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17 Secrets for Grocery Shopping on a Budget

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I love going to the grocery store. I love the sounds, the colors, putting everything in the cart just like so, waving at the produce manager… The downside of this passion of mine is that it’s not very compatible with grocery shopping on a budget.

Food is usually one of the highest lines on a family budget— highest in both priority (you’ve gotta eat!) and cost— but there are ways to spend less without feeling deprived. In fact, you can go grocery shopping on a budget even while eating organic if you follow certain rules and know a few secrets. Everyone knows you shouldn’t go to the grocery store hungry, but do you follow these other 17 rules, too?

Grocery Shopping on a Budget: Save when you plan.

1. Time spent planning leads to big savings.

Ok, this one isn’t a secret, but it needs to be said because it’s the most important tip for grocery shopping on a budget. Make a list and stick to it. Be specific. Plan breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. And get the kids involved with our Healthy Meal Planning for Kids printable.

2. Go less frequently.

I was spending $200 per weekly trip. When I switched to twice a month, those trips average about $325. If you do the math, you’ll see I’m saving about $150 per month. For week two of the cycle, I plan meals with frozen veggies instead of fresh ones.

3. Use more than one store.

I love my neighborhood grocery store, but there’s another store a mile in the opposite direction that has significantly lower prices, especially on snacks and dairy products. I go there first and get everything I can on my list and then head to the more expensive store. Yes, it takes more time, but it’s worth it when the same item is several dollars cheaper.

4. Stick to the same store location.

I know. I just said use the same store. What I mean by, “stick to the same location,” is that if your town has three Publixes or two Krogers, try to go to the same one every time. There’s a Publix near my church that I occasionally visit and I always spend more there because I’m not as familiar with the layout. When you know a store like the back of your hand, it’s easier to only buy what you need.

5. Put meals on repeat.

Pick ten meals and repeat them throughout the month. You probably do this unintentionally anyway. Now, plan for it and save money on those random ingredients. Because I make chicken curry frequently I know that jar of curry paste isn’t going to sit in the fridge for a year after using just one tablespoon.

6. Challenge yourself to simplify your meals.

If you’re grocery shopping on a budget, recipes with fewer ingredients are your friends. A dinner of chicken, rice, and black beans is a prime example of a simple, yet delicious meal.

If you’re grocery shopping on a budget, recipes with fewer ingredients are your friends. Click To Tweet

7. Pull the reins on the meat.

Maybe you’re not interested in going full vegetarian, or, like me, you have a husband who thinks there needs to be a slab of something on each plate. But one meat-free day a week will reap big benefits on your grocery bill. Another idea is to add other ingredients supplement to the meat. For our tacos, we have stuck to one pound of ground turkey but added a can of black beans to fill the bellies of my growing boys.

8. Go seasonal with produce.

I’m in Florida, where the price of strawberries in March is a fraction of what it is in October. Take a minute to find out what’s in season and eat the way God planned! This is a great tip for anyone wanting to switch to organic produce.

9. Utilize the Dollar Store.

There are some items you probably pay $5 or $10 for at the grocery store that you can get for $1 if you’re willing to make an extra trip. I’m talking greeting cards, party supplies, and yes, even pregnancy tests.

Grocery Shopping on a Budget: Save at the store.

10. Stay in the zone.

When you make your list (which you did because you followed rule number one), write it in the order your store is arranged. If you just weave through the aisles, it’s a recipe for impulse buying. I can hear you saying, “But I might see something I need that I forgot to put on the list.” Try standing at the end of the aisle and scanning it for a moment to jog your memory.

11. Ask, “Can this wait until the next trip?”

As I make my list or walk the store, sometimes I see an item, go to put it in the cart, and realize it can wait another week or two. When grocery shopping on a budget, remind yourself that just because you could buy it now doesn’t mean you have to buy it now.

12. Drop brand loyalty.

Loyalty is great when it comes to sports teams and family members, but not toothpaste and toilet paper. Cheat on your toothpaste and save money!

13. Occupy the kids.

Idle hands lead to grabbing and “Can we buy?” so put your kids to work. Let them organize the cart, calculate the total, or if they’re big enough, send them to grab items and get your trip done in half the time.

14. Learn the lingo.

At one store where I shop, a sale that says “2 for $6” means I can buy one for $3 (and maybe its normal price is $3.75). At another store, the fine print says, “$6 When You Buy 2.” Know the store’s sales and only buy what you need.

Grocery Shopping on a Budget: Save after you shop.

15. Utilize your freezer.

We have a joke in my house. When someone asks, “Can you freeze ____?” the response is, “You can freeze anything.” You just might not want to eat it when it’s been unfrozen. The freezer is your BFF if you’re trying to buy food when it’s on sale. I only buy bread when it’s BOGO. It gets put in the freezer as soon as we unpack the grocery bags.

16. Stick to the plan.

We’ve all done it. Planned a meal and then said, “I don’t feel like cooking. Let’s order in.” Make room in your budget for dining out so you have that to look forward to and then stick to the meal plan you’ve set.

17. Or go rogue with a “Fend for Yourself” night.

If you do want to veer from the meal plan, announce that it’s an “F.F.Y.” night. My kids get super excited about these because they get to pull together anything they want. The first time we did it my younger son ate blueberries and shredded cheese. In one bowl. Since he created the dish, he was proud to eat it. An F.F.Y. night is a great way to use leftovers and items deep in the pantry. Caveat: You might have to look the other way and allow the occasional bowl of cereal.

What’s your best secret for grocery shopping on a budget?

ASK YOUR CHILD...

Do you like grocery shopping? What are the best and worst parts about it?

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