Saving on Groceries: Use a Budget Planner

Woman grocery shopping

I love to cook. When you love to cook, you have to learn how to be methodical about your shopping for the necessary groceries. I wasn’t always good at this, but I learned through some trial and error on how to best budget for my shopping and cooking needs. You don’t have to go to a grocery outlet — though an Aldi can be your best friend — and you can even opt for grocery delivery if you’re not picky about the specific fruits and veggies. Discover how to update your budget planner by nixing common mistakes and adding some new savings opportunities as we go over how to save on groceries.

Plan for the Week

I can’t stress enough how important it is to make a plan- and I HATE making plans. But if you can plan or in the very least guess what you are going to eat for the week, you can be a little more armed when going grocery shopping. The best thing you can do is make a meal plan for the week. You can sit down for a few minutes on the weekend to do so. Bonus points for recipes that use a lot of the same ingredients! Triple double mega bonus points if you can use leftovers as part of your ingredients for your next recipe. Sorry- now I’m getting a little carried away!

Just as important as planning what you’re going to eat, you should plan where you’re going to buy your groceries. Your neighborhood may have grocery outlets available or low-cost grocery stores like Aldi. If you’re willing to avoid buying from the big box stores, you might find yourself some substantial savings on produce, dairy, meat, and even alcohol.

Have Themes

If you plan to have certain dinner themes each week (i.e. Taco Tuesday, Make your own Pizza Night), not only will it make your planning easier, but you can buy in bulk and save more money! Be sure to factor those bulk buys into your budget planner, too!

Don’t Miss the Bottom Shelf

Understand that the goal for grocery stores is to make the most profit possible, they’re not our deal buddies. In most cases all the aisle and shelf displays are designed to make it easy for you to choose items that have the highest profit margin (for the store). Not necessarily the highest priced items, but the highest profit margins. Look for good deals hiding on the lower shelf (it’s easier to look straight across and up than it is to bend low–stores know this). Also watch for small shelf displays, the items that make the store big bucks get larger amounts of shelf space, with only a small section for some of the lower priced items. You see them–but your attention is mainly caught by the large displays. Be aware of that so you don’t miss the better deals.

Don’t Shop Hungry

Before shopping, have a snack so you aren’t hungry while shopping. If fresh bread is a tempting trigger for you, have some toast before you head off to the store. If chocolate items makes you weak at the knees, have a bit of something chocolate. These may not be as wickedly good than what’s waiting to tempt you at the store, but it’s enough to kill the craving and those triggers are harder to manipulate you when you’re fortified ahead of time.

Keep a Running Grocery List

When you run out of anything, add it to the list.  The more well-stocked your larder, the better you’ll eat, and the less you’ll spend.  Always take your list of the things you need when you shop, and only buy what’s on the list.  If it’s not on the list, then you obviously don’t need it.

Use a Grocery List App

Grocery list apps like Grocery Pal or Out of Milk make it easy to keep your grocery list updated. If you’re the kind of person who leaves behind their grocery list more often than you take it with you, an app might be the right move. Depending on where you do your grocery shopping, the store might even have their own grocery list app, usually with built-in coupons and other savings offers.

Order Grocery Delivery

We know what you’re thinking: “isn’t grocery delivery expensive?” It can be. But if you’re smart about ordering grocery delivery, you can save yourself some time and maybe even keep some extra money in the bank. Popular chains often offer free grocery delivery over a certain dollar amount, often discounting your bill for your first order (or your first few orders!).

There are also organizations like Imperfect Produce, which work to find good homes for overstocked or underappreciated produce. You can pick and choose what comes in your box, how often you receive it, and select from a wide range of other foods to have delivered. The price is often on par with making a trip to the store — meaning delivery is basically free — or you stumble on a great deal and use a few pounds of discounted apples for an apple pie.

This list has effectively made me hungry and anxious to cook! Any tips you want to share?

-Nadine

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