Most of us have a love-hate relationship with the grocery store. We love eating the food but hate shopping for it. Perhaps it’s the lines. Maybe it’s the time we’d rather spend elsewhere. Most likely it’s because so much of our money goes into the food category on our budget.
We recommend spending 10-15% of your take-home pay on food, which includes groceries and eating out. But even if your food budget falls within this range, you still might like to see it come down a bit. Check out these five easy ways to cut your grocery bill without clipping coupons.
If the word dinner makes you picture a big homemade meal with a nice cut of meat, two steaming sides of fresh veggies from the local co-op, a warm loaf of French bread, and a chocolaty dessert—cut yourself some slack! You don’t have to feast all the time. This isn’t 1950 and suppers don’t have to be a big deal.
Your kids and spouse will survive on BLTs, omelets or a big salad several times a week. And summer is a great time for fruits! Don’t be afraid of serving simple meals. You can reduce your guilt and your budget by rethinking the most misunderstood meal of the day.
2. Don’t Be Brand Loyal
You know generic pasta is cheaper, but you’re still not convinced it won’t ruin your great-grandmother’s lasagna recipe. A Consumer Reports study put 19 brand-name foods up against their generic counterparts.(1) Of the 19 pairings, 10 scored “equally good” in the blind taste test. In other words, your less expensive lasagna will taste just as delicious as Grandma’s.
Still not sold? According to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research , when buying staples like salt, sugar and baking soda, chefs were more likely to buy generic than you and me.(2) And they’re the food experts! The study concluded that if more consumers purchased store brands, we could save roughly $44 billion. With that kind of money on the line, it pays to be brand disloyal.
3. Try Different Grocery Stores
Why did you pick your current grocery store? Is it the friendliest? The most convenient location? If we were honest, most of us go out of habit. Don’t let a comfortable routine cost you money.
If you’re not sure which grocery stores are worth your time and money, ask around. People who are getting the best deals will gladly gush about their favorite spots. Figuring out a new grocery store (or stores) may be frustrating at first, but it’s worth it to keep that extra cash in your pocket.
4. Learn to Love a List
A list is just a game plan. Once you decide what you’ll make for breakfasts, lunches and dinners for the next week, write out each ingredient needed for those meals—plus a few snacks, of course!
When you get to the store, stick to your list! That’s the key to staying on budget. And if you go shopping as a family, let your kids help plan the meals and then find the items. It’s much easier to stay on budget when you’re shopping with a plan and working as a team. . . and when you get comfortable saying no to candy. A lot.
5. Remember: “Cash is King!”
The best way to stick to a lower food budget is to pay with cash. When you go to the store with cash in hand, you know exactly how much you can spend. Plus, you’ll stick to the meat-and-vegetables necessities rather than ice cream-and-cookie impulse buys. Those little extras are okay if you plan for them!
If you still find you’re eating like royalty at the beginning of the month and then scraping by at the end, take out cash for groceries every week instead of every month. That way, you’ll have a better picture of how much you can actually afford to spend each week.
6. Better. Habits, Better Budget
By starting a few new habits, you can lower your monthly food budget and meet your money goals faster. That means more cash to pay down debts, invest for the future or save for something fun—like a babysitter and a nice meal out where someone else cooks and cleans up.
Don’t let the term “budget” scare you away from making one! Budgeting is easy read Budget Made Simple