I’ve written before about how I Survive the Grocery Stores, but I’m always tweaking my method because our food budget is one of our top priorities AND the thing that I have the most control over within the monthly budget.
So here is a current run down of all my best ideas when I do my grocery shopping. Hope its helpful!
- Meal Plan- If you fail to plan then plan to fail. In the years I did the absolute WORST with spending food, I never had a meal plan. Now I’ve been making a meal plan every week for over a year and the difference is night and day. Read my post about Meal Planning, Even When You Hate It for more details.
- Make a List- I never had a list in the bad years either. I always thought “I know what we need!” Well, I might have, but I’m pretty sure stores are designed to completely wipe your memory the second you walk in the door.
I recommend doing an inventory in your kitchen, seeing what you need to have in the house every week, and making that into a list that you put into an editable word document. I have mine in the Surviving the Grocery Stores post. I actually stole this idea from the med dispensing machines at work. The pharmacy knows what to bring because theres a big master list of everything we need in the box at all times. Its incredibly efficient, and I’m all for using other people’s good ideas to my own benefit.
I print mine out 10 at a time and have one always hanging on the side of my fridge in the “Family Command Center,” so if we run out of something, I can just high light it on the list and not have forgotten come shopping day.
- Shop Your Pantry- Even if I feel like I’m totally out of food, theres always something. Even if its just bread crumbs or some left over produce. Eat up your leftovers or transform them into something new (like making left over chicken breast and odd vegetables into a soup). I actually make my meal plan AFTER I’ve taken a quick inventory of what I have in my fridge and pantry. Have some frozen meat you didn’t get to? Search for a new way to prepare it and get inspired.
- Shop Your List- I always shop my shopping list to squeeze every penny out that I can. For example, this week I was making Bang-Bang Chicken, so I had a package of chicken tenders on my list. I only ever use a half a package of the tenders in anything I make, leaving a half package left over for another meal. So shopping my list, I knew I needed another chicken meal for the week. Then I remembered I saw a jar of sun ripened dried tomatoes when I was shopping the pantry, and picked Creamy Tuscan Garlic Chicken. I also was buying a bag of onions for the Bang-Bang, so I picked another recipe that called for onions for another day.
Its basically like a game where the object is to use up everything you possibly can, so that you can buy the least amount of things at the store and still make great meals for your family. It takes some time, but personally I think its kinda fun.
- Tally it Up!- Its helpful to keep track of what you’re spending as you go. It prevents any surprises at the register and wards off little off budget items that jump into the cart as you’re going along. I used to try to keep track in my head or in the calculator app in my phone, but its kind of a pain when you’re also juggling 2-3 kids, a list, a pen, etc.
So a few months ago I saw someone on IG using a golf tally as they were shopping and it looked like a great idea. So far Ive shaved $10-30 MORE off my shopping trips on average.
This is the one I use (*its an affiliate link*). Not that I’m ever wanting to tempt someone into spending money on things they 1. wont use or 2. haven’t budgeted for. I’m just saying this little gadget certainly has helped me.
- Shop the Circulars- The first time I read “shop the circulars” I had it backwards. I thought it meant to make my list and then flip though the circulars to find the best price on what I needed. Instead, I look through the circulars and see what the good deals are and then build my meal plan and list from that. My favorite deal lately was buy one get two free ravioli from Price Chopper. This technique helps inspire the meal plan too. Sometimes I feel like Im making the same things over and over. Its hard to think up new meals, and if you eat at home every night, you need some variety. Basing one meal off of what a store puts on sale vs falling back on your usual go-to’s might broaden your horizons a little bit.
- Bonus Tip! This one might be a little hardcore, and certainly not for everyone. My kids drink milk and water, but they also like this specific juice thats basically like Aldi’s version of V8 Splash. But I feel like I buy it every week, and two days later its gone! So I’ve come up with a way to stretch my juice buck:
I kept two empty juice bottles, and now when I bring home new juice, I pour half in the empty bottle and fill them all the rest of the way up with water from our filter. Thus making two juices into four.
Don’t think I’m awful, juice isn’t a necessity and water is good for you. And now none of us even know the difference. So it works for us?
So theres my list of best tips when I’m trying to keep my grocery budget in check. Im sure I’ll be writing about this again since my methods are ever evolving.