Grocery shopping can feel like a cursed thing to do especially when you’re on a tight budget but it doesn’t have to get the best of you. With these Budget-Friendly Grocery Shopping Tips and know how, you can get through the trip without breaking a sweat. Let me share with you some of the things I have learned along the way to make grocery shopping a little easier.
We are only a family of 2 but when planning out and cooking meals I account for second helpings and leftovers (so I can have lunch at work the next day). All-in-all my budget could modestly feed a family of 4. For a family on a tight budget, we manage to get everything we need and then some for an entire month on about $200 (give or take a little). Don’t believe me? Keep reading.
Have you ever seen the television shows that depict extreme couponers? I have, and I always thought you had to have their skills to shop on a budget. Turns out, it’s not true at all. I’ll admit they do score some epic deals but not everyone has the time or resources to coupon nor do they have the space to store all of the extra food they buy. My point is, you can grocery shop normally, without a million coupons and still come out on top.
Tip #1: Buying in bulk
Buying in bulk can be a good strategy but it doesn’t work for everything or everyone; it can also be misunderstood. A lot of people are under the impression that buying in bulk means buying a lot of something while it’s on sale or buying it in bigger packaging for a single price. Part one of that can be true if the sale is marked severely under regular price. The latter end of that can be a gimmick.
Just because an item comes packaged with multiple pieces and marked at a single price doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a better deal. Whenever you see something like that (for instance, at a Costco, Sam’s Club, or BJ’s) think about how much you normally pay for the same product in an individual package. Then multiply that price by how many come in the bulk package. Is the number higher, lower, or about the same as if you purchased your single item as multiple? If it’s about the same or higher then forget about buying it in a bulk package and buy it how you normally would. I find that most of the time (unless you have coupons) buying like this just gets you in a pinch because you aren’t saving any money and you have no place to store the extra merchandise when you get home.
A good time to buy in bulk would be on your normal shopping trip but only for certain items. A lot of the time you would think that buying non-perishables in bulk would be a good idea but really you are just wasting space in your house. Only buy a lot of those if your family eats it literally all of the time. Instead, spend time buying your main entrees in bulk such as the meat of your meal. Freeze it and it will be good for a few months.
A couple good examples of meats to buy in bulk would be chicken breast and pork loin/chops. Now, I’m using these as an example because my family eats a lot of white meat. You can certainly use the same method to shop for other meats that your family prefers.
At my local grocery stores the fresh chicken breasts usually come in different sized packages. Some have 2-3 full sized breasts in them and then there is the family pack that has about 7 full sized chicken breasts. We are a small family but I know that we eat a lot of chicken. So, when buying that, I purchase the largest package for about $15. Through experience, I know that the average serving size for chicken is not really an entire chicken breast. Even as a person not focusing on dieting, I cannot eat an entire whole chicken breast on my own. Problem: it’s too big! Solution: we make it smaller. When I get home from the grocery store, I slice all of the breasts in half, horizontally (the long way), as if you were butterflying it only instead of leaving the pieces connected, you completely separate them. Ta-da! For the same price you have just doubled your food.
Another good way to utilize this trick is for buying pork. We typically eat boneless pork chops. An average package contains 3-4 chops and costs around $5. However, if we buy an entire untrimmed loin for about $20 it’s a whole other ball game. A loin this size yields us about 27 one-inch thick pork chops. Purchasing the same amount trimmed and sliced by the butcher would have cost us around $35. That’s almost twice what I paid for the whole chunk of pork! The moral of this story is that even though we won’t eat 27 cuts of pork in a single month, we saved a huge chunk of change by purchasing the meat in bulk. We now have about a 4-month supply of pork chops for just $20. So, over the next few months that’s money I can spend on other food items. Not only that, but maybe your family likes pork loin or country style pork ribs. With this one purchase, you can make all of those things. Buying them all separately would cost you a bunch more than necessary. Kill two birds with one stone and make your life a little easier.
*NOTE: When I took this photo my local store only had loins roughly half the size as described above. Sizes may vary.*
Tip #2: Don’t buy convenience
You can also utilize the aforementioned method of money saving when buying your produce. If you ever look at the produce section, particularly the celery, broccoli, and carrots (because that’s what I know), there are always 2 sides to the story.
There are trimmed and untrimmed versions and the prices vary. With Celery if you buy the hearts all cleaned and trimmed you will probably pay a little more than buying celery that’s just been picked and packaged with the outer stalks, leaves, and dirt. Same idea with Broccoli; if you buy trimmed up broccoli crowns they are pricier than if you bought a broccoli bunch that you have to bring home and trim off the stems yourself. And again, when it comes to carrots. Buying them whole and without being trimmed up like baby carrots you will save significantly.
Keep in mind that savings can be viewed several ways; spending more for less in the right now, spending a little more right now and spending a lot less over time, or spending the same amount on a larger package as you would on a smaller package of the same thing. I do this every month and it helps me so much. Sometimes the food that I purchase rolls over into the next month by a week or more allowing me a head start on groceries. Which is nice because that’s X amount of money that I can spend on something else.
Tip #3: Buy generic
Buying generic or store brand food items is a fantastic way to save some money on your trip. Some people don’t know this but a lot of times so-called “generic” labels are actually the exact same product as the name-brand. What happens is other companies will order from the name brand and slap their label on it and sell as a completely different product. Of course, no one is going to tell you that outright because then the name brand would lose business because everyone would be buying the lower cost product. It’s all a head game, honestly. I wouldn’t go comparing two well-known name brands but brand-name vs generic? Absolutely! Since no one is going to tell us which name brands are bought and sold by which generic brand it’s all about trial and error. You have to shop around and try different generic brands and see which one you like best; or which one compares to the name brand item you would prefer to purchase.
Not only does buying generic help save money on food but it can be a life saver with regular household items too. I have come to love the generic products at my local store. When it comes to buying my household items I would choose the generic over name brand any day. It costs less and you get more of it. Mom win! I LOVE finding bargains.
One generic brand that I am in love with is from Target. Their generic brand is Up&Up and let me tell you… It’s amazing. Target is always a problem for me when I go in there. I spend too much money and get way more than I intended. Up&Up has so many items to choose from. If you want it, they’ve got it! I firmly believe that EVERY ITEM they choose to put in their generic line is the name brand product repackaged. From feminine products to household paper products…it’s all quality. If I had a Target store near me it would be the only place I shop.
Tip #4: Compare prices
Comparing prices can be your most valuable skill set when it comes to shopping. It will help you determine the best bang for your buck. A good way to illustrate that would be going down an aisle for an item and there are multiple brands, sizes, and prices for it.
Let’s use Ketchup as an example (Please note the prices I am utilizing are for demonstration purposes only). Say you want to buy ketchup for a BBQ you’re having. There will be lots of people there so you better make sure to buy enough for everyone. You pick up the biggest bottle you can find and it’s 5.00 for 150oz which is great! BUT also make sure to look at the price of the smaller bottle next to it. It’s $1.50 for 50oz. So, you would have to buy 3 of the smaller bottles to equal the same amount of ketchup that you would be getting in the larger bottle.
By comparing all of the prices and amount of product you get you can decide which is the better deal. The end goal is to spend the least amount of money possible. In this instance, you find that you can spend $5 for one large bottle of ketchup or $4.50 for 3 smaller bottles of the same ketchup. Obviously buy the smaller bottles and save yourself $0.50. Not only have you saved yourself money but it’s more practical to buy the 3 smaller bottles because if you don’t need as much ketchup as you anticipated then you won’t have to buy ketchup for a while because they have a longer shelf life if unopened.
At first glance, these Budget-Friendly Grocery Shopping Tips may seem time consuming but, I promise you, once you put them into action and use them a few times it will come second nature. Apprehensive about putting them to use? Well, think of it this way, a few cents here and there add up to quite a few dollars at the end of the day. Is saving money worth that little bit of extra time you have to put in? That little bit of money you save at the end of every shopping trip can add up to a family trip instead. Or how about a trip to the spa to pamper yourself as a reward for saving so much money? You have the power! You decide what to do with it.
If you’re interested in other budgeting tips check out:
15-Minute Budget Planning