For many folks, groceries are the second largest expense for their household after their mortgage/rent. Finding ways to reduce your grocery budget while still eating healthy, nourishing food is a huge challenge!
Eating out is also a huge expense and if you can cook at home even one more day a week instead of eating out you will save hundreds of dollars each year. Here are some approaches that have worked for us:
- Find out how much you currently are spending then set a weekly spending goal – The first month I diligently kept track of much much we were spending on groceries, toiletries, diapers, etc. I was totally shocked. No longer was I wondering… “Where does all of our money go?” I suggest keeping track of your spending using weekly rather than monthly goals. I use a single white envelope clipped to the fridge to keep track of our grocery etc. receipts for the month. I have adapted the method I learned at Fun Cheap or Free to meet our needs and it works for us because it is simple. I am currently trying to get our grocery bill under $500/month which is a big challenge for us!
- Use a credit card that gives you cash back on essentials. I rack up between $300-$500 each year in credit card cash back just by buying our groceries and other essential items. I pay the card off each month and get between 2%-6% cash back on our necessary purchases. I realized I was loosing out on this free money if I was buying with cash or a debit card. You can even keep a card that is just for groceries to help you track your grocery spending more easily. For example, the American Express Blue Cash Preferred gives you 6% cash back on up to $6,000 in groceries each year. Plus you get a free year of Amazon Prime and $100 cash back after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months.
- Shop weekly sales and use coupon match-ups if possible – I am not a big couponer by any stretch of the imagination. I guess I’m just not organized enough. But if I find an online coupon for something I know I will buy (the coffee we drink, for example) or find a coupon that matches up with a current sale at our local grocery store, I print it. I use the smartphone app Favado to find weekly sales and matching coupons. It basically does all of the hard work for you by ranking the current week’s sale items, finding matching coupons and emailing you your shopping list with links to printable coupons. You can read more about how to use Favado here.
- Get money back through rebate apps – I use several different smartphone apps to earn cash back on groceries I already buy. I’ve earned upwards of $100 since I started this a few months ago. And it is kind of fun. I have earned the most through Ibotta. Snap by Groupon offers a lot of produce rebates. For example this week Snap is offering the following rebates which total $2.50 back on healthy food you may already be buying:Read more at my post free smartphone apps that can help you save money on groceries.
- Keep a small stockpile of some basic ingredients – Along these lines, there are certain supplies I try to always have on hand so I can make something at home in a pinch. These include canned beans (chili beans, black beans and garbanzo beans are most often used here), pasta, diced tomatoes, rice, shredded cheese, frozen veggies and some frozen meat. I can always whip up something to eat with these basic ingredients as long as I have some on hand.
- Improve your skills in the kitchen, starting with the basics if needed – When I turn 30 and realized I was completely useless in the kitchen, I took a bunch of cooking classes. I learned some basic cooking techniques and how to do important things efficiently, such as how to chop an onion (really). These classes gave me the confidence I needed to start cooking for myself more. Now I love to cook and am very adventurous, but I needed the confidence from those basic classes to get to this point. Most importantly, now I can make something delicious from what we have hanging around without needing to run out to the store. I also don’t need to buy a lot of recipe ready food which tends to be more expensive.
- Have a repertoire of go-to recipes – When I am feeling uninspired about dinner, I have a few go-to recipes that are easy to prepare and are always winners. For me they include quesadillas, chili, and one-pot pasta dishes. Find what works for you and your family and then keep those recipes handy! Check out my one-pot recipe roundup for some ideas.
- Have a loose plan for what you will cook that week when you go shopping – This one is the hardest for me. Something in me rejects the idea of menu planning. It takes me back to 8th grade Home Economics and seems so lame and un-spontaneous. But I have been trying to have at lease a loose plan for what I plan to cook for the week when I go grocery shopping. I can make multiple recipes with ingredients before they go bad and end up being less stressed out about what I am going to cook.
I hope these tips will help you start saving on your groceries.