After a whirlwind weekend at the KahBang festival, it’s time for me to get organized for the week ahead, which means I must refill my refrigerator with a week’s worth of food. Grocery shopping is an unavoidable task and it seems to be getting more difficult to fill my cart as the price of food creeps higher and higher with no sign of coming back down.
I’ve been spending a lot of money on food lately, sometimes way more than I budget for. Although environmental and economic events are affecting my grocery bill, there are other factors coming into play that are within my control. Since I love to bake and cook, I also love grocery shopping for ingredients. Even though the cost of ingredients keeps increasing, I’m still buying everything I need to whip up my latest recipe. I’m also a bit of an impulse shopper, at least when it comes to food. Since the grocery store is on my way home from the gym, I pop in when I’m the most hungry and add several items to my cart that I could do without.
My extra spending on food is really adding up. That’s why I came up with a plan to cut my costs without sacrificing the things that I needed. These are my favorite tips and tricks to saving money in the checkout lane.
Analyze your grocery spending habits
Open your refrigerator and pantry. What’s left in there from the last time you went grocery shopping? Did the lettuce wilt before you could enjoy another salad? Are those bakery fresh dinner rolls going stale? If you answered yes, these might be unnecessary purchases. The dinner rolls may have been an impulse buy because you went to the store hungry and the smell of fresh bread had you sprinting towards the bakery. Next time, resolve to go to the grocery store after a meal so you’re not tempted by all the delicious food on the shelves. If you bought too much lettuce at once, causing it to wilt before you could eat it, opt for a smaller amount so you’re not throwing your money away along with the rotten vegetables.
Plan meals ahead of time
Make a weekly meal plan for yourself including recipes for lunch and dinner. Try to incorporate the same ingredients into multiple dishes so you can streamline your shopping and save time by only prepping once. If you make a baked chicken dish for dinner on Monday, use the remaining chicken in a sandwich for lunch on Tuesday. It’s also helpful to build in a leftover night to prevent waste of the foods you made earlier in the week.
I love coupons. Why pay more for something when a little piece of paper can knock dollars and cents off the price? Later in the month I will bring you a two-part tutorial on the popular “extreme couponing” practice, but for now, try out Coupons.com. This site lets you digitally clip and print the coupons you want to use. MoneySavingMom.com is also a great blog for coupons, special deals and even freebies. I always check out the available coupons on both of these sites before I head out to do any food shopping. I usually save $5 to $7 on my grocery bill each time thanks to the coupons I find online.
Shop the perimeter of the store
The layout and design of a grocery store is no accident. Fresh produce, meat, fish, and dairy are arranged around the perimeter of the store, along with other real, healthy foods. In the center of the store are shelves of processed snacks and boxed items, which tend to be more expensive and less nutritious. Shop the perimeter of the store and you’ll find yourself getting more bang for your buck.
If possible, shop by the pound so you can regulate your cost and only buy what you need. This includes meat at the deli counter and fruit in the produce section, but also rice, nuts, and dried fruit at the bulk foods station. I like to shop by the pound when I make cookies. I buy ingredients like craisins and chocolate chips at the bulk foods station and only pay for what I need. It comes in handy when I make my oatmeal dark chocolate craisin cookies.
Once you've shopped the perimeter, venture into the inner shelves of the supermarket only for staples like bread, coffee and other baking supplies, if you need them. Utilize coupons for anything you plan to buy that is prepackaged, like cereal and granola bars.
LearnVest has a great checklist to help you cut your spending at the grocery store. Check it out for more tips on how you can save money on the food you eat.
Do you set a grocery budget and stick to it?