With food prices constantly rising, it can get tricky to find ways to save on groceries. I tried couponing and watching sales ads, but it was a lot of work and a massive headache for such little savings in return. My area strictly limits coupon uses and doubling. To add insult to injury, of the few coupons I receive each weekend, most of them I won’t use because Monkey and I have preservative and additive allergies. It was time to get creative to lower our costs.
Here’s 9 things I’ve learned over the years that have helped us keep our costs low. In fact, we went from spending nearly $1,100 per month to under $500 per month, and this is including household supplies. That’s over 50% savings! And as of recently, the majority of my shopping is done at one store! While these tips don’t rely on couponing, shopping at various stores or watching the sales ads, they do require a little bit of planning and prep. For me though, the savings is well worth the effort, and the headache isn’t missed.
Keep Ingredients Simple
The number one way I keep our grocery bill low is by buying buying simple, single ingredients. I’m talking things like fruit and vegetables, meats, beans, and dairy. This results in two fold savings. Not only am I saving money by not buying pre-packaged meals that wind up being more expensive per serving, but I’m able to save on groceries by getting ingredients that can be used across multiple meals. I’m all about getting more bang for my buck.
If It’s Not Necessary, Don’t Buy It
The majority of our grocery bill I cut by simply not buying what’s not necessary. Most snack foods, soft drinks and juice products are considered treats in our house, and are bought a few times a year. I found that if I cut them out entirely, we gorge when these products do finally make their way into our house. On the rare occasion that I do buy them, it’s something we look forward to rather than requesting it all the time. However, I do allow one treat item a week for lunch boxes. Not only does it help teach the kids moderation with sweets, but it gives them something to look forward to.
Know Where You Can Get The Best Deal On The Necessary
For my crew, this means lunch box staples like juice boxes and water bottles. When comparing retail prices, I can get the best deal at Sam’s Club on both, and so that’s where I stock up on only those items once a month. Bonus points since I’m not constantly searching for the best deal.
Substitute Hard to Find and Expensive Ingredients, or Just Omit Them Entirely
One way to increase my bill really fast is to buy multiple ingredients are either expensive, or that I am only using once or twice. For instance, some soup recipes call for heavy cream, but that can get expensive really quick. Instead, I just use what I already have on hand, which is milk or half & half. Since I already buy these ingredients, I’m not spending any more for extra ingredients, and the meal tastes just as if you had followed the ingredients list to a ‘T’.
Some ingredients I only buy for specific meals. For example, I buy sour cream when we have tacos, but we don’t go through an entire container of sour cream on our taco night, not even the small 8oz container. Rather than wasting the remaining sour cream, I add it to mashed potatoes, on top of chili or potato soup, beef stroganoff, or Swedish meatballs to use up the rest.
And Roll-over Meals
One of the easiest ways I save on groceries was to use everything up. Hubs and the boys always pack a lunch, and while this alone saves money, packing leftover dinners saves even more. Soups, spaghetti, chicken BBQ sandwiches, pizza and meatloaf are all favorites for the lunch box. Plus, it helps break up the monotony of Bookworm’s PB&Js and Monkey’s ham sandwiches.
The same concept can be applied to dinners. I plan at least one leftover meal throughout the week, sometimes more depending what’s on the menu. This way there’s one night each week where I don’t have to worry about making dinner, and it helps use up food from the week that’s would otherwise go to waste.
Cook From Scratch
Some things are easier, healthier, and much cheaper when you make them yourselves. Rather than buying convenience packs, and pre made items like pancake mix, you can make your own from flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, eggs and milk. Instead of buying cans of “cream of” soups, you can easily make your own with butter, flour and broth. Even chicken broth and yogurt can be tastier when they’re made at home.
Reducing the amount of meat you buy can have a significant impact when trying to reduce your grocery costs. But sticking to the same few purchases can also help save money. We choose to spend our money on the most versatile meats that we eat often: boneless skinless chicken breasts, whole roaster chickens, and ground beef. Because I stick to particular meats, I don’t mind spending some extra on 90/10 beef, rather than relying on 80/20 or 73/27 to keep our costs down.
Using the most of our meat purchases also helps our costs to stay low. When we’re done pulling the chicken off of the roast chicken, we save the veggies and bones and make broth the following day. One 6lb roaster chicken can give us enough meat for 4 – 5 meals, and the bones can give us around 20 cups of broth.
Evaluate Your Memberships
This is one I’m currently in the process of doing. We signed up for a Sam’s Club membership in October 2014, and while it’s helped to streamline our shopping process and reduce our grocery bill, some prices that initially sold me on their membership aren’t the cheapest in my area anymore. Wegman’s claims they can save 30% or more compared to local stores and clubs. I’ve already found out they have the cheapest prices on chicken breasts and packages of peppers, as well as dairy products.
Don’t Fall For Sales Gimmicks Without Comparing Prices
I know, I said that these tips don’t require comparing sales ads, but that doesn’t mean you can’t compare prices at the same store. Stores want to lure you in with their sales so you’ll spend your hard earned money there and think that you’ve gotten the best deals. But the reality is, it’s not always the best deal. I learned this early on.
One local store advertises boneless skinless chicken breast as “Buy 1 Get 1 free”, giving you a 50% savings. This tricks you into thinking you’re getting an awesome price on chicken. I know, I fell for it too many times before I wisened up. But if you compare prices, you’ll see it’s not always the best deal. Their retail price is $4.49/lb, making their “Buy 1 Get 1” price $2.25/lb. They also regularly have the same chicken on sale various Friday’s for $1.88/lb.
By implementing these 9 tricks, I’ve been able to reduce our grocery bill by more than 50%, and save my sanity in the process. Hopefully some of these tips will help you!