a simple lifestyle blog
I have such a love-hate relationship with grocery shopping.
This bounty of heavenly treats can also be extremely overwhelming.
How do you balance eating well with buying inexpensively?
Is that even possible?
Its enough to make you want to bulk buy ramen and retreat to a quiet, dark place.
I have devised a game plan for A.) anyone who has ever felt overwhelmed with the grocery shopping experience or B.) anyone who just looking for some good tips on how to save money and make smart, economical choices in the grocery store.
1. NEVER SHOP WITHOUT A LIST (and try to stick to it).
Basically, you can’t ensure you’re getting the things you need and sticking to your budget unless you have a guide. A list will help keep you on track so you don’t wander around aimlessly aisle to aisle just waiting for something yummy to strike your fancy and it will help you remember everything you need for your meals during the week so you’re not making extra trips to the store all week.
2. Shop for one week at a time.
I’ve come across many grocery shopping tips encouraging that people shop for one whole month at a time. I’ve tried this and found that I end up eating more processed/frozen foods (not that frozen = bad!) and I would get sick of the monotony of the same foods over and over from week to week. You can change up your menu more frequently which will help to keep you from splurging on eating out when you get bored with your meals.
3. Oh yeah! Don’t go grocery shopping when your hungry.
4. Have a budget in mind.
The hubs and I play a game every week when we shop to try and see how much we can beat our budget by and then treat ourselves to dinner or drinks with the remainder. Just make sure you’ve got a number in your head and try to stay as close to that as possible. Confining yourself to an actual budget will help to keep you from snagging all those unnecessary items between things you actually need for the week.
5. Pay attention to how much stuff costs.
Actually look at the price tags on the things you put in your cart. There are some things that just have to be name brand, Oreos for example, but do you really need the fancy Ziploc plastic bags or will the store brand suffice?
Yes. Yes, it will.
6. Along with that last one, check the price per ounce/pound/whatever.
Most stores list this under the price of the product in tiny writing. Zoom in and start looking at what you’re paying for. Just because it looks cheaper on the surface doesn’t necessarily mean that it is. Is the package actually smaller than the one you’d be paying a dollar more for? Get more bang for your buck.
7. Get the Grocery IQ application.
This or any similar application will help you keep track of the kinds of things you buy every week and make it super easy to develop a grocery shopping list. It also has coupons for TONS of stuff! I add new stuff to my list every week then before we go shopping, I read the whole thing off and we check off the things we need for the week.
For example in the dairy section we have milk, yogurt, butter.
This week we only need butter.
Check it off, it moves to a new section for my list for the week.
Next week when I’m trying to remember what I need and I’m not standing right in front of my fridge, I read through my dairy section and, ah yes!, we needed butter AND milk this week.
This is really good for more obscure things like spices that I don’t buy very often, but once its on the list it will always be there as an option to help jog my memory.
8. Buy in bulk only when it makes sense.
You won’t actually save any money if you don’t finish the food you buy in bulk before it goes bad. If you find yourself buying flour or rice every few weeks, it may be time to invest in a 25 lb bag from a store like Winco or Costco.
You can also buy spices in most bulk sections. No more $6 for a bottle of McCormick spices. Buying spices by the ounce allows you to get SO MUCH MORE for SO MUCH LESS.
Plus, then you can repackage them in cute little jars which is SO hip. You know you want to do it.
9. Buy frozen fruits and veggies.
Remember what I said about “frozen” not equalling “bad”? It costs under $10 for a HUGE bag of frozen strawberries at Costco and then you’ve got the fixins for a tasty and healthy smoothie to run out the door with for weeks (maybe months).
According to the USDA, for my age I should be having at least 2 and a half cups of vegetables every day. Sometimes that’s the difference between having a bag of peas to toss into my rice or not. Its better than nothing!
10. Pay attention when ringing up.
No one likes to be corrected, but if that bag of kettle chips comes up at $5 instead of the $3 sale price I saw them at, I’m going to say something (politely!!). In most cases, its no problem for the cashier to just adjust the price. Mistakes/glitches happen. You have every right to at least inquire if something comes up differently than what you had thought.
11. Shop during off-peak times if possible.
I’m a definite extrovert, but nothing makes me feel less like being around people (and therefore pay less attention to things I need) than a congested aisle of equally uncomfortable fellow shoppers.
Right around 5pm on weekdays and about 2-3 days before any major holiday is NOT the time to do your shopping. Weekday post-dinnertime is a better bet.
When its quieter in the store, you can take the time necessary to read price tags and look for deals.
12. Use reusable, cloth bags.
The environment, etc. Need I say more?
Just do it. Don’t argue.
13. Repackage stuff yourself.
Instead of buying expensive pre-packaged oatmeal, for example, buy a big container of quick oats and snack bags. When you get home, take 5-10 minutes to divvy up about 1/4-1/2 cup of oats per bag plus some yummy brown sugar and/or cinnamon (or whatever else you like). BOOM. Quick breakfast achieved. You’ll seriously get, like, a hundred times more bang for your buck this way and it takes only an ounce of extra effort.
14. Try to avoid going to the store between once weekly visits.
You ALWAYS get more than just that one thing you need. Just avoid it. Out of something? Substitute around it. THIS is the best website for substitutions. Bar none.
15. Stretch your dinners to take as leftovers for lunch the next day.
The added cost of making a larger dinner meal is nothing compared to the extra cost of having to buy groceries for seven whole meals plus seven whole lunches for the week. Two birds with one stone, baby.
So there you have it.
Until next week, cheers!