Saving money on groceries is one of the best ways you can reduce expenses. The average cost of food per month, per person in America is $250. That's $12,000 a year for a family of four!
Know Your Food
Knowing which items your family buys, in what quantities, and at what cost will help make you a more educated consumer. This will make it easier to identify good deals when you see them and to find areas in which you can cut back or switch brands in order to save money. Spreadsheet software or, for the more low-tech among us, a notebook can be used to track spending and show the impact of shopping the sales, switching brands, or cutting back on more expensive items.
In the early years, I kept a spreadsheet of all the foods we bought. I would compare the price between three stores and enter that number into my spreadsheet so I knew where I was getting the best deal. Now, I compare prices online between my main grocery store and two online stores. Technology has made price shopping so much easier!
Plan Your Menu Around the Sales
Menu planning is a must for saving money on groceries. As you menu plan for the week, see what's on sale that works for your family. Most major grocery stores put out a weekly flyer, often on Fridays, advertising their sale items for the upcoming week. These flyers are available online, so bookmark a few sites and visit them weekly so you can plan your menu around the meats and produce that are on sale. If you need recipe ideas or instructions for foods you haven't bought before, the Internet is teeming with free sites.
Make Use of Your Freezer and Storage
Educating yourself on food costs and checking frequently for the best sales will help you recognize when an item hits its lowest price. This is the time to stock up. Make use of your freezer for meats and your pantry for non-perishable items, such as rice, grain, legumes, and pasta. It's great to use inventory lists and keep things organized so you know what you have in stock.
Just be aware of how long various foods can be frozen and remember to incorporate these items into your menu planning so you don't end up throwing them out. Household products like toilet paper and tissues never go bad so stock up when you can!
Balance Convenience and Cost
Convenience has its price. As you shop, consider the cost of the more convenient option compared to its more labor-intensive but generally cheaper and healthier alternative. For example, consider forgoing pre-packaged oatmeal (which is often more refined and additive-laden) in favor of a big bag of rolled oats or buying a bag of whole carrots that you can peel and cut into sticks rather than those handy but pricier baby carrots. If you have a bread maker, consider dusting it off and making your own bread. Planting your own garden can also help you save money (and hey, no lines).
It's trendy these days to shop local but besides the trend, it can save you money if you're savvy. Local mom and pop produce stands often have great bargains. Plus, they will offer reduced prices on “seconds” which are just as good as the full priced items. Grab a box of apples and make your own apple chips.
Cut Back on Indulgences
Whether it's sodas, lattes, or pastries, consider cutting back on those little indulgences that can add up to big money over time. If you're buying a coffee house latte every day, consider switching to home-brewed coffee, make your own mocha, and making those lattes a once-in-a-while splurge rather than an everyday occurrence. You'll save money and savor those little indulgences all the more.
Go Meatless More Often
Vegetarian meals can help you stretch your food budget. Staples like beans and lentils are cheap, nutritious, easy to prepare, and often freeze well to boot. You can also save money by preparing vegetarian versions of family favorites, such as spaghetti.
Choose wisely when dining out
While eating out should be a separate category in your budget, cutting back on dinners out will save you big bucks. If you eat out a lot and trim only $30 a week, you'll save over $1,500 a year! You can save money not only by eating at home more often but also by making note of specials at restaurants in your area (such as the nights that kids eat free) and taking advantage of group-buying websites, which sometimes offer discounts of up to 50% or more at local eateries.
Using these tips and being mindful of your choices can help minimize the impact of rising food prices on your budget, allowing your family to eat well without breaking the bank.