This is a question people ask all the time. How can you eat healthy and not spend a fortune?! With a little planning, it isn’t hard to keep your grocery bill in check. I promise! Matt and I try to keep our groceries around $50 a week and we are able to do it most weeks. Some weeks we do splurge on things and spend a little more, but I wanted to share with you some of our tips to keep those bills in check 90% of the time! I know we’ve all gone to the grocery store, standing in the checkout aisle, and somehow we spent $150 dollars. HOW?! WHAT DID I BUY?? And then you leave with 3 bags. So frustrating. So, I have come up with my top 10 ways to save money on groceries. Hopefully, this will help keep those weekly shopping trips in check and take a little stress out of eating healthy on a budget. Take what works for you, leave what doesn’t. And if you have any other tips, leave them in the comments below!
PS- sorry in advance, these pictures are mostly all unrelated … I am day dreaming about summer, so these are all summer garden photos from last year. Hehe. Love you. Still be friends with me!
- Plan your weekly menu:
One of the best ways to save money on your groceries is simply to make a menu plan for the week. (See in this picture behind my awkward posing … we have a menu board that I update every week) If you plan out what you are going to eat, you will have dinner and lunch ready to go every night. Meaning there won’t be any last minute pizza deliveries or stops to the drive through for lunch. Going out to eat or ordering take out food throws your budget out the window instantly if you do it a couple times a week. Of course, I am not saying never go out or order food! But maybe plan on 6 days of food at home and 1 day of dinner out some weeks. The more you have a plan, the less you will end up spending during the week.
Also, making a plan means you can reduce your weekly ingredients. Maybe you plan on making a quinoa bake and then a soup with quinoa in it. That way you are buying 1 ingredient and getting multiple meals out of it. Or maybe you buy a roast chicken and have chicken breasts for dinner one night, make chicken salads for lunches, and then make chicken quesidillas for dinner another night. Then with any leftover meat, you can make a soup with shredded chicken and use the carcass as your broth base! One expensive meat item just gave you a ton of meals!
2. Make a list/download an app:
Once you’ve planned out your menu, make a shopping list for it! Make a list for meals and snacks. Try to organize it by store section too. The more organized your list is, the quicker you will be in and out of the store, and the less chance you have to pick up random things along the way. Making a list will also give you a chance to estimate the cost of your list and adjust accordingly. Depending where you shop, you might be able to download an app on your phone to put your shopping list right on it. We shop at Wegmans grocery stores and we LOVE their app. It tells me exactly how much money I am going to spend at the store because the prices are right on it. And it organizes everything by aisle. I am in and out of the store so fast and without any random extra purchases. Of course, you’ve heard it a million times, but don’t shop hungry. We’ve all been there. Everything looks amazing and you end up buying so much stuff that you do NOT need. Just go shopping on a full stomach and you will come home with a full wallet. (wow, that was pretty lame … sorry guys hahahaha)
3. Shop the sales:
I will be the first to admit, this one I never used to do. I used to get the ads in the mail and just throw them right away. What changed? One week I heard on the radio that the weekly ads had a $20 off of $100 coupon in them for the one grocery store in town. What? They do that? I mean that is a good coupon for a grocery store, I thought at least. THEN the next week, another store in town had a $10 off $100. Not as good, but still 10 bucks for free. Those 2 weeks I stocked up on pantry essentials and whatever the stores had on sale. For example, the one store had a lot of their meat department buy one get one free. Put that on top of $20 off $100 and you have a good deal!! I also loaded up on 5 for $5 deals and other sales in the canned beans/veggies/broth/etc. It was awesome. Ever since, I’ve been checking on all the ads before making my menu plan for the week and it really helps you save money. If you shop the sales and base your menu around it, you really can save a lot of money every week!
4. Cut back on processed/premade foods
Now, to mainstream thinking, processed/premade foods are less expensive. I really don’t think so in all instances. I mean yes, you can buy a box of ramen noodles for super cheap. But on the same token, you can spend (based on the prices at my usual store) $2.99 on a bag of tostitos and $3.99 on a jar of nacho cheese for some snacks during the week. So 7 bucks later and you have a couple helpings of nachos and cheese? Or, for 7 bucks, you could buy (based on the prices at my usual store) a 2 lb bag of carrots (2 bucks), 4 pounds of apples (4 bucks), 1 bunch of bananas (1 buck). That is so much more food! And of course, way way better for you. Or you can buy 2 helpings of premade soup for $8.99 OR you can make a whole pot of soup for the same price. $1.99 broth, $.99 diced tomatoes, $.79 onion, $.69 bell pepper, $1.29 bunch celery, $.79 black beans, $.59 corn kernels, etc. That still leaves you almost 2 bucks for more veggies or for some filling rice or orzo. See what I mean though, if you play if smart, you can buy a TON of real, whole foods for not a lot of money!
5. Buy in bulk
This one is nice and simple. For items you use a lot, it makes perfect sense to buy in bulk and get a discount. Did you know a lot of stores sell canned beans in bulk? Or, even better, you can buy dried beans for a fraction of the price … you just have to be willing to rehydrate them. Trust me, it really isn’t that hard, and if you eat a lot of beans, it will add up to some good savings. I always buy quinoa in bulk by the pound. I also buy nuts by the pound for a lot cheaper. Other awesome bulk items are rice, whole wheat flour, spices, oats, etc. Just double check the price to make sure you actually are getting a better deal. Price compare bulk stores to make sure you are getting the best deal. If the bulk item is more than you can use at one time, see #9 : the freezer is your friend.
6. Cut back on meat consumption
Again, to conventional thinking, you NEED meat at every meal. Well, you don’t. I am not saying be a vegetarian, although that would be awesome!! But, I am saying, cut way back on your meat consumption. You do not need meat to feel full. My fullest feeling meals have no meat on the plate. Whole grains, beans, and veggies are all LOADED with fiber and protein and fill you right up. And they are a fraction of the price of meat. When you do buy meat, take advantage of #3 : shop the sales. Check the weekly ads. If there is a buy one get one or a good discount, stock up on some of your meat purchases and keep them in the freezer. For example, we probably honestly eat meat like twice a month, but the other day, a store had whole roasting chickens for $.88/pound. Compared to their normal cost of 2 something a pound. That was a huge deal. So I bought 2 roasting chickens, roasted them both up and divided the meat up in a bunch of ways. We had the chicken breasts for dinner that night. I make chicken and garbanzo bean salad for lunches. I made chicken soup with quinoa and veggies. And I still have a lot of chicken in the freezer for later (probably the whole second chicken)! I also saved the carcasses to make a big batch of chicken broth. That is a LOT of food out of something that cost 88 cents a pound. Another way to cut back on meat while keeping your carnivorous family happy is to incorporate meat into the meal, don’t make it the main star of the dish. For example, instead of making a steak for each person at the table for dinner … make steak fajitas. You can make 1 or 2 steaks feed the whole family rather than 1 a person. Steak, beans, rice, peppers, onions, salsa, cheese, guac …. they won’t ever notice they aren’t eating a giant slab of meat. Same with chicken, instead of making a chicken breast and a side … make chicken pot pie or chicken orzo soup. One chicken breast will really spread out a long way.
7. Grow a garden
Obviously, one of my favorite ways to save money on groceries is to grow it myself! One packet of seeds for $2.50 can give you enough lettuce for salads ALL spring and summer. Imagine how many packages of lettuce you would’ve had to buy at $2-3 dollars each to eat salad all summer. You can buy a 4 pack of tomato plants for $1.99 and have ENDLESS tomatoes from 4 plants. Even if you don’t want a huge garden or a lot of work, just plant a few things that you eat a lot! Like tomatoes, or salad greens, or bell peppers. Even a decent sized pepper plant is only going to set you back a few bucks and you will get WAY more than your moneys worth back on it. Plant things that are expensive to buy at the store. For example … herbs! They are so expensive at the store for such a small amount. A basil plant is probably 3 bucks at your local greenhouse. Or buy seeds for even more money saving goodness. That one plant will give you WAY more than 3 bucks worth of basil by the time the season is up. Cherry tomatoes are another one. A pint is like 3 to 4 dollars in the store. But ONE cherry tomato plant will give you more tomatoes than you know what to do with. You’ll have all the cherry tomatoes you ever wanted, plus tons to share with neighbors. Plus, gardening is awesome and fun. But, that is just an added bonus. If gardening is new to you, check out my beginner posts on gardening here and here.
8. Take advantage of local farms
Local farms are your friend. Local gardeners are your friend. The prices at the farmers market are generally less expensive than you can find at the grocery store. Especially when produce is in peak season and they have a surplus to sell before it goes bad. Example: zucchini! When it is peak zucchini season, you can get them for a quarter. If you have a friend growing them, you can get them for free because they are harvesting about 10 a day. You can also get your hands dirty and go pick at the farm. Picking fresh at the farm is not only a super fun & relaxing activity, it is also way cheaper. Since you are doing the labor, you get a good discount! Also, supporting local farms is so important and fresh, local produce tastes exponentially better than anything you can get from the grocery store that is shipped in from hundreds of miles away. I try in the summer to buy all of my produce locally (or grow it myself), and I strongly urge you to do the same!
9. The freezer is your friend
We all know I am in love with freezing stuff. But it is for good reason! I don’t like to waste food! And, going along with #8, I like to preserve as much local produce as I can! Make a big batch of soup and can’t eat it all? Freeze half! Growing veggies and they are growing faster than you can eat them?! Freeze them! Want garden fresh herbs all winter long! Freezer, baby! Found an awesome deal on meat at the store? Stock up and freeze it! Get my point? You will waste way less, which will help you save money. For some awesome tips (and visuals of my hoarder-in-the-freezer ways) check out my 2 posts on how to make the most of that freezer! Here and here!
10. Have a “eat from the pantry week”
If you follow all of these tips, and stock up when you find sales, use the s*** out of that freezer, and garden your heart out… you will soon find that freezer and pantry filling up. How often do you open the pantry doors and realize … “wow! there is a lot of stuff in here”. Or “oh, I totally forgot I have that”. Same goes for the freezer! You look around and you actually have plenty of food in the house if you get creative. Try a eat from the pantry and freezer week. Don’t go to the grocery store. What you have in the house is what you have to eat. It is actually pretty fun, you can get really creative to use up the stuff that has been collecting dust for a little while. I’ve came up with some really delicious meals that way. We are actually on an eat from the pantry week right now!
well, I hope you found that helpful in some way or another! Let me know what you think and what you do to keep your grocery bill in check in the comments below! Or send me a message on Facebook!