Welcome to this new series on how to save money on groceries without using coupons. This post will show you, 5 ways to cut your grocery bill in half and keep more money from your salary.
1. Start planning your menu for the entire week in advance
There was a time that we only meal planned about every other week. On the weeks we forgot to plan we ended up spending roughly around an extra twenty dollars more a week.
We have finally been getting back on track with our meal planning in a big way. Meal planning not only saves us money (which is great for our budget and the reason behind this post), it also saves us time and makes each day a little easier.
Plan your menu from what is already in your pantry. This way, you can limit the number of items you actually have to get that week. I like this meal planning process best because it helps us to make sure that the items in the fridge and freezer are swapped out before we re-stock. No more throwing away food we forgot we had.
Have a general menu plan for each week. Our family has a “theme” based menu plan, it helps us to know what kind of meals to plan each night. We use themes like “international night”, “kid friendly night”, “pasta night”, etc.
Keep your menu in easy view. We keep our menu on a whiteboard in the kitchen. I like this because I can easily edit the menu if something comes up, I can also change the look and feel at anytime. A chalkboard would work too if you have this, we just happened to have a whiteboard in the basement.
Plan your lunches and snacks too! it took us quite a bit of meal planning before we realized that we could save even more money if we started planning our lunches and snacks too. This way we can use our leftovers, make sure all our sandwich fixings don’t go to waste, and our fruits get gobbled up throughout the week.
Plan to leave room for changes. It is not against the law to adjust your menu plan, it happens. Sometimes your schedule changes and your menu needs to adjust. That’s okay. Move stuff around, and if all else fails I like to make it a frozen pizza or PB&J night.
2. Know your staples
These are the “must have” items for your family. For our house, we need to have peanut butter and jelly on hand at all times, and bread too. PB&J’s are a staple in our home. For us staples are anything that our family eats on a regular basis and is healthy for us.
Find a place to track when you run out of a staple. This will help you to know that you need to pick up this staple the next time you are out shopping. We may not need to note if we run out of soda. However if we are close to running out of milk or eggs, I need to know and I need to pick some up the next time I go shopping.
We keep a running list of what we need, on a section of the same whiteboard we use for our menu. It helps me that these are in the same place.
3. Stop brand loyalty and be open to all brands
This is probably one of the biggest, and hardest, things for a lot of people. However, being brand loyal can really mess with your grocery budget.
I have to admit, I’m actually a store brand loyalist. I grew up on store brands, and usually (but not always) they are less expensive than their name brand counterparts. However, even for this store brand loyalist there are some things I prefer name brand.
Diet cola is my pet-peeve. I have yet to find a store brand diet cola that I like. All other sodas seem to be created equal, at least to me, however diet is not one of them. For my husband, it’s Cheese-Its. He will not eat any generic version or otherwise.
Be open to store brands. This is easy for me, but not for all. However, typically the store brand (which is usually on a lower shelf), is less expensive than the name brand.
Just taking this step can shave about half the money off of your grocery bill if you are a brand loyalist.
Buy the lowest price item, no matter the brand. When I know we need one of my staples, I always scan each and every price I see on the shelf. This way, I know that I am always choosing the lowest price I can for that item. You can easily do this by scanning the unit price.
If there is an item you are not willing to budge on, wait until it goes on sale. When Cheese-It’s go on sale, I usually stock up and get a few extra boxes. Not only are they my husbands favorite brand, the big sis loves them too. I will not put them on my stock list and buy them when we run out, however I will stock up when they are at a good price.
4. Always check the sales flyer before you go shopping
This is one of the biggest things a lot of people overlook when they go shopping. If an item is not on sale and it’s not a staple you need to get that week, you shouldn’t get it.
Know when your stores sales start. There are two stores I love to shop at, one has sales that start on Friday and the other starts theirs on Sunday. Knowing when the sales start will help determine when you go shopping.
Do you like to go at the beginning of the sale, the middle or end? Does it matter, is there only one day you can go? Sunday or Monday is easiest for us, so these are the days we try to go.
Search the sales flyer online before you go shopping. I try to do this on Friday or Saturday, so I have a plan for my shopping trip over the next day or two. By Saturday both sales flyers for my favorite stores are listed. I can compare both and see if I want to go to one store or the other (or sometimes both, if the sales are good enough, and only then).
The sales flyers are released in the newspapers too, however I find I don’t read enough of the paper to warrant the subscription.
5. Make a list, and stick to it
Keeping a grocery list, and actually sticking to it took me some time, and the most adjusting. However, it is one of the most important steps, right after looking at the sales flyer.
Outside of your “needs” list, you should only be adding sale items of the perishable products that are on sale (produce, meat, dairy, etc.).
Before you head to the store, write down everything that you need to get that week. Go over your “needs” list, and jot down all of the items you tracked throughout the week. This is your time to re-stock.
Only buy what is on sale, and only at the lowest price for that week. If chicken is lower than pork this week, then my family will get chicken. There’s no need to buy everything that’s on sale, just what is at the lowest price.
Only get what is on your list. Do not buy anything that is not on your list. Reminding myself that I already know what I need, and what is on sale saves me both time and money on my shopping trip. The two things I love to save the most on!
What do you do to save money on your grocery trips each week?