Grocery shopping for myself for the first time was one of those experiences that made me feel like I was really “adulting.” After all, feeding yourself is accomplishing a basic need. Once you’re an adult, you need to start taking care of those needs for yourself. Yet grocery shopping is not always the most fun task. Sure, having food in the house is always enjoyable. But the spending money each week in order to feed yourself? Not so much. But grocery shopping doesn’t have to cost a fortune. I’ve got some tips on how to get your grocery shopping done on a budget.
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This is the most important thing to do if you want to make the most of your groceries. When my housemate and I started cooking for ourselves, we meal-planned every single week before grocery shopping. As a result, we only bought exactly what we needed for each meal. Nothing went to waste, and we never ran into a problem where we wanted to cook something but didn’t have it in the house. Meal planning will also take stress off you during the week, since you’ll have already figured out what you’re going to cook each night. So, before your next grocery shopping trip, head over to Pinterest or check out some cookbooks to plan your weekly meals.
Make a List—and Stick to It!
Once you’ve planned your meals for the week, the next step is to make a list of everything you need to buy. Put everything on this list—any ingredients you’ll need for your meals that you don’t have in the house, any household items you need to get more of. Even write down and treats or snacks you want to buy. This may seem counterintuitive, but having something snack-y on your list will help keep you from impulse buying something you don’t actually want at the store. Plus, having to write down your treat item will make you think about whether you really want to buy it. Then, once you’re at the store, make sure you stick to your list. This will keep you on track and make sure you’re only ever buying what you really need.
Always Buy the Store Brand
If you want to get your grocery shopping done on a budget, you really don’t need to buy name brand products. Nine times out of ten, the store brand will taste exactly the same. And, the store brand will nearly always be cheaper. It may be tempting to stock your cupboards with the foods you see advertised, but as long as they taste good to you, it really doesn’t matter what’s on the label.
Get a Clubcard
Many grocery stores offer clubcards that accumulate points every time you buy something. And almost always, these clubcards are free. So, if you tend to do your grocery shopping at the same store each week, get one! They won’t cost you anything, and can help you get better deals on your groceries each week. Plus, you may get further discounts once you’ve accumulated enough points. And who doesn’t love discounts?
Make Use of Coupons
That brings me to my next point: coupons. Coupons are great at getting you the things that you need at cheaper prices. Check on couponing websites before you head to the grocery store to see if any will help you out. Coupons.com is a great site to check out that has tons of free, printable coupons. Looking at coupons and the stores they apply to can also help you decide which grocery store it would be cheaper to go to each week. It may feel slightly awkward at first to fumble with coupons, but it’ll be worth it when you see how much money you can save. For more couponing tips, check out this article I wrote all about it.
Check for Reduced Items
Many grocery stores have sections in them where they offer reduced items. These are usually products that are near their expiration date that the store needs to get rid of. Reduced sections are a great opportunity to get something far cheaper than it normally would cost. However, this tip comes with a caveat: only check for reduced items that you need. If you need to buy eggs and there’s a carton in the reduced section, you’re in luck. However, if you don’t see anything you need, walk away. It’s very tempting to buy something just because it’s on sale, but if you won’t actually use it, it’s a waste of money to buy it.
Buy in Bulk—But Only if You’ll Use it
Buying food in bulk is another great way to save money while grocery shopping. For instance, if you’re buying toilet paper, it makes sense to buy an 8-pack over a 4-pack. The 8-pack may be slightly more expensive, but odds are it’ll be cheaper than buying two 4-packs. Since you’ll use 8 rolls of toilet paper eventually, stocking up will save you money in the long run. If an item you use all the time goes on sale, this is another great opportunity to stock up on the item. Just make sure you’re only stocking up on items you’ll actually go through. And make sure it’s items that won’t go bad before you can use it all. Flour or rice are great for stocking up on. Milk, however, is not. If you’re not someone who uses a lot of milk, just buy the smaller carton.
Don’t Shop Hungry
Ever been to the grocery store while starving and impulsively bought tons of items you don’t need? Haven’t we all. When you go grocery shopping hungry, everything in the store looks good to you. To avoid this, never visit the grocery store while hungry. At the very least, keep a snack in your car that you can indulge in before you walk into the store. That way, you can be more selective with your purchases and ensure you only go home with food you actually need.
Feeding yourself on the cheap may seem daunting, but grocery shopping can absolutely be done on a budget. And once you’ve been grocery shopping with a list for a few weeks, you’ll start to figure out an average for how much you tend to spend. Then you’ll know what to expect each time you head to the grocery store. Good luck, and happy shopping!