Top tricks for grocery shopping on a budget
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Anyone who is a parent, working or stay-at-home, knows that life gets tricky when dealing with kids and school nights. Finding time to do anything non-school related during the week, let alone finding the time to cook a nutritious meal, seems almost out of the question. Heck, even on the weekends, it’s tough to get things done. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, it can be easy…ish.
My tips for Grocery Shopping on a Budget:
1. Meal Plan
The first step to overcoming the craziness of the hectic work/school week is to make a plan and stick to it. Your plan will be your best friend, but like all BFF relationships, there has to be a certain level of commitment from you. Yes, you- busy mom/wife/chef/maid/soccer mom/chauffeur/FT employee, etc. (Or busy dad- yay for Mr. Moms!!) This all takes time and a LOT of it, but if you invest your precious time in this, you will have a healthy relationship with your planning.
Make a meal plan. That’s right, an actual meal plan. With fruits and veggies. And sometimes (key word- SOMETIMES) even dessert. Try to plan for an entire month. I know, I know, it sounds absolutely absurd. However, it works. And very well, I might add. If you aren’t at the store, you aren’t spending unnecessary money. Check your work calendar, your kids’ school calendars, your spouse’s work calendar, and make note of any meals you will need to go out for.
2. Decide ahead of time where you will go and write it on your meal plan.
You can go online to find free printable monthly calendars for your meal planning, or you can be like me and purchase a 12 month wall calendar and make a photo copy of it each month. I post mine on the fridge so all eyes can see, and when someone asks the dreaded question, “mom, what’s for https://www.theanalyticalmommy.com/access-analytical-mommy-resource-library”, you can just point to the menu and say, “God gave you eyes, go use them”.
- HINT #1: use Pinterest or a favorite cookbook (my favorite cookbooks are from Gooseberry Patch) to come up with your meals.
- HINT #2: Try to evenly distribute the really, really savory meals throughout the month so you’re not eating all the melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness all at the beginning of the month.
- HINT #3: Also note that you can freeze a LOT of foods, but research how first.
- HINT #4: When planning, set a budget and remember said budget when picking your meals. You can probably do filet mignon with sautéed mushrooms and onions onlyonce a month. Sorry, fellas. My personal budget/goal for a month of groceries for a family of five is $500 or less. We usually make it a game to see which family member can guess the actual amount at the register. Sometimes the cashier will have fun guessing, too!
3. Pantry shop.
Sounds funny, but it prevents duplicating items you may already have on hand.
Write all your meals down, ingredient by ingredient, and GO AT IT! This is the part my kids LOVE. They L-O-V-E to tear my pantry apart looking for each ingredient momma needs. Plus, it gives me a chance to reorganize before bringing more stuff in! As you go down your list, mark out all the ingredients you have and at the end, take a tally of what is left and make your list.
- HINT: make your list in order of where the items are located in the store- home goods, dry goods, refrigerated/frozen, produce/deli. Group like items.
4. And finally SHOP!!!
ALWAYS, and I mean ALWAYS, buy the cheaper of the products at the store. I shop mostly at Walmart and buy quite a lot of GreatValue items.
- HINT #1: For the items that don’t have a GreatValue equivalent, you can always use the Savings Catcher app and scan your receipt to price-match at other local stores. If another local store has it listed for cheaper, Walmart will give you the difference. You can either request a gift card with your savings rewards dollars OR use it as store credit.
- HINT #2: Now, because I meal plan and pantry shop, I save a great deal of money already, but if you want to save even more, subscribe to your local newspaper. Here in Dallas, it is about $20 for a six month subscription and I score great coupons every Sunday!! I am not a super couponer, but I have dreams to one day beat my friend, Michaela, in a coupon-clipping challenge. She is the queen.
5. Put everything away.
When you come home from the store, immediately unload everything and put it away!!! HAVE THE KIDS HELP. Freeze what needs to be frozen!!! Dice those green peppers and onions and get those suckers in the freezer!! Shred that rotisserie chicken and freeze it in an air-tight container!!! Freeze the milk, cheese, and sour cream!! *Note: sometimes freezing a dairy product can change its texture. Always experiment with a smaller portion first and decide if freezing milk or other dairy products is right for you.
ADDITIONAL HELPFUL HINTS:
- My mom was a talented and brilliant woman who poured love into everything she did. She once made a list of all our favorite meals on a Word document and categorized them according to type: chicken, pork, beef, salads, seafood, sides, etc. She printed that document and would often refer to it when making her menu. Or you can save your past menus for reference.
- I know it’s difficult, but try super duper hard not to splurge on extra food that isn’t on your list. If you give in once, you’ll most likely give in again and again. Don’t start the habit of giving in.
- If you have picky kids, just remember, they won’t starve if they don’t like something you make. They will learn to eat what they are given. You’d be surprised to see what my kids have come to like because I won’t make them an alternate meal! DON’T GIVE IN!!
- In the local paper, there are usually some coupons for fast food restaurants. Clip those and take them with you for one of your “go out to eat nights”. Remember- keep it cheap. Taco Bell’s bean burritos are a cheap, yummy way to feed a large family. Order water, not sodas.
- Make sure you stay on top of your menu. Take out the meat needed for the next day ahead of time and double check to make sure no one has used your ingredients. Circle any meals that are left unmade, in the event of an unplanned night out. We all know those happen.
- Invest in a chest freezer. It has been one of my greatest investments. Get milk crates to help organize your chest freezer. They sell them at Walmart for $5.
- Make your own bread. I use my Oster bread maker. The kids LOVE it. Just drop the ingredients in and let the bread maker do the rest!!! It makes your house smell SOOOoooooo good, too!!!
- Freeze any leftovers immediately in air-tight containers.
All that being said, if you stick to this, you will see it becomes a habit and makes your life SO much easier – not to mention, helps you save money when grocery shopping! You will save so much money. Dave Ramsey says, “live like no one else now, so that later, you can live and GIVE like no one else”.
I hope you all enjoyed Laurel’s tips for grocery shopping on a budget! I already follow many of them and swear by them. In the next week or so, I’ll actually be sharing a “printable” meal planner template that should help you implement some of these tips along with a few tips of my own.
Let us know how you like these tips and if you have any more to add in the comments below. Thanks!
Laurel is a (nearly) thirty one years old, with three “crazy pre-teen kids and one pretty awesome hubster”. She is extremely busy between her three kids,
her full-time job as a patient coordinator, her work at church as a Sunday School teacher, and as-needed work on Wednesday evenings with the preschool. So… she knows a thing or two about grocery shopping on a budget AND doing it while on a tight schedule! So here is her post!…
Great tips! I utilize several of these tactics myself. Meal planning is one sure fire idea that helps me stay on budget.
Agreed! It’s the key for me too!
Pantry shopping is such a big help! Great ideas to keep your shopping organized!
Agreed! And it keeps you from ending up with a pantry full or expired or stale food! I hate throwing out food !!
I think one of the biggest things is keeping that pantry organized! I’ve definitely bought duplicates because I didn’t know we already had what I needed. I usually have to clean it out and get it organized once or twice a month. It’s hard when you live with people who don’t care if it gets messy 😉
Agreed!! I try to limit the pantry type food we buy so our pantry stays somewhat “enpty” and we can actually see what is in there ! That seems to help. It would help of others were as concerned with organizing though !!
Wow great ideas here! I’m especially loving the tip to have the kids help pantry shop and put groceries away. Why oh why did I never think to ask my preschooler to help get all that food in the pantry, fridge and freezer?!
Same here ! I ask my six year old but there are definitely things my two year old could do too!
I work full-time so finding the time to keep everything organized is very difficult but yesterday I started going through some cupboards (and found stuff I didn’t even know I had). I also started with freezer meals – these are so handy!
Freezer meals are an amazing help ! I haven’t done it in a few months but I go through phases where I make tons of freezer meals and they can be so helpful! Especially just before a big life event (like baby or surgery etc)
Thank you for your suggestions . Great ideas! I need to start meal planning.
It really makes such a difference!! If you sign up for our newsletter you’ll get a great template and some more tips to walk you through getting started! I hope you like it !
Meal planning saves me so much money every week! Love these tips 🙂
Love these! I never thought of circling the meals that I don’t make, I usually just make those on the weekend then instead of having leftovers or PB&J’s. It would be easier to keep track of that way though. Thank you for sharing these, I am going to make my 4 year old go through the pantry with me tonight, she will love it.
This is brilliant. I do weekly recipe plans and so on, but I’m often not good at sticking to them. But I do love the idea of preparing and freezing everything the moment you get home, instead of just sticking it away to do later!
These are amazing tips! I’m always looking for ways to shop on a budget so I’ll definitely be keeping this guide in mind for the next time I go grocery shopping. Thanks for sharing! xo, sharon