This season is a unique opportunity to cook more and hone in on your skills. If you aren’t careful though, you’ll see a rise in your grocery costs each month. To help you stay excited about cooking and not break the bank in the process, I’m sharing how to save money on your groceries each month. Cheers to enjoying your time in the kitchen guilt-free!
MAKE A MEAL PLAN
I know this is hard for a lot of people, but you can’t argue the facts. If you go into the grocery store without a plan, you will end up spending more money. The simple way to fix this is to make a meal plan or at least have a rough idea of what you are cooking. Our meal plan used to be very detailed. I would breakdown what we were eating and on what day with links to the recipes. But over time I’ve learned a system that works better for us.
What we are in the mood to eat changes daily and we needed something a little more flexible. So today our meal plan is just a piece of paper on the side of the fridge! It lists out all of the potential meal ideas we have for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We start with at least a weeks worth, and somehow always end up adding more as we come up with new ideas. The goal is to have multiple meals that share the same ingredients to keep costs lower.
Here are a few examples:
- I make roasted chicken with salad and a veggie one night for dinner. Then I will take the left over chicken and shred it for tacos or sandwiches and put the bones in the InstantPot to make broth for rice or soup.
- I make marinara sauce and homemade meatballs to eat over spaghetti squash or pasta for dinner. We make dough and let it rise overnight to make pizza’s with the leftover sauce for lunch the next day or we have meatball sandwiches.
The biggest way we have saved money on groceries is by thinking longterm. We meal plan for shorter periods of time but every time we are at the grocery store we pay attention to the sales and stock up when things are a good price! For us, this especially applies to higher ticket items like meats and paper goods. If we see it on sale for a great price, we will stock up and freeze anything perishable! This saves money over the longterm and keeps your weekly grocery shopping trips minimal.
Here is a helpful cheat sheet for average prices we look for to stock up:
- Chicken Breast (Organic): $2.99/lb
- Whole Chicken (Organic): $2.99/lb
- Grass-Fed Ground Beef (Organic): $3.99/lb
- Organic Steaks (Ribeyes, NY Strips, etc): $7.99/lb
- Wild Alaskan Salmon: $6.99/lb
We like to stock up on bulk items at Sam’s Club (I wish we had a Costco!). Typically that trip includes our toilet paper, paper towels, some meats if the prices are good, as well as cheeses and fruit.
SHOP THE SALES
I have always been someone who shops the sales but I know this is not a habit for everyone. As I mentioned above, we always keep an eye out for things on sale to stock up our freezer and pantry, but I also build our meal plans around what is on sale. I have all of our local grocery store apps and take a look at the ads on my phone before I make the meal plan and grocery shopping list. If certain foods are on sale, I will swap out options to save money.
COMPARE PRICES AT DIFFERENT STORES
Over time, between looking at ads and shopping in person, Tim and I have compared prices for many of our commonly purchased items and determined which stores are the best options for purchasing them. Now, that doesn’t mean I’m willing to go to 5 grocery stores, but depending on our list for the week, could help narrow down which 2 I end up going to. For most weeks, we do the majority of our shopping at Aldi and purchase our pantry items and some produce and dairy there. Then we will stock up on meats and other items elsewhere.
SHOP BY UNIT PRICE
Our whole lives we are trained to look at the overall price and choose the smallest number. We think we are getting the best deal by choosing the cheapest option but in reality, you could be paying a premium and not even know it. Retrain yourself to shop by unit prices instead! These are the price per ounce and price per pound costs located in smaller font next to the overall price. The goal is to choose the cheapest price per ounce within your shopping parameters. This way you get the most bang for your buck. We like to get a lot of our items at Aldi because we find the best prices for most of our items there.
When I was in high school, I had a short obsession with extreme couponers and had my go at it. I managed to buy 30+ packaged of feminine hygiene pads for -.25 cents. Which meant they were free and actually, I got paid a quarter to take them from the store! Needless to say, it was a proud moment, but not all that useful (there are still packages in my parent’s house today) and extremely time-consuming. I’ve definitely toned back my couponing since then, but I’ve held on to some of the same values. I always check apps like Ibotta and Checkout 51 when I shop to see if there are any coupons for things I’m already buying. It’s not worth it to buy things I’m not planning to, just to save a couple of dollars, but scanning receipts after each trip and quickly looking for any matches has added up to almost $100 in savings over the course of this last year. Plus it’s a great way to try out new products with less risk as most manufacturers will offer coupons when products first launch to create incentives to try them.
SUPPORT LOCAL FARMERS
We have been a part of a local farm CSA (community supported agriculture) for two years now and love it! Each week we pick up a box of locally grown, organic fruits and vegetables to build into our meal planning and groceries. In total, the cost comes out to about $20/per week and we pay it upfront for the season. Not only is this a better price than if you were too purchase organic produce at the grocery store, but its healthier as we are eating crops that are in season and have traveled a very small distance. This year, we’ve even started growing our own garden and will be supplementing in some new seasonal favorites like watermelon, hot peppers, and beans to our weekly share.
If there is one part about meal planning and grocery shopping that I haven’t mastered, its this one! I have a really hard time merging dietary parameters into this mix and I’ve learned to be okay with some flexibility here. We eat very healthy, get organic vegetables from our CSA each week, and cook at home 90% of the time. But there are some weeks when I’m craving apple pie and chocolate milk or we just have several days of eating out and that’s okay! We stick within our budget, prioritize working out, and stay flexible on foods when we need to. What can I say? I really love to eat! It’s not easy to sell me on cutting carbs or eating salads all of the time. Well unless both of those things are done to very tasty quality 🙂
Looking for more budgeting tips? You might like these posts!