With food prices on the rise and people's budgets getting tighter, learning some tips and tricks for grocery shopping on a budget is more important than ever. This article summarizes grocery shopping on a budget and offers a list of easy ways to help you save big at the supermarket.
GROCERY SHOPPING ON A BUDGET
In today's busy world, our schedules can be as tight as our budget, and one key to grocery shopping on a budget is planning ahead of time. If you know what you need to pick up at the store, you will be less likely to pick up things you do not need and might break your budget. Planning out meals for the next few days will also give you a chance to plan when you cook so they fit in with your busy schedule. However, just because you're making a list does not mean you should be inflexible with that list.
Take advantage of sales and seasonal products and substitute less expensive options when you can. Sign up for your local grocery store's rewards program to get access to the best deals. Learning to read the price tag at the grocery store is another important aspect of grocery shopping on a budget. Most items in the grocery store will have a price per pound or price per ounce listed on the side of the price tag. When comparing different items, use this information to determine which one is the cheapest. Don't be afraid to pull out your phone and use the calculator if you need to.
Don't be afraid to store hop either. If one store has a better deal on a certain necessity, pick it up for the cheapest price possible. When store hopping, pay attention to the distance you need to travel in the cost of fuel. If you spend $0.50 extra in fuel to save $0.25 on broccoli, you saved nothing at all.
Shopping for fresh vegetables in season is key for grocery shopping on a budget. A modern grocery store is a miraculous place where you can buy off-season produce that is been grown worldwide to meet that off-season demand. These off-season products come at a premium, however, that in season products will not have. If you need off-season produce, consider buying it frozen. As always, check the price differences to determine the cheapest product.
Most of the aisles at the grocery store are filled with processed food. The more processed the food is, the worse it is for you and the more expensive it is. Sticking to unprocessed, or less processed, foods can save you big and leave you eating healthier.
Find a supermarket that has a large bulk food selection. Buying in bulk is much better for your budget. Many stores offer an expansive bulk section, even including spices. Jarred spices at the grocery store can be up to 10 times more expensive than buying spices in bulk.
Another aspect of the processed foods issue to consider is in regard to meat. Meat is one of the most expensive items in most people's food budgets but the cost of meat rises by how processed the meat is. Take a chicken, for example, whole chickens will have a much lower price per pound than chicken pieces which have a much lower price per pound than boneless skinless chicken breasts. If you eat chicken a lot, learn how to process a whole chicken so you can buy it at a much lower price. You can even use the bones to make your own stock, saving you from having to buy store-bought stock.
As meat is the most expensive thing in most people's food budget, reducing the amount of meat you eat can be key to grocery shopping on a budget. Lentils and beans can be a great option for those that want to lower their food budget and eat less meat while still getting enough protein. To liven up lentils or beans, find a grocery store that sells bulk spices and experiment with different flavors.
When you make your shopping list, try to find items you could make at home. It is important to consider the time and difficulty involved when doing this. You can make many cheeses at home, for example, but the time and effort involved might be too much for most people. If you find an expensive item on your list, you can make it home, try to do so, and if it works out well and saves you money, continue to make it yourself instead of buying it from a store.
There are several pieces of equipment you can invest in to make grocery shopping on a budget even easier. You can use a good freezer to store both prepared meals and items purchased on sale at the grocery store that you don't want to pass up. Many grocery stores sell meat at a discount when it is near its pull date. Purchasing and freezing this meat will enable you to get it for a cheap price and then use it later.
A multi-purpose electronic pressure cooker is another piece of kitchen equipment that can make grocery shopping on a budget much easier. A pressure cooker uses pressure to raise the boiling point of water. This allows it to cook much faster than a conventional method. For those on a budget and a tight schedule, this can enable you to make dinner in a flash.
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?
The importance of grocery shopping on a budget is not limited just to the savings it brings. There are also health benefits and environmental benefits as processed foods contain more sugars and simple carbohydrates that unprocessed foods. These sugars and simple carbohydrates are easily digestible and converted into sugars by the body. Over time, the consumption of these types of foods can lead to obesity, diabetes, and all the related health issues that come with them.
Another health issue to consider is sodium. We all need sodium to survive, but too much salt in the diet can lead to high blood pressure and other health conditions. The processed foods that take up most of the inner aisles of the grocery store are full of sodium. Purchasing unprocessed foods to prepare at home yourself allows you to better control the sodium amount in your food.
As for the environment, processed foods, and more expensive foods such as meat, often come at a higher environmental cost than unprocessed or bulk foods. Processed foods sometimes have extravagant packaging that creates a great deal of waste besides the larger transportation cost compared to unprocessed foods.
EASY WAYS TO HELP YOU SAVE BIG
Here is a list of helpful tips to make grocery shopping on a budget even easier
DON'T GO SHOPPING ON AN EMPTY STOMACH
Studies have shown that you are much more likely to purchase budget-busting impulse items if you shop while hungry. You don't want to let your stomach do the thinking at the grocery store. This also applies to children if you take them shopping with you. If they have full bellies, they will be less likely to beg for treats.
BUY GENERIC WHEN POSSIBLE
Most grocery stores offer their own generic store brand line of some of the market's most popular products. These are often much cheaper than brand named items, and even though they are definitely cheaper, they are also sometimes a better quality than the name brand items. This is especially true with staples such as flour, rice, and sugar.
TAKE A WEEKLY INVENTORY OF YOUR FRIDGE
All too often, food goes to waste in the refrigerator. A weekly inventory of the refrigerator can help to eliminate this food waste. Check what's inside your refrigerator, specifically looking for things that might go bad soon. Leftovers can be great for the budget minded eater. Find ways you can dress them up such as casseroles, stir-fries, or even wrap them up in a tortilla to make a leftover burrito
GROW YOUR OWN FOOD
This tip might seem like a large time commitment, but the benefits can be much greater than the time involved. A small vegetable garden only takes minutes a day to water and can provide a small bounty of fresh produce for your pantry. There are many online resources to determine the best crops and when to plant them for your specific area. For those with little outdoor space, a small herb garden can provide a lot of flavor to your food without the space constraint.
PACK YOUR LUNCH
Going out daily it is one of the easiest ways to bust your budget. A packed lunch might not be as fun as ordering in, but the savings make it more than worthwhile. With a large enough freezer, you stock your freezer with several budget-friendly yet tasty options you can eat later.
Grocery shopping on a budget can be stressful, but we hope our tips and tricks will help make it an easier experience for you.