Some of my most popular posts on this blog have been my budget blogs. If you are new here, a few years ago I went on a radical budget and we paid off $40k in debt! (here’s the post on how we paid off all of that debt and here are my tips on what you should do first if you decide to get out of debt) One of the things I decided to do was pay for everything in cash so that I HAD to be firm on what I was going to spend. I would go to the bank once a week and get the correct amounts of cash from the bank and put them in envelopes for my different categories of spending. We decided on $50 a week for groceries. I had NO clue how I was going to make that happen, but I soon taught myself a process and I thought I would pass on to you my top tips for how to grocery shop on a budget. I also have two FREE printables included with this post to help you with this process.
- Make a list. Right next to the fridge I keep a lined notepad so that when we run out of something, I can quickly write it down. I like to keep certain items on hand (milk, cheese, butter, canned vegetables, etc.) so those are the ones I put on this list as they run out through the week.
- Meal Plan. Once a week, when it is time to grocery shop, I figure out how many dinners we will need for the week. We eat out 1-2 times a week and my mom has us over for dinner every other week. So I plan for 4-5 meals a week just depending on our schedule. I then decide what meats we will have for those dinners. For us, 1 lbs. of beef is good for two meals, 2 lbs. of chicken is good for two meals, 1 roast is good for two meals, 4 pieces of pork chops is good for 1 meal, and we have a list of meatless options for one day a week too. I usually figure the meat I want to use that week and try to rotate through different varieties to keep things from getting boring. I then come up with meals for those meats. I do all of this in my head, but when I was a newlywed, I had a list of different meals I would make so that during meal planning time I wasn’t stumped. I would categorize the list by meat type. For example with ground beef I like to make- spaghetti, burritos, stroganoff, hamburgers, sloppy joes, tacos, meat loaf, or Shepard’s pie. If beef is on my list then I pick two of those meals and make sure all of the ingredients I need are on my list.
- Convert your list. Now I take my list and categorize it by which section of the grocery store it is in. That way I can be as efficient as possible when grocery shopping and you don’t have to run to the other side of the store if you forgot something.
- Grocery shopping. This is the part where I tell you how to stay on budget! So now, you have a list that will systematically take you through the store. As you add something to your cart write the price on your piece of paper. I always round up to the next $.50 to somewhat account for tax. So if the item is $2.18 I write down $2.50. The next item in your cart write down the rounded up price PLUS the price of the last item. This will help you have a running total so that by the end you should be able to guesstimate within a dollar or so what your grand total will be. I remember at the end of a particular shopping trip and realizing that I was going to be over by $3. I went through my cart and removed items until I was in budget before checking out. Was it fun to get rid of the only chocolate I would have for the week- not really, but I was dedicated to becoming debt free so I was ok with going without. The hardest part of this system is figuring out prices of fruits and vegetables. You’ll have to weigh your produce or look at old receipts to figure out this price out.
- Pay attention to waste. Throughout the week as you throw out perfectly good food that went bad, pay attention and make sure to buy less of those items next week. Throwing out food is throwing out money!
- Try out online grocery shopping. Right now I am testing out grocery shopping online and then picking it up. It is a free service at my favorite store. I love that I can spend more quality time with Don instead of being at the store. But the best thing is the running total as you shop! You can put things back and see that final dollar amount before the final checkout!
- Look at the ads. Before you meal plan, flip through the ads and see if anything can be worked into a meal. If you are at the store and see an item that will work that is on sale- be flexible and switch up your meal a bit.
- Eat Less Meat. Meat is super expensive, so cutting meat out of one dinner a week will really help your budget! We like to do a ceasar salad night or soup or baked potato bar or pasta. It might take a bit of creativity, but going meatless will save you some money!
- Shop Local. If food is grown locally it will cost less because of shipping costs. Once a week my husband and I stop by our farmer’s market and buy veggies and fruits that were grown literally down the road from where we live. We have our favorite farmers that we buy from and their veggies are gmo and organic for cheaper than what we can buy at the grocery store! We love that we get to support our community and eat on a budget.
- Use coupons. If you have applicable coupons to healthy meals, use them! If your store has a rewards system, use it! Every dollar saved adds up!
Printable time! I created two printables to help you with your grocery shopping! The first is a meal planner so you can list out your meals by the main meat. This will help you make your grocery list which is the second printable. On this one, you will list that week’s meals and the ingredients you need to make them. There is a dollar sign next to each item on the list so you can keep a running total to help you stay on budget. Just put in your information below and it will be emailed right to you!
Alright. Now here’s the part where I am 100% real with you. Since having a baby and paying off my debt I am not as strict with my food budget. We now spend $60-$70 a week on groceries. I used to drive to a farther grocery store that was cheaper, but I don’t love doing the drive with Don. So we simplified our lives and I drive to the close store with the free bananas for Don while we shop and the friendly staff that loves my kid and we are both happier. If anything, I am even more efficient now with my shopping now to keep Don from getting bored. I like being in and out of there in less than 30 minutes. So the moral of the story- your shopping is going to change as your life changes! And that’s ok. But if you are on the strict budget part- follow my tips above and know that one day you can buy the fancy cheese. And that cheese will taste amazing because you know what it’s like to give up for a better life :).p.s. want a free course on how to style your accessories to look amazing? Click below to get your free ecourse!