Grocery shopping is one of the most basic and important spendings we have to budget for. This is even more so if you have a family to take care of. Time and again, people like to say they need to “stretch the dollar”; basically, trying to buy more groceries for less cost. It’s definitely possible to save on groceries and there are some simple habits we can learn to make it happen!
What it means to save on groceries
Saving on groceries is not the same as abstaining from buying. When we save on groceries, we want to buy the same (if not more) amount of stuff without sacrificing quality. And seriously though, a dollar saved here and there really adds up in the end. That money you save on groceries can end up going into your savings or invested for the future. So by simply spending more effectively, you can snowball your money into other different avenues of your financial plan too!
I recounted in an earlier post that, as a student, I had to really stretch my money through 5 for £2 frozen meals and bargain bin shopping. That’s because of a financial lapse in judgement which you can explore in this post! One of the key skills you learn when living alone is managing your money; put a sum aside for rent, bills, food and savings! People who do not gain this skill are really missing out on the bigger picture because they have a high chance of living paycheck to paycheck; or worse, in debt. But I digress; onwards to how to save on groceries!
1. Minimise waste
1.3 billion tonnes or 1/3 of all food produced for human consumption go to waste each year. That’s a lot of food! Now imagine 1/3 of your food budget just disappears. How much money is wasted? Following this train of thought, minimising or, even better, eliminating food waste should save 33% of your grocery shopping budget!
Make a shopping list of necessities and don’t be tempted to impulse buy stuff you don’t need. Have you ever wondered why in supermarkets, candies and chocolates are next to the cashier? It’s so you see them and go, “Sure, why not?” and add them to your basket!
Don’t overestimate your consumption too. Personally, I have a day or two that needs me to have meals elsewhere and that would omit the need for groceries for those days.
2. Stock up on sale items
Remember when I bought cartons upon cartons of almond milk? Well, I also took into consideration the expiry dates and stocked up till before then. By stocking up when some items are on sale, you could effectively save a couple of double digit dollars. Non-perishable stuff and things that can be frozen are the best items to buy this way.
This doesn’t mean swiping up stuff on sale that you don’t need though. It’s like the ol’ frugal saying goes, “Rather than saving 50% on something you didn’t mean to buy anyway, you might as well save 100%.”
3. Plan your meals
Meal planning is amazing in 2 ways: 1) you reduce wastage, and 2) you could probably sustain a diet. When I was a student, this made my life super easy. I only had to stock up the same stuff every week because my “menu” only needed certain items which were easy to prepare.
If you’re not too picky with eating the same thing for a week, you can save time and money through what’s called the one-week meal prep. Basically you prepare all your meals in a large quantity and divide over 7 days.
4. Use credit or debit card benefits
Certain supermarkets offer special rewards for using certain cards; sometimes even discounts! Using credit or debit cards isn’t just convenient, you could earn points too! And these points can be converted into either cash or airline miles and other goodies. There are some rewards like 4x points for you to take advantage of too. So why not go for it?
Just remember to pay off your credit card balance at the end of the month otherwise you could face some expensive fees! These points may not seem like much, but over time, you’ll find that you can they accumulate quite fast. Especially if you get into the habit of swiping and then paying off the credit!
5. Clip coupons
From time to time, certain businesses will give out coupons for discounts and other freebies. Again, only spend on things you otherwise would anyway. Usually the coupons I’ve seen are for food and beverages but hey, a meal at a discount is groceries you don’t need to buy, right?
6. Consider cheaper options
Sure, I get it, Evian water does taste better than Sehat™ but if you’re looking to save money, water is water, right? The same can be said for other foodstuffs too. I’ve even seen cheaper alternatives that have better nutritional values than brand name items; double bargain!
Fresh produce especially fruits and vegetables shouldn’t be different in nutrition; at least, I don’t think so. As long as it’s not gone bad, I doubt it’s going to make that much of a difference other than to your wallet.
7. Buy ingredients instead of pre-made meals
Ready meals and pre-prepped items cost more because they already did the work for you i.e. you’re paying for convenience. If you opted to do the work yourself, you can save money by substituting with spending your time. This option is excellent for families with a housewife/househusband who can take care of cooking. But if you’re both working, it may not be as effective to make everything from scratch.
Being able to make your dollar stretch more for groceries is awesome! When you save on groceries, your money can be put to other goals in your financial plan. While they are lots of ways to skimp and subtract from your groceries to make it work, I prefer a sustainable method. That is through planning and minimising waste. No need to suffer while you save money right?
We aren’t born to simply work, pay bills and die.