Month after month my grocery bill fluctuates anywhere from 4-9% of my monthly expenses. When I first started budgeting last year I was using my credit card to pay for my groceries and therefore never did stick to my monthly budget. This year I decided to put myself on a cash budget for groceries and that is how I was able to decrease my monthly grocery expense to about 4%. Well the cash budget plus a few other things I have learned along the way. So today I want to share with you a few of those lessons I’ve learned on my never ending journey towards financial independence.
Shop your Fridge
ALWAYS check your refrigerator and freezer for expiring food. I always find something lingering in the back that I purchased and inevitably forgot about. This weekend I found 1 cantaloupe, 1.5 bags of spinach, 1 cucumber and 4 celery sticks in the back of my fridge. With this I was able to make 3 breakfast juices. The only things I ended up purchasing to complete these juice recipes where 2 oranges, 2 apples and 1 lemon. Had I let these food items go bad I would have ended up throwing away an estimated $7.53 (I purchased bulk spinach from Sam’s and cost about $4.00 each)!!! Please check your refrigerator and freezer, I promise there is something there you can eat this week.
Shop the Pantry
Once upon a time I felt like I always needed to have staple items in my pantry. I would stock up on soups, beans, rice, tomato sauce, etc just in case I needed to use those items throughout the week. There is no need to have an overflowing pantry with items that will eventually get shoved to the back and therefore you will forget all about them. Of course I always have coffee, sugar and oatmeal on hand because I really do use those everyday. Aside from this I only buy what I am using that week. This past weekend I found a can of pumpkin (from Thanksgiving I assume) and I was able to use it with my oatmeal. Did you know you can make smoothies with canned pumpkin?
Checkout your Weekly Ads
Tuesday is ad day. I get my local newspaper delivered (for free) and a few other ads come in my mailbox. I plan my meals based on what I have on hand and what is on sale that week. Being a vegetarian I eat a lot of produce and I almost always stick to what is in season. I would much rather pay $1.98 for a watermelon versus paying $4.98 during the off season. That’s a lot of mulah especially if I were to get one every week for a month. Oooooh let’s calculate real quick, that’s a $12 savings a month ($3.00 X 4 weeks) if I buy it during season!! I will take that any day. Okay I feel like I have to brag here a bit but once I found Strawberries on sale for $0.99 so I stocked up on these and froze them for smoothies. Now that’s what I’m talking about! If produce is on sale (I’m talking super low prices here) then I will buy it bulk, freeze them and use these in smoothies during the off season. Very well worth it because fresh produce is healthier and cheaper than frozen produce. On a side note did you know that stores will price match? This is awesome because then you can do all your shopping in one place and save money on gas! Double whammy!!
Plan out all your meals and snacks based on what you have on hand (from above). If you have some tofu (or other protein source for you non vegetarians) in your fridge and find some pasta sauce in your pantry then buy some noodles and make you some spaghetti. Buy your groceries based on your meal plan and do not deviate from this list. This was my problem last year, I would purchase everything on my meal planning list and then some. Of course now that I only carry cash to the grocery stores I do not deviate from my list . . . okay that’s a lie, I slightly deviate from my list. This weekend I wanted chips and salsa so I bought them but I am still under my grocery budget so it’s all good.
Inside the Grocery Store
Shop the outside aisles and stay away from processed foods as these are both unhealthy and expensive. No bagged produced, you can buy your own onions and chop them up yourself. No need to pay the extra the $1.00 to have someone else do it for you. Buy in bulk whenever possible and ignore the brands. I buy the cheapest pasta sauce I can find and don’t really care for brand names, I mean it’s pasta sauce for goodness sakes. If it’s edible I buy it. Don’t waste money on plastic water bottles, I have a refillable glass bottle that I purchased and carry this with me everywhere. You won’t catch me buying bottled water at the store (at least not anymore).
Pay with Cash
I am good about paying my credit card at the end of the week and as a result have never paid any interest. Yay for me! However, when it comes to staying in line with my budget there are 2 items that I just absolutely cannot use my credit card for, these are groceries and eating out. I am on a cash budget for these two items as that is the only way I can stick to my budget. Be honest with yourself and learn from your habits.
I hope you find these tips helpful and hopefully you can use them on your next grocery shopping trip. Do you have any special tips you stick to when doing your grocery shopping?