- I used to spend $US800 to $US1,000 a month on food for my family of four in Los Angeles, California.
- But now that I’m more thoughtful about how I plan and buy groceries, I’ve cut my grocery spending in half. Now, I pay more like $US400 a month for my family’s food.
- Reducing my spending comes down to a seven-step strategy, starting with stockpiling my staples, creating extra storage in my house so I’m never buying last-minute at high prices, and planning what the household will eat for the week.
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Before I became mindful of my grocery budget, I used to spend between $US800 and $US1,000 per month for groceries to feed my family of four.
In recent years, I discovered that I could save over 50% of my grocery cost just by implementing a few simple tweaks to my shopping routine, and it made a world of a difference in my bottom line.
As I became more financially savvy and learned how to be more frugal, I continued to tweak my budget until I landed on a comfortable $US100 per person per month budget, meaning I spend no more than $US400 per month for groceries for my family of four.
I personally believe this budget is plentiful. It’s worked well for us, even as we live in a house in Los Angeles, California, which is notorious for its high cost of living.
Here are a few tricks I used to reduce my grocery budget and save money on food every month.
You may have heard of this strategy with extreme couponers and had doubts if this was for you. While you don’t have to have an entire room or closet dedicated to storing your stockpile, keeping an extra supply of your staple items on hand can really cut costs in the long run.
Stockpiling helps you save money in a few different ways. First, you’re saving on the minimising additional purchases, since you’ll stock up when the item is priced at its lowest. Second, it saves you from making extra shopping trips for your menu ingredients (we’ll get into this part a little later). Third, you have enough stock to get you through to the next sale, at which point you can restock again. So, you’re never stuck paying the high price when you need the item most.
My personal stockpile consists of flour, rice, breadcrumbs, breads that I freeze, cheeses, meats, and poultry. Basically anything that I can store long-term is fair game. I tend to keep at least a three-month stockpile inventory at all times, but if you’re just starting out, keeping a one-month inventory will still make a big difference in your grocery budget.
2. Buy staples in bulk
Buying meat, poultry, and staple items in bulk often translates into substantial savings. You’ll find that bulk items often accompany lower unit prices. Test it out for yourself next time you’re shopping: Calculate the unit price of a family pack of steaks versus a single steak. Chances are you’ll find that the family pack is the better deal.
While this holds true most of the time, it’s not always the case, so make sure you’re calculating the unit price.
My favourite items to buy in bulk are meat, poultry, rice, and pasta. These staples help me whip up a simple meal with minimal ingredients at the drop of a hat. I can throw in a roast in the crockpot and make a side of pasta and dinner is ready.
3. Find or create extra storage at home
Having a chest or standalone freezer is great for storing bulk meat, cheese, or even bread. It can help you stretch the gap between shopping trips, and fewer shopping trips usually means less money spent overall.
I converted a small coat closet in my hallway to act as a butler’s pantry of sorts. Using four MDF boards cut down to size by the home improvement store staff and a couple of supporting materials, I made my own stockpile closet!
It has organised my stockpile and I didn’t clutter my space.
4. Meal plan
Planning out your meals based on your current food stock and what’s on sale that week is optimal, and can lead to massive savings.
With this method of meal planning, you’re able to use what you currently have, which means you’re not spending additional money on new items. The added benefit is that you’re able to utilise your stockpile, making your meal plans cost less per serving. It also gives you a way to make more creative meals by swapping recipe ingredients with items you already have in stock.
Meal planning in combination with shelf cooking (using what you have in you have on hand) can add up to notable savings in your food budget.
Every Sunday, I sit with my family and get their input on the meals they’d like to eat for the week. Usually each person picks a meal or two and I can easily compile seven meals that will be on our menu. This way, everyone looks forward to dinner and I don’t have to rack my brain trying to come up with a meal plan for everyone.
Then, once the meal plan is set, I shop my stock and start making my shopping list for the minimal ingredients we might need.
Our dinners are pretty simple, using almost the same staple ingredients. We just switch up the flavours. For example, chicken and pasta might be chicken alfredo for one meal and chicken chow mein for another.
5. Repurpose leftovers
Re-using leftovers eliminates food waste and saves you from making another meal.
Once a week, we “clean out” the fridge and reheat and repurpose our leftovers from the week. It looks like a buffet or potluck-style dinner, but the food is eaten and enjoyed by the entire family while more money stays in our pockets.
One smorgasboard dinner down, zero dollars spent.
Accounting for one leftover day means one less meal you have to shop for. That equates to four extra meals per month at no extra cost to you.
6. Use the right credit card
When we think of saving money on food, we often think of ways to get unbeatable prices, but we forget that there is another way to save money in this category: credit card rewards.
Credit card rewards bump up your savings potential, since you can earn cash back on grocery purchases.
I currently use the Costco Anywhere Visa by Citi credit card, so I earn 1% cash back on grocery purchases and 2% cash back on Costco purchases.
And I use this card to shop at Costco, Food 4 Less (Kroger in some states), and a local international market. It’s great that I earn cash back rewards no matter where I choose to spend my grocery money, since it’s based on categories.
7. Explore cash-back apps
Here’s one I’ve just started using: cash-back apps.
Ibotta, for instance, is an app that offers cash back on purchased items. You just add the offers that you want to use, upload your receipt after your grocery trip, and cash back is calculated. You can even use it for your online shopping for even more savings potential. Some people use the app instead of clipping coupons.
I’m starting to use this app more now and so far, I’ve accumulated a few dollars of cash back. Now that I’m not clipping coupons as often, I’ll be using this method much more and I look forward to saving more with this strategy while also saving time.
- Read more:
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