Groceries have become more expensive over the course of the last year, and families are starting to feel the impact. Due to inflation and supply shortages, prices continue to skyrocket while budgets have remained the same. I have been on a thrifty budget for a family of four for a while, and I’d love to share what I’ve learned to help other families save money.
Tracking groceries can seem daunting and confusing at times. Keeping up with receipts gets annoying after you have to make unforeseen trips to pick up things you forgot or that are last minute. Running out of toilet paper, paper towels and laundry detergent in the same week feels like your budget is disintegrating right in front of you! However difficult it can be, creating a flexible, capable budget will provide more freedom to families who are struggling in the current economy.
When I first sat down to focus on going thrifty on food, I looked at how much we have total for the month to spend on groceries broken down week by week. I then use my calendar to see if there are weekends where we are traveling or have planned events for dinner where I won’t need groceries for meals. Once I figure out how many meals of groceries we need for that week, I divide it to get a rough idea of how much each meal should cost. Some weeks if I need to buy more snacks or toiletries, then the price per meal needs to be less. Other weeks we don’t have any external events, and we need a larger grocery budget. Now, that we know how much we can spend per week, it’s time for tips!
- Grocery Store Apps. I love using my grocery store for three reasons. I put everything I want in my cart on the app. That way, I can map out everything I’m getting before I go in and make sure I’m staying within budget. Then, I use the cart on the app as my list when I go inside. And if I don’t know where something is I can look at the details and find the exact aisle. Technically, the cart portion of the app is supposed to be the process for grocery pickup and sometimes I do that, but I have found the prices are usually 10 cents cheaper inside the store than what they are listed for on the app, so it saves a little bit of money!
- Coupons. I’m definitely not an expert at couponing, but I have started using them a lot more lately. I love looking at the coupons either in the app or the handout they have available right inside the grocery store. I have learned that a lot of brands run the same coupon every couple of weeks. And when I find a really good deal on something, I’ll usually double up and freeze the extras we won’t use that week. I also only grab coupons for things we need. There are so many good deals but if I’m buying something just because it has a coupon and for no other reason, then I’m not really saving money.
- Leftovers. I’d say the most expensive meal in the day is dinner. In order to save a lot on the grocery budget (not to mention effort and energy), we plan about three dinners a week and each dinner will have at least one night’s worth of leftovers too. This really saves money when you are breaking down what each meal should cost for your budget. If there is a meal you want to go more elaborate with, then even out the extra cost with some simple cheap meals. We eat rice and beans at least three times a month. We always dress it up a bit so it doesn’t feel so monotonous. Herbs and citrus always elevate any dish, plus they are super cheap and add a lot of vibrant colors. And with the money we save doing that, I can spend on salmon or a higher-cost dinner. The seventh meal we do every week is always frozen pizza. We hardly ever go out to eat, especially for dinner. It saves us a lot of money.
- Only shop when you are in the right mindset. I was able to keep a thrifty budget for one month. It didn’t matter what day I went, how many times I went. I kept a running tally of how much I spent, I used a calculator at the store, and I used the app, with coupons. I was able to fit in some extra stuff most trips just from using the app, coupons and a calculator, but I ran out of motivation after one month. Now, before I go in, I have to get my mind right to stay focused. It only takes one trip to the grocery store to ruin the whole month’s budget. I have learned I can’t go in if I’m hungry or if I’m just in a spending mood. It sounds silly to set parameters on your mindset for the grocery store, but I promise it really does help!
In conclusion, there is still a way to budget and shop for groceries in a thrifty way. Grocery shopping in this kind of financial environment can be challenging, but there is hope! By keeping a flexible budget, it provides more freedom for families and relieves stress at the end of the month that can be caused by overspending. I hope these tips can help someone and I know you’ll find your own tips and tricks in no time. I’d love to hear how you save money budgeting for groceries and grocery shopping!