As mentioned previously, when my husband and I first started budgeting, we noticed we were overspending on several things. One area that we were spending an excessive amount of money on was food. We were truly appalled and set a goal to cut our food spending in half. We updated our budget to reflect our new goal numbers and started brainstorming of ways we could save money on food. Regarding our budget for eating out, we decided to go out to eat less, choose less expensive restaurants, and really try to utilize any gift cards we had or discounts offered.
For cutting our grocery budget, we needed to put a little more thought into it. We are not, and never will be, “extreme couponers,” so we needed to think of some options that would work for us on a consistent basis. I am sharing with you below some of the best ideas we came up with to help save money on grocery shopping, which helped us stay under budget.
- Plan your meals. Planning your meals ahead of time is an absolute necessity. It took me a while before caving and finally doing this and I am so glad I do now! Without an idea of what you are going to cook for the week, you end up buying either too much or too little. If you don’t buy enough, you end up having to go back to the store to pick up the remaining items you will need. Besides being inconvenient, oftentimes you end up buying things you don’t need on those quick trips because you are rushing. For example, I have a terrible addiction to these chocolate covered almonds at this one grocery store on my way home from work and end up buying them every time I step in there, no matter why I’m there! If you buy too much, you spend more money than needed and waste food. Planning your meals ahead of time ensures that you only purchase the items you need for the week.
- Buy in bulk when on sale. When you do this it may seem like you are spending more money, but this is the better option in a cost-benefit analysis. For example, I drink a smoothie every morning before work using frozen fruit. Frozen fruit can be a little pricey, so whenever I see a good sale, I buy a bunch and save them up. Things that can be frozen or have expiration dates far in the future can be bought ahead to save money in the long term.
- Take advantage of coupons. You do not need to be an “extreme couponer” to be able to use this option, as there are several different ways to find coupons. Many grocery stores offer downloadable coupons that get sent directly to your card, so you do not even have to carry anything with you. Flyers oftentimes have coupons in them, along with displaying the store’s sales for the week, and these can usually be found when you first walk into a store or mailed to you in advance. Lastly, manufacturers’ coupons can be found online, in mailings, in magazines or if you reach out to companies they may send you some of their brand’s coupons.
- Utilize credit cards with rewards. There are several different credit cards that offer rewards programs and many that offer extra cash back specifically at grocery stores. Here are a few of the best credit cards for grocery shopping and the reward offered:
- American Express Blue Cash Preferred® Card- 6% cash back
- American Express Blue Cash Everyday Card®- 3% cash back
- BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ Credit Card- 2% cash back
- Chase Freedom® Credit Card- 5% cash back (alternating categories each quarter)
Please note that there are limits to the amount of cash back you can earn. For example, the American Express Blue Cash Preferred® Card offers 6% cash back on up to $6,000 annually. Before opening any of these cards, review the details on maximums AND annual fees associated with these cards. The assumption here in earning cash back is that you are charging the expenses on your card, but paying them off monthly and, therefore, no interest is being charged to counteract the rewards earned.
- Use a grocery delivery/pickup service. I have recently become the biggest advocate of grocery delivery/pickup. Although there is a fee to utilize these services, it is nominal. From my experience, big chain grocery stores charge between $5-10 each time. I use Peapod (Stop & Shop) and the fee is $9.95 if your order total is below $100 or $6.95 if your order total is over $100. They also run promotions throughout the year for free or discounted delivery. I give the driver a small tip, as well. Even with the fees and tips, Peapod has helped us stay within our budget. I have found that I am buying only necessities because I don’t walk past an item and get tempted the way I do in person. Also, I find Peapod’s website extremely user-friendly. You can search by sales and they remember your previous orders, which is helpful if there are certain things you buy frequently. You can either “browse by aisle” or type in individual items that you are looking for. I tend to type my items in because this saves me from scrolling past something tempting. However, even when you do browse by aisle you will only see the relevant items and not others just sprinkled in for promotional purposes. I highly recommend looking into grocery delivery and/or pickup at your local stores because it saves you money AND time. Here is a list of some stores that offer these services (be sure to check if they offer these services to your residence specifically first):
- Whole Foods*
*Services available through Instacart.com