While some readers may be more concerned with figuring out ways to increase average return on investments in their 401(k) or 403(b), or finding ways to increase their income so they can pad their emergency fund, the truth of the matter is that many of us need to start at ground zero: learning how to save money and spend what we have wisely.
I’ve run into a myriad of situations where a family’s grocery budget is extremely out of whack, and furthermore, is the main culprit as to why they struggle making ends-meet on a monthly basis.
While a monthly grocery budget will vary widely based on income and family size, I’d estimate that it can cost a family anywhere between $200 and $1,000/month to put food on the table and ease the appetite of the gorillas dressed in teenager costumes.
So, if you feel your grocery budget is way too high or if you need to save more money on groceries, implement these 6 easy tips.
1. Cut the Snacks
I was a growing kid once-upon-a-time; you know, one of those gorillas dressed up in a teenager’s costume that ate their single mother out of house and home. I played sports, burnt thousands of calories a day, and grew like a weed to 6’4″ tall.
Sure, I needed to eat (a lot of) food, but it doesn’t justify all of the crap that I really put into my body. The sodas, chips, pickles, pieces of block cheese, and other food that my mom bought to “hold me over until dinner” weren’t really necessary.
The truth is that people eat from anxiety, boredom, and sometimes merely out of lack of discipline. While there is nothing wrong with a little snack food, the more you have stocked up in the house, the more that’s going to be eaten.
Cut back on how much extra food you buy and be amazed at how well the family manages. If they burn through the 3 bag of chips before the weeks out: tough cookies.
2. Plan a Menu
We personally were able to save $100/month simply by getting organized and creating a weekly meal plan. Unfortunately this takes discipline, effort, and a time commitment. Understanding this, my wife and I will get together on Saturday or Sunday morning, look at our calendars, and create a menu accordingly.
By creating a meal plan and a grocery list accordingly, you ensure yourself of buying only what you need. Going grocery shopping with a list is a great way to save money and shop on a budget! It helps you avoid roaming down isles (like so many of the people I see) and randomly picking up anything that may look good.
If you struggle with allocating time or creating a full-blown menu, use a service like eMeals. They charge you $5/month and create a weekly meal plan for you with an associated grocery list. How sweet is that? No, I do not get paid anything for promoting them.
3. Visit Your Local Farmer’s Market
Here in Kansas City we’re fortunate to have a few local farmer’s markets along with a HUGE one downtown. My wife and I love to browse the selection at the downtown market and see the harvest that the 60+ vendors have brought out for the day.
We’ve found that you can save money on nearly every vegetable (and most fruits) imaginable by shopping at the farmer’s market! I’d estimate that we save $20 a month on our grocery budget.
4. Clip Those Coupons
We’re not big on coupons, but that doesn’t mean they’re not a great way to save money on your monthly grocery budget. With all of the newspaper ads and coupons at sites like MoneySavingMom.com, FreeSnatcher.com, DealSeekingMom.com, and Coupons.com, you can easily knock a few dollars off your grocery budget.
5. Buy Store Brand Products
This is particularly where my wife and I save the bacon. Between creating a menu, having a grocery list that matches that menu, and buying store brands, we’ve been able to keep our grocery budget at a very affordable level despite eating mostly fresh foods.
Store brands have gotten WAY better over the years and I personally can’t tell a difference in taste between the store brand and name brand (for most foods).
If you’ve yet to switch to the store brands, start saving some money and get your monthly grocery budget in check by saving at least $20-50/month. Del Monte is just not worth that much to me.
6. Cut the Meat
Our friends often wonder how we’re able to grocery shop while buying mostly organic, fresh food for under $250/month (for 2 of us). I acknowledge that we could spend less on groceries, but our goal of our grocery budget isn’t to save as much money as possible, it is to eat as healthy as possible while maintaining a budget.
The way we’ve been able to go about that is by eliminating meat. A few months back we tried to start the China Study diet (basically going vegetarian), but we failed miserably. The problem wasn’t our menu and grocery shopping, the challenge came with fast food and visiting/hanging out with friends and family.
Regardless, cutting meat out of your meals or limiting it to a once a week “treat” is a great way to save A LOT of money on your monthly grocery budget (especially if you have gorillas dressed in teenager costumes).
Do you give much thought to your grocery budget or to meal planning? When you grocery shop, is it without a plan or have you worked on ways to save money?
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