Let’s face it: we’ve all got to eat, right?
That said, it’s easy to let your food budget totally spiral out of control. This rings true regardless of your living situation, too.
Think about it.
If you live alone, grocery shopping for yourself may feel like a constant exercise of throwing out food because you just can’t seem to find the right balance between too much and too little.
And for couples, there’s always the temptation to go out to eat when the stress of “who’s going to cook” becomes too much.
Oh, and let’s not forget how your grocery budget explodes as soon as you throw kids into the mix.
Between wasted groceries, impromptu fast food trips and otherwise just not knowing how to budget, it’s no surprise why what we eat ironically eats up so much of our budgets. The key to wrangling food costs is a combination of smart planning and likewise approaching how you shop in a totally different way.
Regardless of your situation, we’ve got some food for thought for you. The following five tips are totally fair game for anyone looking to reign in their grocery budget once and for all.
Rethink Your Grocery Trips
There’s no denying that trips to the store are personally stressful in addition to taking a toll on your wallet.
Long lines. Endless options. “Deals” and “discounts” that are just designed to force you to spend more.
That’s why services such as Instacart are booming right now. The service essentially lets someone else do the legwork of shopping while you pick out exactly what you want. This is a smart move as you save money but only getting what you need (think: not getting suckered by surprise items) and staying within your budget each and every time you shop.
Oh, and you can actually find a free Instacart promo code from Ridester to save you even more money before you get started with the service.
Even if you don’t go the Instacart route, it’s crucial that you map out your wants and needs before you head to the store. Doing so saves you money and stress simultaneously.
Be Wary of the Warehouse
On a related note, where you shop has an major impact on how much you spend.
Conventional wisdom tells us that warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club are king when it comes to saving cash, but not so fast.
The jury it out on warehouse stores and whether or not they save you money given their initial membership fee and the fact that getting a return on your investment really boils down to how you shop. If you aren’t actually visiting such stores on a regular basis, you’re inevitably burning a hole in your pocket.
Also, buying in bulk means very little if you’re letting that food go to waste. Such stores also tend to encourage shoppers to buy much more than what they need.
There is no “right” place to shop, but just keep this tip in the back of your mind. There’s no shame in shopping at discount stores like Wal-Mart, and warehouse stores can be a good deal if you cook in bulk. That said, “premium” grocery stores like Whole Foods often mark up items you could get much cheaper elsewhere.
BOGO is Your Best Bet
Most of the time, buy-one-get-one deals are lifesavers for those looking to shop on a budget (even at pricier stores). When it comes to fresh items such as meat or fruits, steep discounts do double-duty of saving you money and helping you plan out what you’re going to eat for the week. If your grocery basket looks like Noah’s Ark, you’re doing it right.
Similarly, look for BOGO deals on non-perishable items (think: canned and dry foods) with long-time expiration dates that you know you’re going to use down the line.
Even if you’re glued to particular brands, swallowing your pride for the generic store item is inevitably going to help you save. Given that the majority of these items are identical brand-name counterparts, there’s literally no reason to pay a premium if you don’t have. In many cases, the only reason to buy brand names is if they’re an aforementioned BOGO deal.
Mind Your Waste
Reality check: the average American loses thousands of dollars annually due to food waste. If you don’t consider yourself someone who’s much into leftovers, it’s time to rethink your stance for the sake of your pocketbook. From meal prepping on Sundays to eating leftovers for lunch, you can stretch out big meals throughout the week with ease.
And on that note, only buy what you need versus sticking extra items in your cart mindlessly. It may take a bit of experimenting to get your needs right, but it’s worthwhile to be consistent in terms of how much you spend and fill up your fridge.
Rather than feel overwhelmed by how much you’re spending on groceries and eating in general, take action! With these tips in mind, you can totally overhaul your grocery budget and likewise find new ways to keep more money in your pocket when it comes to food.