When it comes to tracking household expenses, you have set bills (i.e. rent, mortgage, cable) that you expect to pay every month. You also have expenses that vary every month — and food shopping is one of those ongoing expenses. Some households can survive on one big shopping trip a month, and some require multiple trips. And then you factor in the households that dine out somewhat often (which can be a budget breaker if you aren’t careful). Many people tend to underestimate just how expensive food can be and the toll it can take on an unsteady budget.
Next time you go grocery shopping, take a look at these ideas that can help you save money overall at the cash register, and can help you shop within your means:
- Check out weekly supermarket sales. Everyone with a mailbox gets stacks of weekly ads for local grocery stores, and while it’s often tempting to throw away these mailers, save them and scour through them to find local deals. Many grocery stores also have mailing lists where you can receive daily or weekly emails on deals and sales. While looking through these mailers, look for deals on proteins, as they can be among the more expensive items in your cart. After you’ve found your proteins, check out groceries that can be used as side dishes so you can make well-rounded, nutritious meals for your family without breaking the bank. Of course, make sure you bring your lists with you when you shop.
- Avoid items that are pre-cut / pre-packaged. It may be tempting to buy that container of sliced apples for a snack, or that bag of pre-cut veggies, but you’re basically paying for the convenience factor. Instead, shop for whole items that you can cut up at home — you’ll get more out of it. And if you don’t have a set of reusable containers, invest in a set so you can store items for lunches and grab-and-go snacks.
- Freeze meals for future dinners to save time and money. If you’re making meals and you want to make more for the future, you can double a recipe or just add an extra serving or two to make enough to freeze. This can save you valuable time in the future when you might not have enough time or energy to cook, but still want something fulfilling. Poultry dishes can be frozen up to four months; meat / meat with gravy for two to three months; and soups and stews can freeze for two to three months.