No matter how you slice it, groceries are expensive. Rising costs throughout the agricultural business translate to higher prices in the grocery store, squeezing many families’ budgets to the max. Savings guru Lauren Greutman has a family of six, however, and budgets $125 a week for groceries. This sounds impossible, but here’s how she does it.
1. Shop At Aldi
This no-frills supermarket keeps prices incredibly low by providing mostly store brands and trimming things like a deli counter, bakery and baggers, leaving them to pass those savings onto customers. Aldi is revered throughout the grocery shopping community for consistently having the lowest prices around. So shop here, if you can, to stretch your food budget.
2. Meal Planning, Meal Planning, Meal Planning
Seriously, every meal and every snack should be planned out. That way, you don’t have to go back to the store in the middle of the week to pick up a loaf of bread or a jar of peanut butter—which invariably leads to an entire shopping trip and a blown-out budget.
And when you’re meal planning, keep in mind that it’s much cheaper to eat vegetarian. In fact, according to research from Time magazine, vegetarians save an average of $750 a year, just by cutting meat from their diets. Think about it: A pound of dry beans is really inexpensive compared to the price of a single pound of meat.
3. Cut Out Restaurants
This sounds like no fun at all, but if you meal plan (or even meal prep, if you’re a real star) for an entire week, you won’t be as tempted to go out for dinner or pick up take out. It’s a lot easier to bail on dinner at home if you don’t have anything planned or any leftovers in the fridge to fall back on. That’s why planning absolutely everything is a crucial step.
This isn’t to say that you should never go out to eat, but if you buy a week’s worth of groceries and then go out to eat one night, that opens the door to food waste, which is money waste. If you want to plan on going out to eat, factor that into your meal planning and budget.
4. Clean Out Your Pantry
Having an organized pantry means you know exactly what’s in there at all times. This means you won’t accidentally buy a second bottle of sesame oil because you couldn’t find the original one. Cataloguing what you’ve already got can help you meal plan as well—building around what’s already in the cabinet can make it a lot cheaper to cook during the week.
Taking advantage of buy-one-get-one sales on canned goods and things that freeze easily (like bread, vegetables and meat) are great ways to stock up your pantry. If you always have a few things on hand that you can turn into dinner, that could reduce your meal-planning budget by an entire day.
5. Pay With Cash At The Grocery Store
If you only bring $150 to the store, you can only spend $150. And if your groceries are rung up and they go over the total, what goes first? Ideally, it’s junk food or unnecessary items that don’t need to be in your kitchen anyway.
Again, this is why meal planning is so important. If you already know exactly what you need for the week, it’s much easier to winnow out unnecessary purchases if you accidentally go over your budget when you get to the checkout line.
Check out Greutman’s blog for more great money-saving tips.