Food is a universal expense, which changes inevitably from time to time. This basic human necessity is a part of your daily household budget. It is something you can never skip or do without. However, it may also get too expensive and much of a burden. And just because taking out a fast loan to pay for your dinner is never a good idea, you should be careful about saving money on food and groceries.
According to the latest report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American spends over $7,700 annually on both groceries and dining out. Those who are in suburban and rural areas, food is the third highest expense that they spend on after housing and transportation. Urban residents, on the other hand, register food as their highest expense other than housing.
Trivia enthusiasts and macroeconomists find the information on the average household food spending useful and relevant to this day. On top of having access to this trivial information, it may also help you figure out your finances.
First of all, food consumption depends on the place of residence of an individual or household. For city dwellers, spending their income on groceries is lesser compared to eating out. As to their rural counterparts, buying groceries is a much cheaper option; thus, they do this more than dining in a restaurant or food establishment.
The size of the household has a significant influence on how much money is spent on food as well. Larger households have bigger food expenses than smaller ones. A family of 2 has an average of $7,865 expense per annum, while traditional 4-member families can spend up to $10,995 per year.
How to Save Money on Food
Food spending may be inevitable, but it should not burn the banks and drain your savings. You still have a lot more things to allot your money on aside from food; thus, you need to be wiser in your spending. You can still enjoy eating what you want and need while you save on meals.
You need not be a high-level economist or financial analyst to know the step-by-step guide to save money on groceries.
Save by Planning Ahead
1. Make a Monthly Budget
The first thing you need to do when saving money on groceries is to plan ahead by creating a personal budget monthly. You need to map out how you are going to spend your money on groceries every month. You can use certain budgeting tools that can help you minimize your spending and manage your food money. Make sure you make some allowance for indulgences once in a while.
2. Create a Menu
This step on how to save money on groceries may not be that attractive, especially for individuals who are spontaneous when it comes to their food or dining. However, creating a menu can be an effective way to save money, especially in buying the items on your list. You will already have an estimate of how much money you are going to spend when you go grocery shopping. You can also avoid buying items that are not on your list.
3. Research Food and Grocery Sales
You can always check for sales to get discounts on food items since most grocery stores have weekly sales ads. They may also post those ads online or by the front door of your home. These ads may be suitable materials that can help you assemble your grocery list, depending on what food items are up for sale. Some items may be significantly cheaper, so you can buy them in bulk and stock them for later. During a demanding month, this reserve can help you to survive until your next salary payment, but unexpected costs can be easily covered by a same day loan.
4. Plan Shopping Trips on Store Sale Schedules
Checking on the sales ads and sales schedules helps you anticipate when will be the best time to go grocery shopping and save on your food budget. There are some specific dates of the year when most stores offer discounted food items. For instance, some frozen food and snacks are on a great sale special during the Super Bowl season. Other food items such as chocolates are on sale after Valentine’s Day.
5. Stack Up on Coupons
One of the things you need to learn how to save on groceries is the exciting world of coupons. The good news about coupons is that there are various online coupon sites that you can easily access to get some food items at lower prices. Find grocery coupons before making your list so that you can more efficiently know what things you are going to buy.
6. Know Grocery Store Policies
Grocery shopping on a budget requires you to make some pre-shopping verification, especially when using your discount coupons. For instance, you need to know the policy of the store regarding using coupons to get food discounts. You may have stacked up on grocery coupons, but the store may decline it in the end. Thus, you may be up for a huge surprise, especially if you end up not saving money after all.
7. Go for a Budget-Friendly Store
You may not always have the time to gather coupons or check the next sales schedule. However, saving money on groceries is almost always guaranteed with budget-friendly stores. Some stores generally have much lower prices compared to their competitors. Stores such as Walmart usually offer 20% less on their prices, covering numerous food items.
8. Freeze and Store Meals Properly
You can make your average grocery bill much lesser with the right food storage techniques. You can start freezing your meals and storing them the proper way, especially to avoid leftovers. The good news is that you can now find several freezer meals, which are budget-friendly and help to stretch your family budget. Moreover, you not only save money but your precious time and effort in preparing your meals.
9. Ignore and Resist Store Tactics
If you are trying to save on your grocery budget, take note that stores are also on a quest to make their shoppers spend more money. Thus, they have their marketing plans and strategies to cater to their objectives. You can always be wise and resist these tactics, such as ignoring eye-level items. Smart grocery stores put their most expensive and splurge items in places where you can easily see them. This is a marketing trick that you should resist on your treasure hunt for the lowest food prices.
10. Compare and Try Grocery Stores
The best choice for you when saving money on groceries is a budget-friendly store. However, you still need to compare and try grocery stores to see which one caters to your buying preferences the most. You can also ask around for a recommendation, especially from people you trust. Someone may probably know what store gives the best deals on their food items. Stores usually compete with each other to get more shoppers, so it will be a win-win situation for you.
11. Opt for a Monthly Shopping
Learning how to save money on groceries tells you to have a reasonable and practical shopping interval. For instance, monthly shopping is sometimes better specifically because it helps you avoid impulse buying. Shopping the least number of times can be a great saving alternative to coupons and going to budget-friendly stores. The main focus of this shopping technique is just to avoid the stores.
12. Download Cash Back Apps
Nowadays, coupons are not the only materials you can use to save money on groceries. The Internet offers even more alternatives to help with your food budget, such as cashback apps. You can download these apps and get significantly huge grocery rebates. You can use the app in participating stores for more discounts on food items.
13. Grow Your Spices and Herbs
Planning can help you modify your average grocery bill, and one of the methods to do this is to cut on some items. Instead of buying packs of herbs and spices, grow them instead. Take note that items such as chives, rosemary, mint, and other herbs and spices can be very pricey. You’ll enjoy growing fresh herbs and spices while saving money.
14. Leave the Overspenders
Who exactly are the ones that tend to overspend when shopping for groceries? If your kids or partner are the guilty parties, it is wiser to leave them at home. You can brief them about your grocery saving plans and stick to it before you go shopping if it’s not possible to leave them behind.
15. Have a Better Shopping Habit
Lowering your grocery bill starts in you, particularly your habits. For instance, avoid splurging on things that you don’t need, stick to your budget, and just live within your means. Set your money goals and meet them by having discipline in everything that concerns shopping for groceries.
Save While at the Store
16. Purchase Store Brands
16. Purchase Store Brands
Do you know how to save money on food effectively? One of the surefire ways to do it is to buy store brands, especially if you want to stick to only one store. Store brands usually come with huge discounts, such as 20% to 30% without the clipping coupons. Some store brands also have good quality as that of national brands. The difference is that stores offer an exchange or refund for the items.
17. Check the Unit Prices
While you are at the store, make sure that you check the unit prices so that you can save on groceries and food. It is the very first thing you need to do when in the supermarket. Sometimes unit pricing is quite tricky because people may think so buying in bulk is cheaper than buying smaller packages. You can only know this if you are careful in monitoring the unit pricing before going to the counter.
18. Save on Organics
One of the sections where budget-conscious shoppers avoid is that of organic produce. However, you can always save on your grocery budget with some fruits and veggies. You need not buy them organic because these fruits and vegetables have low pesticide residue levels. These fruits and veggies include avocados, asparagus, kiwis, sweet corn, pineapple, eggplants, papayas, onions, and cabbages.
19. Consider Buying in Bulk
You can easily weigh if buying in bulk is a much wiser and practical choice while you’re in the store. Some stores and warehouse clubs are the best places where you can do your shopping and save at the same time. They offer real value for your money, so buying in bulk will make sense. Moreover, these are products that you can stock and use in the future, such as dried beans, honey, rice, and maple syrup.
20. Check Out the Clearance Rack
While at the grocery store, make sure you find the clearance items rack. You can inquire to any staff or the store’s manager about their dedicated rack or shelf just to be sure. It can also give you some ideas if they have updated their clearance aisle or rack with new food items. These are must-know areas that can help you score real deals.
21. Know the Meat Counter Trick
Save on foods at the meat counter by knowing how to do the meat counter trick. This works for those who want to save money and will only buy a smaller portion of some meat products in packs. For instance, a pack of Italian sausages comes in six links, but you only want two or three of these. You can go to the meat counter and ask them if they can break the package.
22. Beware of Tricky Product Placement
Have you ever noticed some grocery stores having a specific arrangement for their food items? For instance, they usually put expensive products front and center and usually at eye level. This is a marketing trick, which is referred to as the “eye-level buy level” strategy. You can resist the temptation and search for second-tier brands, and aisles at a much lower price.
23. Opt for Pickup
Picking up your groceries from the store is one of the best ways on how to save money on food. You can avoid the store or get inside it, which may result in impulse buying. Nowadays, more and more stores offer grocery pickup services so that customers can order online. You only have to wait outside the store and in your vehicle for your ordered items. It is as easy as applying for a payday loan online. You only have to fill out the application form and to wait for approval from a lender.
24. Never Shop When You’re Hungry
Hunger is oftentimes a trigger for you to splurge on food items, even the ones that you do not need. Shopping on an empty stomach only weakens your resolve to shop sales and stick to your budget and meal plans. A lot of people tend to do silly things when hunger pangs attack. Shopping for groceries with a full stomach may surprise you, especially on how much you will be able to save on your grocery bill.
25. Shop the Store’s Perimeter
Smart grocery stores have strategic planning of their aisles and areas. You must avoid the inside aisles where you can usually find expensive processed foods. Splurging on these items can only derail your planned budget. The outer edges of most grocery stores are allocated for the vegetables, fruits, beans, and grains. You can also save on foods when you choose nutrient-dense items as well as seasonal and fresh food.
26. Arrive at the End of the Day
This technique for budget-savvy customers works at farmers’ markets. Take note that most farmers prefer not to bring their remaining produce home. Thus, they usually offer discounted pricing or huge deals on their products just to sell them all out. You can find fresh fruits and veggies with competitive pricing at the end of the day.
27. Only Buy What You Need
It is easy to go off track when you are already at the grocery store. Thus, you need to have the self-control to resist the temptation to spend and stick to saving money on groceries. Everyone loves a deal, but it can easily turn into a shopping spree if you don’t know how to say no. Avoid buying in bulk, especially if you find marked down food items, which is way out of your planned shopping list.
28. Double Check the Prices
In-store sales can be easy to miss, that’s why you need to double-check the prices when you are already in the store. This can have a significant effect on your average grocery bill, especially if you go to stores, which offer price-matching programs. It means the store will match lower prices on food items or products that qualify in their offered program or sales.
29. Cash is King
One of the ways on how to save money on groceries is to choose cash and avoid using credit cards. Place your money inside the envelope as part of your money management system. Learn how to discipline yourself by spending only the amount of money that is already in your envelope. Never go beyond your intended budget and stick to it no matter how tempting the deals and sales may be. By the way, this habit not only will allow you to save money during a grocery shopping, but also can blow up your budget.
30. Check Your Receipt for Possible Errors
Sometimes the register may have errors in terms of their pricing. You don’t want to pay for something you did not buy or an overpriced food item. Thus, check your receipt and look for the wrong prices if there are any. In case of errors, you can take your receipt and bring it together with the purchased item to the customer service desk. You may even find some grocery stores that will fix the pricing problem with generous solutions, such as giving the item for free instead.
How to save money on food? There is no one specific answer to this particular endeavor. Making a significant saving on your food and grocery budget takes a lot of steps to achieve your goal. You must also have a lot of self-discipline and resolve to make sure that your plans will go as planned.
Planning to have effective grocery shopping on a budget is an ongoing process. You need to invest a lot of your resources, including time and energy, to make it happen. It requires a lot of planning, counting, research, and doing whatever it is you planned into action. You will build strong foundations over time and develop a good shopping habit that will ensure good results.