We all know that going out to eat everyday for lunch or dinner or even just grabbing coffees adds up. Grocery shopping can get spendy, too. BUT, I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to! While I can’t change take-out delivery charges or restaurant prices, I can help with a few tips for saving money while grocery shopping.
Here are five simple ways to keep your wallet and your belly full while grocery shopping!
1. Meal Planning
Do you plan your meals? If you don’t, you should. The number one way to spend money at the grocery store is by letting your food go to waste. So don’t let the lettuce wilt in your fridge or the cheese get weirdly green. Plan ahead, even if it’s just different dinners every night and taking leftovers for lunch the next day. It counts!
There are different ways to do it, so you just need to find a way that words best for your schedule and eating style. If you find that you spend most of your money on lunch, you definitely need to be planning a week’s worth of easy, on-the-run lunches. If it’s dinner that haunts you, you need to plan easy-to-throw-together (30 minute meals!) or meal prep.
Using a calendar, a chart, or even a dry erase or chalkboard in your kitchen to map out your meals helps you visualize. Plus you know what you get to look forward to! I’m always thinking of my next meal…
2. Meal Prepping
Meal prepping goes hand in hand with planning most times. Unless you have easy-to-throw-together meals like pasta or breakfast for dinner, taking the time to prep your meals can save you serious money.
Again, this helps prevent two things: 1) letting the food you bought go to waste and rot in your fridge and 2) spending unnecessarily on lunches or dinners out. If you prep meals ahead of time, you have easy-to-grab lunches and ready-made meals for dinner when you get home from work and are too tired to make anything more than a frozen burrito.
You can keep it healthy, keep it cheap, and be mindful with your money! For specific tips on meal prepping, check out this article.
[click_to_tweet tweet=”5 Hacks to Save Money While Grocery Shopping” quote=”5 Hacks to Save Money While Grocery Shopping”]
3. Fridge Storage
You have to work with what you’ve got. When I lived in a three-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn with two other roommates we had a tiny kitchen with zero counter space and a small fridge. Not a full-sized one, and not a mini fridge, but one that came up to about my eye level (I’m 5’4” for comparison). We were three people living in the same space but with very separate lives so we had to share shelves and small freezer space. If that’s the case for you, definitely try separating shelves per person, or if there are common ingredients you can share, try to do that. You don’t need three bottles of ketchup taking up all the side door space!
If you are living the single life or living with someone you share cooking with, fridge storage gets a little bit different. It’s important to store your food in the way that makes the most sense for you eating-wise, and that doesn’t always match up with the designated compartments that refrigerators come equipped with.
You still want to make sure the food you have is stored in the right way – meat in the back to keep it the coldest, but try keeping the produce and other perishable items on the second shelf: eye-level to remind you to use them! You don’t need condiments taking up the top shelf space, they can go on the door and you can have smaller jarred things and the eggs or butter on that top shelf.
4. Coupons-Rebates-Ebates-Deliver Deals-Sales
Do you cut coupons? Do you check the weekly flyers for deals and sales at the store? You should! If there is pasta on on sale one week for 10 for a $1 (what a dream!), and you have the space to allow it, stock up that week.
Shopping the sales could be one of the most important steps to saving big at the grocery store, and it goes hand-in-hand with meal planning. If you look at the deals for the upcoming week while you’re meal planning, and combine it with a pantry challenge (see below) you can spend less and less at the grocery store while still getting your fill of food.
There are rebate apps such as Ebates (affiliate) and Ibotta, where you can buy specific items and get cashback for them, either by using a plugin while you shop online with Ebates (affiliate) or uploading your receipt with Ibotta.
Another way to save some money is to check out all the deals. Have you ever wanted to try getting your groceries delivered with Amazon Fresh, Jet, or the like? A lot of grocery delivery services have first-time-customer deals so you can spend and save. It’s worth checking out!
5. The Pantry Challenge
Have you ever heard of a pantry challenge? I hadn’t until I started following debt-free accounts on instagram. Essentially, you challenge yourself for a period of time (a week, a month, etc) to use up what you have in your pantry and only purchase perishable food like meat or vegetables. You can also add in a freezer challenge to this. I even read about someone doing a no-restaurant-challenge… for a whole year they would only cook at home, which involved planning ahead and definitely a ton of meal prep!
Everyone’s lives are a little bit different, so don’t feel as though you have to do it all. Find what works for you. If meal planning every meal takes the excitement out of food, try planning just your breakfasts and lunches or just dinners. If cooking meals ahead with meal prepping is too much, then try just setting out the non-perishable ingredients on the counter the night before. And if you can’t take time to cut coupons, shop the deals in-store, looking for the labeled items “4/4.00” with the store’s loyalty card. Sign up for that loyalty card!
Finally, consider this a bonus tip: Keep a note of what you buy and what you spend.
If you shop at different stores for different things (Trader Joes, Whole Foods, etc.) make a note of which items you consistently buy cost at each store. If you just want macaroni pasta but it’s a dollar cheaper at Trader Joe’s, buy the Trader Joe’s pasta! Over time, you’ll see patterns emerge and you’ll be a grocery-shopping-ninja.