I like to keep things simple. The second anything in my life gets complicated my anxiety starts to flare up and I abandon ship. So, when it came to finding a grocery shopping strategy that would help us save money and have enough food to sustain us all week I had to come up with something that was easy, efficient and produced results.
With a little experimentation and tweaking I’ve come up with a 5 part system that allows us to keep our grocery bill under 100$ each week with enough food to feed our family of three, 3 meals per day with snacks for an entire week with no take out or last minute pizza deliveries thrown in!
Before approaching our grocery shopping this way, we were totally the family that spent over 200$ a week and still ended up ordering take out because there appeared to be no food in the fridge. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times we had to order emergency takeout despite having a stocked fridge and pantry full of food. Wasteful right?
Build meals around what you already have. The first thing I do is look through my fridge and pantry because I’ve always got something in there that needs to be used up and would make a great base for a meal for the following week. I take a mental inventory of what I have and create meals around it. Got cans of beans? Make pasta con fagioli, baked rice and beans or Mediterranean chicken. The options are really endless. If I’m in a recipe rut I’ll often head to allrecipes or pinterest and try to find something that will help me use up what I have laying around.
Make a list. Once I’ve got a good idea of what we’re planning to eat that week I make a list of what’s missing. Our goal is always the same : healthy balanced meals that use up what we already have. Therefore, my shopping list is usually a mixture of staples (eggs, milk, bread) and odds and ends that I need to put meals together.
Don’t be loyal to any one store. Once I’ve got a completed list I look at my local grocery stores online flyers to see who is having the best sales. Some weeks I even split my grocery: buying certain items at one store and the balance elsewhere. I’m never loyal to any one grocery store. My loyalty is to my bank card and I’m always on the hunt to spend the least amount of money possible. If I know it’ll be a relatively “cheap” week grocery wise I make it a point to stock up on meats that are on sale. Recently, whole chickens were about 6$ each so I loaded up my freezer.
Make substitutions when possible. Got meat stocked in your freezer? Well, substitute it into recipes where you can. Some weeks we’ll have a beef stew with chicken substituted for the beef. Most recipes are very easily adapted and often taste just as good. Also, anytime I head into a grocery store my first stop is the reduced to sell section. I’ll often find a bunch of fresh produce, meat and other grocery items that are reduced significantly because they are nearing their best before date. Bruised apples and ripe bananas are great to make cakes and muffins at a fraction of the cost. If I find veggies then I’ll modify our meal plan on the spot to accommodate my finds. This is another great way to stock up on meats that you can freeze until you need to use them!
Shop only once per week. This was the most important change we made and it has probably saved us the most amount of money. We used to be notorious for popping into the grocery store to pick up things we were missing and walk out with a 30$ or more bill. The problem was that we were never truly aware of what we had stocked in our home, we didn’t meal plan and would run to the store whenever we felt we needed something. There were many weeks that we’d go to the store an extra 2-3 times per week. Now, we shop once. No exceptions. It forces us to be savvy with our shopping, prepare ahead of time and make do if we’ve forgotten to buy something or it didn’t fit into our budget. It’s truly quite amazing how well you can feed yourself when you know buying more food is not an option.
Bonus: Use coupons sparingly. Quite honestly, I believe that coupons can end up costing you more money if you’re not careful. I rarely come across coupons for things we regularly buy outside of maybe personal hygiene items and diapers. As a result, I’m really really careful with couponing and often times I don’t use them at all.
Any tips to add to this list?