With food costs on the rise, it can be a challenge to save money on groceries. But if you get a little creative, and are willing to take a hard look at your budget, most people can shave a few dollars or more off their grocery bill.
Ways to Save Money on Groceries
Here a few things to look at to see if you can save some money on food and household products.
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Quit buying disposable products
Products like napkins, paper plates, and single use products can take a HUGE chunk of your grocery budget. A family of 5 (like mine) would go through 15 napkins and 15 paper plates if eating at home everyday. We purchased some Corelle plates when our children were young, and so far none have broken, despite being dropped on a concrete floor.
If you have a dishwasher, it doesn’t take long to put a few plates and forks into the dishwasher and run it each evening. And if you’ve just cooked dinner, then you likely have pots and pans that can go in the dishwasher as well. (If you don’t have a dishwasher, but have children, you can have that be one of their chores. Otherwise, clean up the kitchen as a family. It will take less time than you think if everyone pitches in.)
Even paper towels probably don’t need to purchased as often. In our family, we use paper towels for greasy messes only. We rely on cloth napkins, kitchen cloths, & towels for other spills and daily clean up.
We also rarely send lunches in bags or throw away containers. We have purchased both the Easy Lunchboxes and the Ziplock containers as well as thermoses for the boys. I also purchased some less expensive silverware that is strictly used for school lunches.
Drink water. And drink tap water, not expensive bottled water. Don’t spend a large portion of your grocery budget on drinks. If you must have a soda, drink one only occasionally. For some, switching to water could be significant savings if you usually send juice boxes with your kids for lunch and allow them to drink soda or juice at home. I’m not saying give up drinks altogether, but make them a special occasion treat.
Eat at home
My oldest son loves to eat out. Fast food or a fancy restaurant, he is always ready to go. But that can get expensive in a hurry. When I finally explained to him that we could eat a steak dinner at home for what it cost for a fast food meal out, he realized why we eat at home so often.
The cookbook, Eat at Home Tonight is a great resource for getting meals on the table in a hurry. The author, Tiffany King, categorizes the meals by the challenges you may face trying to get a meal on the table. Chapters include “I Only Have 15 Minutes Tonight,” “My Refrigerator Is Empty Tonight,” and “I Don’t Have Time for Dishes Tonight.” I recently made her Creamy Pesto and Sun-Dried Tomato Bow Ties and it was a huge hit with the entire family. Best of all, it only took 15 minutes!
Make a meal plan
Having a meal plan is key to saving money on groceries. This way, you know exactly what to purchase and don’t buy things that won’t get eaten. If you struggle with meal planning, I’ve got a two week meal plan (includes breakfast & lunch) as well as two dinner meal plans to help you out. The frugal meal plan has more comfort food and the spring meal plan contains lighter, healthier fare.
Grocery shop once a week
Now that you’ve got a meal plan, make a grocery list from that meal plan. Buy all your groceries for the week at one time. This will save you money as well as gas & time. If you only go to the store once a week, you are less likely to make a bunch of impulse purchases too.
Know when your store marks down groceries
Another way to save money on groceries is to know your grocery store or stores. At one particular grocery store in my area, they mark down their meats on Monday morning. So when do I plan to grocery shop? Monday morning. Then I can take advantage of all the markdowns. I bring the meat home and pop it in the freezer. When I am meal planning, I plan to use meats I have in the freezer. This way I’m never paying full price for our meat. (And I have never gotten a spoiled product either!)
Many stores also have a clearance section that is worth checking out. Many times you can find marked down pasta or even produce that needs to move quickly. If you don’t know where that area is in your grocery store, find a manager and ask.
Be prepared to make substitutions in your meal plan. If you catch a great deal on green beans, but you had planned to serve peas, swap them out and get the beans. Also, swap higher cost ingredients for cheaper ones. If your recipe calls for expensive artichoke hearts, swap them for asparagus or broccoli. Being flexible will allow you to take advantage of any sales or clearance items (see above).
Have standby meals
Have several meals you can cook from pantry staples. One of our pantry meals is sheet pan nachos. I always keep a pound or two of ground beef (purchased on markdown!) in the freezer just for this purpose. With a few spices, a bag of tortilla chips, shredded cheese, an onion and a green pepper, we can have a decent meal on the table fairly quickly. No, it isn’t gourmet food (or even the healthiest) but it sure beats Taco Bell, and it can’t be any worse for you!
Alfredo noodles is another quick and easy meal we make often from pantry staples. Served with a package of frozen broccoli or peas and some leftover grilled chicken, it makes a quick meal when it seems there isn’t much in the house to eat.
A few other easy standby meals would be spaghetti with jarred pasta sauce, taco salad, or french bread pizzas.
Stick to simple meals
You don’t have to eat gourmet food everyday. Sure, who doesn’t want to enjoy a four course meal on occasion? But for everyday meals, simple is usually best and cheaper than fancy food too.
Cook from scratch as often as you can.
Just recently, I was trying to save some time and buy some slider rolls at the store. I got a case of sticker shock. (Plus they were full of unnecessary ingredients.) I decided to just make them myself and saved several dollars in the process. (And no, it really didn’t take that much time.) Here’s a great recipe for one hour rolls.
Make muffins for breakfast at home instead of buying pre-made ones. (I’ve got a muffin mix recipe that can save you a ton of time.) And cook things in larger batches that can be frozen for later use. This makes the most of your time in the kitchen.
Skip dessert-at least most of the time. I’m not saying you should never have dessert, but it should be considered a treat. Most people in the United States eat way too much sugar so skipping dessert will not only save you money, it will improve your family’s health. (And the adults may even drop a few pounds.) We try to make one dessert a week and once it’s gone, it’s gone.
Buy fruits and veggies that are in season
Buying fruits and veggies that are in season will not only help you save money on groceries, the produce will taste better too. A watermelon in January isn’t going to be near as flavorful as one in July, and it will be a lot more expensive. For a complete list of seasonal fruits and veggies, check out the USDA website.
We often have a smorgas board night where I set out all the leftovers and everyone takes what they want. No, it may not please everyone and it isn’t always the healthiest, but it is a free meal. And if there aren’t enough leftovers to go around, try sending them to school with the kids for their lunch. Most of my children prefer leftovers instead of a sandwich anyway.
Throwing away food that you don’t eat is basically throwing money down the drain. This is where meal planning comes into play again. If you aren’t planning on serving potatoes one week, there is no point in purchasing them to sit and rot in your pantry.
Stretch your meat
Serving a slab of meat to each person can get really expensive. Whole chicken breasts, pork chops, or steak can quickly eat through your grocery budget. (And in my family, some people will eat two or three if given the chance!) Find creative ways to use meat such as serving with pasta or on top of rice. For an easy way to stretch your meat, try a sheet pan supper or my Hamburger Potato Casserole. Serve chicken chopped on a salad or shredded on a sandwich.
In the winter, a soup night will stretch your meat and you can use up any leftover vegetables that would otherwise go to waste. Even cutting thick chicken breasts into two portions (butterfly cut) can reduce meat consumption. As a bonus, they will cook faster too. And don’t forget to serve lots of veggies with your meal.
How do you save money on groceries?
There are many ways to save money on groceries. With a little ingenuity and planning, it is possible to shave a significant amount off your food budget. Are any of these ideas new to you? Do you have any to add?