10 Ways to Reduce Your Grocery Bill

I’ve come a long way in my adult life when it comes to managing my grocery budget.  When I first moved out on my own I would fill my fridge with food that I thought I would eat and it would inevitably go bad and I would end up throwing away.  It was like throwing my money in the trash, just because I didn’t cook/eat the food in time.  Compared to back then, I look like a hyper organized kitchen queen.  Follow the rules or OFF WITH THEIR HEAD.  OK maybe that’s a little extreme.  I can be flexible too!

I hate waste, we live in a world were we are consumers.  And while this is good for the economy on a whole it is bad for the individual and their wallet.  I rarely throw food away, unless there is a meal disaster that just tastes awful.  Everyone burns dinner once in a while, nobody is perfect.

The following is a compilation of all the things that I’ve learned in my adult life.  Some are not revolutionary or even new ideas but they are still good and will help you reach your financial goals by reducing your spending.

1. Make a Plan – A meal plan that is!  Start by taking your week and write out all of the meals that you plan on having.  I write this out and post it on my fridge so that my family knows what the plan is.  It’s perfectly acceptable to put ‘Frozen Pizza’ or ‘Leftovers’ always check what you have on hand and make an effort to shop your pantry and freezer before you go to the store.

2. Make a List – Nothing derails a shopping trip faster than not going in prepared.  You already know what you want to make for the week and have checked to see what you have on hand, so you should know what you need.  Make a list and stick to it!

3. Shop at Discount Grocery Stores – There are many grocery stores out there that are designed to save you money.  Why not take advantage of them?  I’m talking about the Aldis and the Pricerites.

4. No Processed Foods – We were in the habit for a while of buying those premade frozen dinners.  We would justify the purchase by saying “A $5 pizza is cheaper than one from a restaurant”  And while this is true it’s also much more expensive than cooking from scratch.  You can make a pizza from scratch for $1.26!  It’s true I did it last week.

5. Eat Your Leftovers – Make it your goal to eat all of the food that you cook.  The easiest way that I found to do this is to freeze anything that won’t be consumed in a week and to have your leftover dinners for lunch the next day.  You can also remake your dinner foods into something new for another night such as: Leftover taco meat becomes nachos, left over chicken goes into a pot pie or chicken soup.

6. Deals on Meat – This is the only area where I would say it’s OK to deviate from your grocery list.  Sometimes there are crazy good deals on raw meat that is near or on it’s expiration date.  I got some whole chickens for $0.79 per lb.  I bought 3 of them and would have bought more if I had a bigger freezer.

7. Use Your Freezer – Any time I get a good deal on meat I separate it into meal size portions for cooking later.  Make sure to take an inventory of what is in the freezer at least twice a month so that it’s up to date when you make your meal plan for the week. If you want to save your self some time during the week cook your food ahead of time.  Portion them into bags with enough meat for 1 meal.  Most meats, soups, rice and beans will freeze really well.

8. Stretch Your Protein –  Skillet dishes are a great way to make your meat last.  Add veggies and/or beans to add flavor and to bulk up your meal.

9. Go Meatless – There is a lot of reference to “Meatless Mondays” out on the internet.  Your meatless meals can be as simple as rice and beans or as intricate as an eggplant curry.

10. Take the Tightwad Challenge If you love competition and challenge based games.  This challenge helps you reevaluate the way you grocery shop.  Join me in the comments as I up date you on my own progress.

 

 

The Tightwad Grocery Challenge

We all buy things at the grocery store that doesn’t necessarily add nutrition to your meals.  It could be snack foods like chips, cookies or crackers.  It could also be pricey beverages that add calories to your eating budget (calories consumed – calories burned = weight change).  There are two things that you should know about my personality. First – I am a very competitive person.  I love putting myself in positions where I can improve on a previous achievement (which is why I clean on a timer) and also I like to compete with my internet friends.  Second – being frugal is a hobby of mine.  I love saving money and reducing what we spend.  My family loves it too since it allows us to do more with the ‘extra’ money in the budget.

This challenge was inspired by a book I’ve been reading called “The Tightwad Gazette” by Amy Dacyczyn.  She describes categorizing our groceries so we can see what we actually need to eat to survive vs. what we eat for other reasons.  I never thought about groceries like this.  I always considered my morning cup of coffee as necessary and normal, but it’s really not.  I’m not saying that I’m going to give up coffee, but there are other things that we could trim to save.

This is a two part challenge that first gives you more information about your life and spending and then allows you to make changes in light of this new information.  You may tell me, “Well I don’t spend money on unnecessary groceries.” We will be taking at a new approach to looking at our habits.

This minimalist inspired challenge will encourage you to simplify your nutrition. By uncluttering your fridge and pantry you will be able to let go or eat (we don’t want to be wasteful right?) everything that adds to the mess and leave only the foods that nourish your body or add joy to you life (like coffee).

Part 1: Information Gathering

Step 1 – For the first month of this challenge save your grocery store receipts.  No this doesn’t need to be a full month which means you can start today!

Step 2 – Next you are going to break down your receipt into the following categories:

I use 3 different colored highlighters, you can also label each item with 1/2/3.

Ingredients – Raw foods/foods that fulfill my nutrition needs – This would be all of the simple ingredients that are its own product.  Think raw meat, fruits, vegetables, nuts, flour, sugar, oil, milk, etc.

I could make this – Food/Beverages I could make from scratch – Processed foods are a big reason that our generation is predicted to have a shorter lifespan than the previous generation.  This is category where you can save lots of money!

Guilty Pleasures – Food/Beverages that are not necessary for sustenance – Most beverages will fit in here.  Soda, coffee, tea, juice,  beer, wine etc.  Also snack foods like cookies, crackers, chips, etc.

Step 3: Once all of your food has a category total each of these up.

Part 2: Changing our habits and saving some money!

So we are at the beginning of a new month!  It’s a clean slate and an opportunity to make some small changes to our habits.

Step 1: Let’s first look at everything in ‘Guilty Pleasures.  For this month allow your family to pick one or two items off from this category to remove from grocery store list.  The goal is to cut down on the foods and drinks that do not nourish your body.

Step 2: Take 1 item per week in ‘I could make this‘ and learn how to cook it.  Some great ways to start is to make a pizza or a chicken pot pie.  Maybe you are a fan of rotisserie chickens, you can roast one in the oven!  By the end of the month you will have replaced 4 different convenience foods with home made alternatives.

Step 3: Go grocery shopping!  Always check your pantry and freezer before going to the grocery store. Create a list and stick to it. Don’t go down the cookie or soda aisle unless it’s to pick up one of your approved items.

We are going to look at 2 different numbers for this challenge.  First we are going to look at how much we actually spent on groceries and how that changed.  Next we are going to look at how much we spent in each of the categories.  Ideally your ‘I could make this‘ and ‘Guilty Pleasures foods will decrease and your ‘Ingredients‘ foods will increase.

Here is my breakdown for last month.

challenge

The foods that are on my ‘I could make this‘ list:

  • Pizza
  • Baby Food
  • Pita Chips
  • Italian Salad Dressing

For this month I am giving up the following ‘Guilty Pleasures foods:

  • Pringles Chips
  • Fruit Juice