Do you ever go food shopping and wonder where all your money went? It’s too easy to spend more than you planned or want to spend on groceries. I am in awe of shoppers who use coupons and apps to watch every penny, but that's not me and those aren’t the only ways to save money when you shop for groceries.
Recently, I saved about $8 dollars on 2 spices and 1 dried herb by buying in bulk. It reminded me that it’s always worth going back to the basics of how to save money on food. Whether you bank the money saved, use it for something else, or donate it to a worthy cause, these tips and a few I've provided before can help you save money on groceries.
6 Tips on How to Trim Your Grocery Bill
- Minimize prepared food purchases – There is no quicker way to spend a bundle at the store, than to load up on prepared food. Whether frozen or fresh, prepared food is rarely a good buy. Of course, there are times when the convenience is essential, or the prepared dish is one that you could not easily make. Still, as a general rule, buying less prepared food is key to saving money on groceries.
- Go vegetarian or eat less meat – Meat is relatively expensive compared to vegetables, grains, and other alternatives. We used to eat meat every night, but I've cut down on the number of days when we eat it and the size of the portions I prepare.
- Choose fish and meat wisely - Check prices per pound and factor in portion size. Whole fish may be less expensive than filets per pound, but it may not be a better buy. The same goes for meat, where the choices may be bone-in vs. boneless, or with considerable fat vs. a leaner cut. If the price includes weight that you will not eat, you may pay more than if you bought filets, a boneless cut, or leaner meat. Also recognize price differentials among types of fish or cut of meat and factor in how much (by weight) would make an adequate portion. A small amount of a more expensive type or cut may be a full portion, while the same amount of a less expensive type or cut by weight may seem skimpy.
- Shop sales – Although using a menu plan to guide your grocery purchases keeps grocery costs down, it's smart to be flexible enough to change plans if you see great sales. Also, if you have space, stocking up on staples when they are on sale can help. Check price per ounce/pound when deciding which size to buy. Bigger sizes are not always cheaper, especially if the smaller size is on sale. Grocery store shelf labels list price per ounce or pound, not just the total item price. Check those labels and comparison shop.
- Buy in bulk when and if you can – I've already mentioned buying herbs and spices in bulk, but not necessarily large quantities. Even when bulk does require buying a lot, it can be worthwhile. In our area, wild caught salmon is expensive at fish markets or grocery stores, It is sometimes available for a reasonable price per pound at Costco, but as with everything there, you have to buy a large quantity. So I save money by buying at Costco and either freezing a portion or sharing a large piece with a neighbor. The price differential between Costco and my local grocery can be 100% or more and the quality of the less-expensive Costco fish is quite good.
- Cut your food waste– According to the National Resources Defense Council, “[T]he average American throws away over $40 in the form of 33 pounds of food each month … About 2/3 of household waste is due to food spoilage from not being used in time, whereas the other 1/3 is caused by people cooking or serving too much.” Maybe you do better than that average, but cutting any amount of waste puts dollars back in your wallet.
What’s your favorite way to save money when you shop for food?