I have a love/hate relationship with the grocery store. I love getting fresh, healthy food for my family, I hate feeling rushed or flustered and I hate overpaying. It’s taken me a little while to get down a system that works for our family, but for a family of 4 living in California (hello overpriced everything) we spend an average of about $450 a month for all of our groceries, pet food, household items. Everything! So I’d say we’re doing ok in the spending department. There are a few things I’ve found to be the most helpful ways to save money consistently. I’m positive these things alone save us several hundred dollars so it’s worth the little bit of time you put in.
1. Go to the store without kids
Easier said than done I know! But every single time I go to the store with the kids I always end up spending more. I get rushed because I just want to get out of there, I grab things I don’t need, I forget things and have to go back again. If your kids aren’t in school yet, try to go when you have someone else to watch them if at all possible. Plus then there’s the whole peace and quiet part. Added bonus!
2. Meal Plan
I know you’ve heard it before but meal planning saves! An hour set aside each week can save you hundreds of dollars a month plus several hours each week. If you’re anything like us our schedule is all over the place each week. If I don’t take time to figure out what meals make the most sense for where we’re going to be each day then we’d be drive thru-ing it up on the daily. I try to plan meals that use some of the same ingredients so nothing gets wasted. Here’s an example of what one of our meal plans looks like.
Dinnertime is interesting in our house. Never the same! Sometimes I’m home, sometimes it’s my husband, sometimes we have activities for the kids, you know the drill! So I always write on my meal plan who is going to be where so I can plan a meal that makes sense for that night. Then I plan the recipes to go with each night, then I create my shopping list. I use this meal plan sheet from Luvibee Kids Company.
3. Shop once a week or less
A few months back we did a no spending challenge where we could only spend money on groceries, gas and bills, nothing extra. When I went back to check the numbers after the month was over to compare it to the last 6 months what I was most shocked by was how many times we had been going to the store! During our no spending month we went to the grocery store 6 times. The previous 6 months? An average of 13 times….. 13 times?!?! Why does anyone need to go to the store that much?
Let’s be real, if you forget something at the store and need to go back a couple of days later, how often do you get just the one thing you came in for? Hardly ever, right? So all of those “quick trips” to the grocery store not only take up more time in your busy schedule but they add more to your grocery budget. So we’ve adopted a weekly grocery trip philosophy. It forces us to be more organized with our meal plan so we don’t forget things, and if we run out of something then we have to live without it until our next grocery shopping trip. Out of milk? Looks like we’re having oatmeal for a few days kids! Problem solved!
4. Know your prices and rotate stores
I haven’t found one store that has the lowest prices on absolutely everything so I rotate stores and only buy things that have the best price at that particular store. But in order for you to know if something is a good price you have to have something else to compare it to. If you’re unsure what a good price is, take a small notebook with you and have a page for each of the stores you shop at and the next time you’re there jot down prices on things that you normally buy. Write down the regular price and the sale price so you can start getting a sense for what a good deal would be on that particular item. Be sure you figure out the price per unit. Especially if you shop any warehouse stores and buy in bulk! To give you an example, my kids eat yogurt like it’s going out of style. We usually get the Annie’s organic yogurt tubes and every once in a while they have them at our local Grocery Outlet at $1.49 for a pack of 8. That’s the best deal I’ve found so I stock up while I can. We go through about 12 tubes a week so I know I need to stock up and get about 6 boxes to last us the month and I just freeze them. Get the idea?
We also rotate stores. Since I have yet to find a store that has everything we need AND has the best prices we have a few we shop at and we rotate each week so we can get everything we need at the best deal. One week we go to Grocery Outlet, the next week we’ll go to Trader Joe’s and then the next week we do a Costco run. Then we start the cycle over again.
5. Convenience foods usually cost you more
I love a prepackaged dinner as much as the next girl but you will usually end up paying more for the convenience of it. Take frozen pancakes. I could buy a box of 10 for $2.99 or I could make a big batch the next time we make a weekend breakfast and then freeze the extra to have for busy weekday mornings when my kids want pancakes. Then it only costs me a fraction of a fraction of the cost of the prepackaged option. A great way to avoid paying more for convenience foods but still having the ability to make a quick meal is to make a double batch of your meal and then freeze the extra. That way you can still have quick skillet meals without paying extra for it!
Once you get a system that works for you, grocery shopping can actually be a fun challenge. I know that saving money on food puts more money towards memories with my family. No brainer!
What else do you do to save yourself money while grocery shopping? I can always use fresh ideas!