So you've dropped your cable subscription, sold one car, refinanced your house, sold some old clothes on eBay, and now might be thinking, "what else can I do? Everything else is a necessity!"
Have you looked at your grocery spending lately? Yes, it's vital to feed your family and that's definitely not discretionary spending, but do you really need to spend that much? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2006 the average American family (2.5 people) spent $3,417 per year on food prepared at home. This averages to $285 per month or $66 a week. That may not seem like much at first glance but remember, that is $66 per week on food items: fresh produce, meat, dairy, etc. Don't include your household products or dining out when figuring your average spending.
Once you know how much you spend, analyze your shopping habits and see what can be changed. Depending on how much you spend, you can save up to 50% of your weekly grocery spending just by following some simple guidelines.
- Never shop hungry! This may seem like a strange tip, but research shows that individuals will inevitably purchase more than they need when shopping on an empty stomach.
- Make a list. Again, seems basic, but this simple step will save tens of dollars in unneeded food products.
- Shop the deals. Take the time to peruse your local grocery ads before heading to the store. Find out what's on sale and see if you can't match those deals with coupons to save even more money. As a basic rule, see if you can't avoid buying anything unless it's on sale or you have a coupon (other than your basic items such as milk, eggs, bread, etc.).
- Shop at multiple stores. Obviously this needs to be done within reason. If you're spending more on gas than you're saving, cut back on unnecessary trips. However, oftentimes by comparing prices and specials at several different stores, you can save even more. For instance, CVS Pharmacy regularly has milk on sale for $2.69 a gallon, which is much cheaper than you'll get at H.E.B.
- Stock up. When you find a really good deal on something, buy as much as you can! Like I mentioned in my previous article, Stocking the Freezer 101, pretty much anything can be frozen and most foods can be frozen indefinitely. Steaks on sale for $2.88 a pound? Buy four, keep one in the fridge to use that week and freeze the rest.
- Plan your menu after you shop. Planning a menu in general can help you save money, but believe it or not, you can save even more money by planning your menu after you go grocery shopping. If it helps to have an idea beforehand, check the grocery ads, make a list, and then plan a tentative menu based on the list and what you already have at home.
- Avoid over-processed, pre-packaged foods. Sometimes you can find good deals on easy-prep foods, but for the most part you'll save more if you focus on fresh produce, raw meats, basic dairy, bread products, etc. Typically, the fewer the ingredients, the cheaper the product, and it's much healthier as well.
- Don't buy what you don't need. Again, this seems simple enough, but even the most seasoned shoppers fall into the trap of buying something extra just because it appears to be a great deal. Remember, if you don't need it you're not saving money by buying it.
- Freeze leftovers. If you cook too much in a meal, don't throw it out or give it to the dog, freeze it in single portions and save it for a "leftovers" night. This works especially well if you wait a couple of weeks to serve the leftovers because then it feels like a brand new meal (as opposed to serving it two nights later).
- Drink water. Flavored drinks such as soda, juice, and alcoholic beverages are terribly expensive. Drink more water during the day and your grocery bill is sure to drop.
And that's just a few ways to lower your grocery spending. Find out what works for your family and put it into practice!