I remember when I used to think I did not need to grocery shop on a budget. After college I would wander through the aisles and grab anything that appealed to me. I probably bought enough food to last me a whole month EACH WEEK and a lot of food (not to mention money) went to waste. The problem was that usually I had no idea what I wanted to eat for dinner that week and I would go shopping after work and be really hungry. I am proud to say that I have gotten my grocery spending under control now and under $325* a month. This does take some time, patience, and planning but I definitely think it is worth it for the money savings and the food waste elimination. See below for what I feel are key steps and resources to grocery shop on a budget successfully.
*Our budget is really $300 per month but I have only made it once under this budget as there always seems to be something small that I end up buying on Amazon or at the last minute that ends up pushing us over so we are still a work in progress!*
I am currently working on building up my list of meals so that it will be easy to pick some for the week and have easily accessible recipes and ingredient lists to reference. Currently, Michael and I usually talk about what we want to eat for the week and try to plan meals that have similar ingredients. This gives us a rough start to a list of what we need at the store and easy planning for the week.
Consult Your Pantry List
I am in the process of creating a pantry list where I can keep track of what we have and what we have run out of. This would also include things not normally found in the pantry but are staples in the house like dish detergent, toilet paper, etc. Currently I try to remember to add these things to my list as soon as I notice we are out or do a quick sweep of the kitchen and closet before I head to the store.
Create Your List
We shop almost exclusively at Wegmans for groceries. We used to shop at Giant but Wegmans is just as close since we moved. We also shop at Costco occasionally when we need to buy a large amount of something. I used to think that Wegmans was more expensive because it was “nicer” but I have found that it is actually cheaper in most ways! I have switched almost completely to buying Wegmans brand items – something I would not have done at other stores. Another great thing about Wegmans is that they have an app where you can create your grocery list ahead of time. I used it once and never looked back. I can search for any item I might need and it will let you know if it is available at your store and all the different options. It also gives you a price for each item so
you can compare brands (or comparison shop on name brands at other stores!) before you even get to the store. At the bottom of your list it gives you a total so I always know how much I should expect to spend and I can remove or add items to my list before I get to the store. The only thing it does not do is let you specify if you are buying less than a pound of something so it only gives the price per pound.
The other great thing is that it remembers your purchases so it makes list creation even faster when you can just add your most frequently bought items each week. Oh and it also categorizes things by aisle and gives you a suggested order in which to shop! The things I love about this app just never end… 🙂
I know Giant and other stores have scanners you can use while shopping so that you know how much you are spending as you go and I think that is probably the next best thing so definitely check it out if yours has that option! This has truly been a game changer for saving time and money for me.
BOTTOM LINE: Do not leave the house without a list. This is the most important step!
Check for Coupons
Since I use mostly Wegmans brand, I don’t do this as often as I used to but I usually check out The Krazy Coupon Lady‘s coupon database if I am buying any name brand items. The site allows you to search for any brand or item (suggestion: use CTRL F on the page itself and not the site’s search feature) and easily print the coupon. I stopped getting the paper so I no longer usually have paper coupons.
Check Ibotta for Deals
Have you tried Ibotta? If not then you need to jump on the bandwagon! It is a really great money rebate app that is free to use! I have not done much with it besides use it for the grocery store but there are other rebates as well. I always check the app and unlock rebates for items on my list, but sometimes I forget to redeem those rebates after I shop…I am working on it! If you decide to check it out, use my referral link and we both get money!
Stick to your List and Use Cash!
Finally, make sure once you are in the store you stick to your list and use cash whenever possible! Do not buy anything that is not on your list unless you find a really great deal on something you know you will use. Sometimes, if I end up not buying something on my list and I have money left in my budget for that week then I will buy a treat but otherwise I have gotten pretty good about not straying from the list. Since we are trying to work hard on paying down debt and food is our main weakness and one consistent area where we would go over budget, we decided to try out cash spending only for groceries. Since we started in February I have done great most weeks and I actually really like it – it makes me really focus my list and I feel like I really feel the money leaving my wallet as I hand it over.
One final thought about grocery shopping is to pick a day of the week to grocery shop and stick with it. I chose Sundays because usually I can go without E and I am less tired and stressed. It is definitely more crowded on Sundays but my list makes it easy for me to get in and out without too much fuss. I do not allow myself to go back to the grocery store that week unless it is really a necessity. Going out again just about guarantees going over budget!
Well there you have it. This is how I curbed my crazy grocery spending to upwards of $1000 per month to under $325 per month. I am always on the lookout to how to improve my system so please let me know if you have any great tips as well! Next up for me is to check out Aldi and see if it is worth adding to my weekly stop.
What are some of your best grocery tips?
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