I like to consider myself a grocery shopping pro. When Terry and I got married, I made it my mission to turn his kitchen upside down. He was really struggling to keep his grocery bill low while still feeding himself. Some of the things he did are common- buying frozen pizzas, not having a meal plan, not looking for sales. He would often end up eating a lot of fast food and cereal for dinner. Now when I joke that we are going to have cereal for dinner he does not find it funny.
As a graduate student married to a youth pastor, funds aren’t exactly rolling in. Don’t get me wrong, we are well taken care of, but right now a lot of our funds are going towards tuition and saving for next year when I’m in an unpaid internship for nine months. As a way to save money, I’ve become well-versed in budget grocery shopping while keeping us well-nourished. Our grocery budget is roughly $40-45 dollars a week. We will sometimes eat out once or twice, but for the most part all our meals are at home.
Today I am going to share my top tips for grocery shopping on a budget. As a note, I grocery once per week, because that’s when I find we start running out of our basics like bananas, eggs, milk, and bread.
Here is my grocery haul from last week. My total was roughly $42.50. (Lucky me eggs were on sale for $0.79!!)
9 Ways I Save on Groceries
1. Check your local grocery store ads. I say do this FIRST because this is what I base my meal planning off of. If you are someone who shops at multiple stores, be sure to compare!
2. Write down 5 dinner ideas. When I meal plan, I don’t bother writing down which meal I will have on what day because I usually switch it up anyways. I think sometimes simple is best and I also like to allow for some flexibility. The meals don’t have to be specific, they can be general like “tacos” or “pizza”. Be sure to think about breakfasts and lunches too. For breakfast, I usually will have a baked oatmeal made for the week and Terry usually goes for cereal. For lunch, we both will either have leftovers or he will have leftovers over and I will make a salad for the week.
3. Check your pantry. Make sure you have the basics in your pantry, i.e. flour, salt, butter, baking soda, rice, sugar, oil, cocoa powder, spices, coffee, etc. Everyone has their staples, so this is to be individualized, but keep an eye on them to make sure you don’t forget them. These basics ensure that I am able to make things like tortillas, a roux, or a pizza crust. I keep a running list on my refrigerator to help with this.
4. Make a grocery list. Base this list off your meal idea list and pantry check. This is your guide.
5. Go to the grocery store when you’re neither hungry or in a hurry. Mistakes happen.
6. Get to know your grocery store. Know where your staples are and be familiar with their price. Standing in Aldi’s checkout line I heard a man say that he was “safe here.” I gave him a mental high five, because that’s exactly how I feel. I know that if I go shopping at Publix I will be overwhelmed and want to buy everything, but at Aldi I am acclimated and can make a trip in 20 minutes.
7. Bring your calculator with you. This is my number one tip for keeping your grocery budget low. Calculate as you go, so that if you do want to throw in something extra you’re aware of how will raise your bill. No surprises at the checkout line!
8. Go for whole ingredients. Packaged and prepared items are usually what will cost you. There are a few convince items I buy like marinara sauce, cereal, and bread, but for the most part I stick with things in their whole form, like block cheese, ground meat or bone-in chicken, and rolled oats. Buy the ingredients for the soup, not the boxed soup. In general, if making it from scratch is possible and not terribly inconvenient (I’m looking at you bread!), try to do that.
9. Embrace your budget. This may sound cheesy, but I’ve learned to enjoy the challenge of making a limited budget stretch. Sometimes this means trying new foods that are on sale and sometimes it means cooking things from scratch I never thought I would. When I first homemade tortillas and crackers, I seriously felt like the Pioneer Woman. I know that one day I will be able to enjoy storemade ricotta stuffed ravioli with pesto or make a recipe requiring a whole cup of almond butter, but for now I will embrace what it’s front of me. I truly believe it’s made me a better cook!
Now it’s your turn-
Tell me how you save on your grocery budget.