.
5. Consider all forms of fruits and vegetables.
Fruits and vegetables can have similar nutrient values, whether they’re fresh, frozen or canned. Buy fruits and vegetables in season, and freeze extra fruit. Choose smaller bags of apples and oranges when they’re sold by the pound. Pre-cut fruit is at least two or three times more expensive. When buying canned fruit, make sure it’s juice or water packed– and drain it well. Compare the brands, package sizes and pricing by unit.
Vegetables are best when bought in season as well– they cost less and are at their peak flavor. When not in season, buy frozen or canned. When choosing canned vegetables, make sure you choose the “no salt added” version and rinse well. When choosing frozen veggies, make sure to check the label for sodium content.
6. Eat more beans and smaller portions of meat.
Animal protein tends to be the most expensive part of a meal, so opt for plant-based proteins, which is usually less expensive. One of the cheaper forms of protein are beans. Dried or canned beans are great meat substitutes and provide fiber, protein and vitamins and minerals. Dried beans are dirt cheap but take more planning – soaking, cooking, storing. Canned beans are higher in sodium, but it is easy to find “no salt added” canned beans now.
7. Look at the unit price.
The unit price will be posted on the shelf below the food item, which will tell you the cost per pound, quart, ounce or other unit of weight. This is great when comparing different brands or sizes of food items. Choose the food with the lowest price per unit to save money.
Adapted from the original article.
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Emily Weeks, RDN, LD is a nationally-recognized nutrition and culinary expert based in Fort Worth, TX. Emily believes the path to a nourished, happy life is to develop a healthy relationship with food, our minds and our bodies. She focuses on helping others achieve a life of balance and harmony through mindfulness and nourished bodies. Read more from Emily at Zen and Spice.