According to experts such as Oprah’s Debt Diet Guru and “Dining on a Dime,” a typical family should plan for approximately $150 per child and $200 per adult. For my family, this equates to $700 a month or $8,400 a year. This number represents total food, not just groceries.
As you can imagine, $8,400 for any family is a good chunk of our income. Next to our mortgage (and my husband’s hunting supplies), we don’t spend more on any one thing! To suppress excess spending in an economy that is spiraling downward, I’ve been using creativity to control costs, and I kind of like the challenge.
First and foremost, every budget expert will tell you to plan ahead. A well-prepared list will save you from those instinct purchases that can drive up your grocery bill. Never go to the store without a list. Avoid bringing your children if possible; they are easy list de-railers.
Plan your week in produce. Because I love fresh delicious fruits and veggies, the bulk of my bill is produce. I truly feel that I am tossing money in the trash if poor planning results in my throwing fresh produce away. To avoid this, I evaluate what will go bad when and mentally map out a plan of how the produce will be used and on what day or night. Think ahead—if you know there are produce items you won’t be able to use up, freeze them before they go bad. I view my freezer like a little produce rescue center; in a pinch I can get creative and make soups or stir fry with my frozen veggies. Frozen fruits make their way into smoothies or muffins/breads.
It is amazing what you can save by shopping for the generic brands. Many times the ingredients are exactly the same; they are probably packaged at the same place and labeled differently. So don’t be a name-brand snob!
Check online or in newspaper ads before you shop, find the items you are buying, and see if they are on sale. Checking ahead will save you money; you will also breeze through the aisles a little quicker because you know what brand you are looking for.
Track your spending by saving receipts. You don’t need to try to maintain a fancy spreadsheet for your food budget. Simply save your receipts in an envelope and tally at the end of a week or month. It’s easy to find out where you can make adjustments this way!
I hope some of these smart ideas make your next grocery shopping trip quick, easy, and affordable.