We’ve all been there. You go into the grocery store with the intention of only buying what you “need” for the week. Then you get your total at checkout. You quickly glance over at the cart full of groceries to try and figure out what went wrong. Did you accidentally throw an expensive appliance in your cart? Did the cashier scan all of your items twice? What happened? As you look at that cart, you realize that no mistakes were made, at least not by the cashier anyway.
After becoming a stay at home mom, I had to reevaluate our budget as a single income family. To my surprise, our biggest expenses were not on extravagant items at all. We spent SO much money on food! While eliminating eating out almost entirely made a big difference, our grocery bill was still excessive. As new parents, we underestimated the additional costs of diapers and wipes, baby food and all the other baby-related items as well.
We needed to make some changes, and fast!
I tried couponing for a while, but the amount of time spent to save such a small amount just didn’t add up. I knew I needed to find another way to save money without losing my sanity.
I’ve finally mastered the art of the reasonably priced grocery trip and I want to share my methods with you!
10 Ways You Can Start Saving on Your Grocery Budget Today
Using these tips, I have been able to successfully reduce my weekly grocery budget from $250+ to $100-$150. These numbers include diapers and wipes and non-food related items such as toilet paper and paper towels. By saving $400-$500 a month just on groceries, I have been able to continue to stay home with my son, something that is extremely important to me. Let’s talk about how I achieved this goal…
Preparation is Key
First, let me just say that I am a die-hard believer in meal planning and meal prepping. Not only has it helped with our grocery budget immensely, but it has been extremely beneficial in keeping our family healthy and saves me a ton of time every week.
If you’re new to meal planning/prepping, you can read more about how to get started quickly in my recent post: Meal Prepping for Beginners.
Additionally, if you subscribe to Sane Momma at the bottom of this post, you’ll receive my free organized mom printables including a meal planning worksheet!
The reason meal prepping is so helpful in reducing your grocery budget is because it ensures that you only buy what you need. Taking a few minutes each week to select your meals and write out all of the ingredients needed helps you to create a precise shopping list. When you go into that grocery store, you know exactly what you need. As long as you have the willpower to stick to your list, this will undoubtedly save you money.
If you want to take your savings to the next level, you can implement a few additional meal planning strategies. As you begin the process, you will start to notice which meals require fewer or less expensive ingredients. You can also pair meals that require the same ingredients. This not only saves you money by allowing you to buy value sized packages of your ingredients but saves you time when prepping your meals in advance. The best example I can provide is chicken. I often plan for multiple meals with chicken each week and I buy the large value pack.
BONUS: I’m going to throw in a delicious & super easy chicken thigh recipe at the bottom of this post!
Every week, before I fill out my meal planning worksheet and create my grocery list, I take inventory. I look through my pantry, my refrigerator, and my freezer and think of ways that I can use the items remaining, particularly those with an upcoming expiration date. This is also a great opportunity to throw out old items and make room for the new groceries. (I’m all about batching tasks to save time!)
Related Post: Simple Time Management Strategies for Stay at Home Moms
When I’m taking inventory, I try to get really creative. I make it a priority to see if there are any full meals I can make with what I have already. Usually, I end up with a couple of meals that are only missing one or two ingredients. Using this one tip alone, I sometimes have grocery trips reduced to as little as $50. I find that every month or so I end up with one of these extra inexpensive trips, due to the buildup of unused ingredients over time. Plus, some of the crazy meals I have come up with have proven to be family favorites!
Ads and Coupons Aren’t All Bad
Another important task to complete when creating your list is to look at the grocery store ad. This doesn’t mean you need to go through every page and select specific meals based on the sales. If you have the time to do so, more power to you, but my personal goal with these tips was to avoid long processes that produce little result.
The most important part of the ad is going to be the first page. Occasionally the last page may also have some stellar deals as well. Taking a moment to check these pages out can give you some ideas for your meal planning worksheet. If they have an amazing deal on Pork, you can plan for pork chops one night, pulled pork another, etc.
Now, I know I already mentioned that clipping coupons was not an effective method for me due to the time required, but there is one exception. If your grocery store has a smartphone app where you can clip coupons to your loyalty card, this can be an excellent option. Typically, these apps allow you to search by category and with the click of a button the coupon is saved to your card. When you get to the checkout counter, you simply swipe your loyalty card or enter your phone number, as you would anyway, and all of your coupons are applied. It’s fantastic!
Go on a Diet
Okay, this tip comes with conditions. Many times in the past, going on a diet has actually led to a higher grocery budget for us. But there are definitely ways that dieting can save you a great deal. Often times when people are dieting, they want their healthy (and less desirable) meals to be convenient. This is where it becomes easy to spend more money. Next time you are at the grocery store, take a look at the price of a whole piece of fruit and compare it to the cost of the precut and packaged version. The additional cost of having someone else cut up your fruit for you is crazy!
One really big reason that dieting can help with your grocery budget is portioning. If you have decided exactly how many calories or how much food you are going to eat, it makes meal planning easier and you buy less food overall.
When we aren’t on our diet game, we also tend to buy a lot of snacks and eat larger portions, resulting in a higher grocery budget. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle has saved us a great deal over time and, of course, has so many other benefits.
Related Post: My 16 Week Weight Loss Plan: The 5 Food Fundamentals
Buy Whole Foods
So, I know I’m taking a lot about saving time and this tip might seem to go against that goal, but bear with me. Buying whole foods and cooking all of your meals from scratch will absolutely save you money in the long run. You may need to spend a bit to buy some staple items up front if you haven’t been cooking from scratch (flour, seasonings, oils, etc.) but it will benefit you more and more as time goes on.
When I evaluated what I was buying to see what could be made from scratch instead, I was amazed at how many items I had been buying premade. Try out making your own chicken stock, baking your own bread, or even making your own yogurt! Since I’m less of an expert on this topic, I’ve found this great post on the best foods to make from scratch as a reference for you.
While making foods from scratch does, of course, take time, utilizing meal planning and weekly meal prepping can make the process a lot easier. Setting aside one day a week where you prep your meals for the week and make a few staple items from scratch will ensure that your daily time spent on cooking is minimal, all while saving money and providing healthier meals for you and your family.
Know Your Store’s Schedule
Every grocery store chain has their own sale schedule. Many of them have two separate sale schedules each week. One is usually for the entire week and another may be only a couple days a week. If you can find out when these sales overlap, you can maximize your savings. It’s also beneficial to find out the store’s stocking schedule. If they have a huge sale on Saturday and Sunday, but they don’t restock until Sunday afternoon, you want to plan your shopping trip accordingly.
Of course, if something on sale is out of stock you can always get a rain check (and I recommend that you do!) but it can be frustrating to wait on receiving an item when you have already planned out your meals for the week to include them.
Buy the Cheapest Option
This one was a tough transition for me, but ultimately, I now see the benefits and I’m glad I gave it a shot. Back when we had a dual income, I was a brand girl. I loved my specific brands for every item and I didn’t even look at anything else to compare. If my brand was sold out, I was hesitant to try anything else.
Boy, has this changed. Nearly everything we buy is the store brand. We have a few select items that we have decided are worth the extra price for the right brand, but those items are few and far between. My husband is Italian and store brand spaghetti sauce just isn’t going to fly. Although, when he has the time, he makes his own sauce and we freeze it!
Another thing to consider in regard to buying the cheapest option is produce. When meal planning, you should always consider what is in season. The price for out of season produce is often significantly higher.
Alternatively, you can choose to purchase frozen produce. I have learned to buy frozen anytime I feel that it won’t have a negative effect on the recipe, simply because I know that it won’t go bad if our meal plan for the week somehow gets thrown off. (It’s bound to happen sometimes!)
Avoid Convenience Items
I already mentioned the higher price of precut produce, but there are a variety of convenience items that many of us buy regularly and don’t even think twice about. The number one offender for us is paper plates. As much as I despise doing dishes, since we don’t have a dishwasher, I have to admit that adding paper plates to the grocery budget is an increase that just isn’t worth it. The same goes for plastic silverware and napkins. Using real dishes and utensils and cloth napkins can knock a significant amount off your grocery budget every month.
Other convenience items to look out for are ziplock bags, tin foil, and other disposable containers. I used to use a lot of these items for my husband’s workday lunches. While I still use a fair amount of tin foil in baking, I try not to use it to store leftovers. Reusable Tupperware is an excellent alternative whether you invest in a long-term high-quality option or periodically replace those inexpensive plastic ones. Either way, you’ll save money in the long run.
Cautiously Buy in Bulk
Buying in bulk can save you money. There’s no doubt about it. But you have to be smart about it. Occasionally, the cost of buying a value pack of an item is actually more expensive than stocking up on smaller packages. One unusual example I recently discovered is my husband’s favorite Popcorn. They have a 6 pack and a 3 pack available. The 6 pack usually runs about $6 but almost every time I go to buy it the 3 packs are on sale for 2/$5.
The trick to buying in bulk is to look at the price per unit. Start paying attention to this number. This becomes especially important when shopping at the big warehouse stores, like Costco, Sam’s Club or BJs. If there are items that you are considering buying from one of these stores, make sure to take a look at the price per unit on the item at your local grocery store first. Sometimes, the deal isn’t as good as it looks.
Personally, I have found that shopping at these big warehouse stores always seems to lead to higher expenses for the month. Perhaps if we had a bigger family, it would be more effective, but for our weekly needs, the local grocery store seems to be the best option.
This is another tip that requires a word of caution. Buying online can be an excellent way to save money (and time!) if done correctly. Often, if I am at the grocery store and I see an item that I think might be worth checking out online, I will look it up on my phone right then and there. If I can see that there would be noticeable savings, I will hold off on buying it at the grocery store and order it when I get home instead.
One of the best things I have done to save time and money as a SAHM was to sign up for Amazon Family. I get free 2-day shipping on almost everything from Amazon and their subscribe and save features are awesome! A few items that I frequently order from Amazon are diapers, wipes, K-cups and just about anything that I can’t easily find in a local store. If you don’t already have it, you can get a FREE trial of Amazon Family Here or by clicking on the banner below.
And there you have it! Now you know how I save $400-$500 a month on groceries!
Remember that awesome chicken recipe I said I would give you? Here it is!
- Rinse and pat dry 4-6 chicken thighs (bone-in).
- Pour a thin layer of olive oil into a glass baking dish and place chicken thighs on top, skin side up.
- Stick a pat of butter under the skin of each chicken thigh.
- Top with salt and pepper.
- Bake at 350 for at least one hour until the top is golden.
What are your favorite grocery budget saving tips?
Let me know in the comments below!
Get your free printable meal planning worksheet!