Filling your kitchen with nutritious and delicious food while on a budget? Challenge accepted! Check-in with these simple ways to cut down your bills at the supermarket.
Plan your meals before you shop
When you don’t have a goal in mind, it’s all too easy to wind up at the cash register with a basket full of frozen peas, coffee beans, and fruit leather.
While they’re all edible, pieces you grabbed at random probably won’t come together to create a cohesive meal. Inevitably, you’ll have to go out again and pick up what you need to fill in those spaces — causing you to spend even more money!
A meal plan can help you eliminate the number of shopping trips you take by focusing your attention on what’s absolutely necessary for the week ahead. It’s a blueprint of upcoming meals, outlining all the lunches, dinners, and snacks you plan on serving your kids.
Remember before you shop to choose meals that will satisfy everyone in the family — not just your kids! Although they may be picky eaters, they shouldn’t dictate the family’s diet every day. This can lead you down a road of bad eating habits as you adopt their selective palette for yourself.
Not only will you be able to start eating food that you like again, but you’ll also reduce your waste. A well-crafted meal plan will incorporate the leftovers of one dish into another new meal, so you’re less likely to throw out food. By eliminating waste, a family of four could save as much as $150 a month in spoiled food.
Create a budget and stick to it
A budget is a financial plan that complements a meal plan perfectly. It helps you organize your finances, so you can afford to buy what you need.
Last year, the official USDA Food Plans estimated a family of four on a thrifty budget could spend around $640 a month on groceries. Those on a more liberal plan could expect this cost to nearly double to $1,280 a month.
By sitting down with your finances, you can determine which of these plans is more realistic for your family. More importantly, you can cut spending in other areas of your budget to make sure you’ll always have enough cash to hit your monthly target for food.
Of course, a budget isn’t infallible. There may be a week here and there when you go over your limits. There’s no harm in splurging now and again on special occasions, as long as you stick to the plan most of the time.
Don’t panic if your budget is thrown off by some unexpected household expense. If it’s an emergency you can’t ignore, a personal loan might be the answer — even if you’re rebuilding your credit score. There are loan options for those without good credit that include installment loans and lines of credit that work quickly in your time of need.
An installment loan or personal line of credit works well as a momentary stopgap, but they shouldn’t become a regular feature of your budget. Just remember they’re meant for emergencies — not every shopping trip.
Bring your smartphone along for the trip
How many times have you dug through your purse to find your phone, so you could call someone back home to see if you need more milk? If this is the only way you’re using your phone in the grocery store, you’re missing a huge opportunity for savings.
With the right app, your phone can help you:
- Comparison shop: Is the deal on pork chops really the lowest price in the city? Price comparison apps like Basket and Grocery Pal will answer questions like this. They locate sales at grocery stores in your area, so you don’t have to drive around town in hopes of a better deal.
- Collect rewards: You have what feels like a million loyalty cards and stamp cards somewhere. Too bad you never seem to remember to bring them with you. Apps like Flok and Punchcard connect every rewards card you have onto their digital platform, so you only have to remember to bring your phone to the store.
- Earn rebates: You can take some of the stings out of a costly bill when you compare your groceries to the list of qualifying items on apps like Checkout51, Ebates, and Ibotta. If you can verify your purchase, these apps will send you cash back.
Having a kitchen fully stocked with nutritious food isn’t always the easiest thing to do when you don’t have a lot of extra cash floating around. But with the right tools in your purse during your trip through the grocery store, you can manage it.