Ask someone how to stop blowing your grocery budget and you’ll hear the same advice again and again: cook at home and don’t eat out! While this is true, even when you only eat from home, the amount you spend at the grocery store can be overwhelming. (Especially with food prices on the rise.)
The grocery store can be a dangerous place for a budget. It’s so easy to go to the grocery store to buy a couple things and end up with a full grocery cart.
How do you stop blowing your grocery budget?
1. Eat before you go. (Don’t forget the kids!)
Have you ever gone to the grocery store when you’re hungry? Or, worse yet, when your children are hungry?! The whining and complaining and grabbing for any snack items within reach… and then there’s the kids! 😉
Everything looks worth buying when you’re hungry. Do yourself a favor and have a snack before going to the store.
2. Check your local flyers for sales.
If salmon ain’t on sale, don’t buy it. Better yet, check the flip app. If possible price match at one store instead of driving around. That way you save on gas too! Don’t know about price matching? Check out my simple guide to price matching.
3. Have a list
If you don’t write down what you need, you’re more likely to forget the essential and buy the extraneous.
4. Don’t buy things for points.
I know there some of you out there that are point masters.
I am not.
Most often, when you start buying things for points that will get you free stuff or travel, you simply end up spending more money on groceries buying things you do not normally buy.
4. Plan your shopping route.
In each of my favourite grocery stores I go shopping at I have a specific route I follow almost every time I shop.
The reason for this is that I walk past all of the food I normally need to buy and avoid a lot of the foods that I don’t need to buy and are probably not that healthy for me.
What is this route? Usually it is around the perimeter of the store. That’s where the fresh produce, meat and dairy is and where the chips are not.
5. Only buy what you need
How many flavors of ice cream do you truly need? Is there any room in your freezer for that extra bread?
Be especially careful when buying produce. You want to eat as many fruits and veggies as possible while throwing away as little as possible. (Check out my post on food waste for more tips.)
6. Use a smaller cart, or basket!
Have you ever noticed that the size of grocery carts is getting bigger and bigger?!! Why do you think you always end up spending more than $200 every time you step foot into Costco?
7. Know when a deal is a deal.
Not every sale is equal. I recently went to a store-wide 2 for 1 sale. 2 for 1 sounds like an amazing deal, but once I calculated the cost per item, most things were not any less expensive than the normal prices I pay at my usual grocery store.
I did find a few deals, but I had to do the math and know what a good price is.
8. When you do find a deal, stock up!
This advice may seem to contradict tip #5, but they can go hand in hand.
If you find a good deal, as long as you have room to store it, don’t have hoards of it to use at home already and can consume it before it rots, than I would definitely encourage you to stock up! Buy 5 instead of 1!
If you save $1 on one item, but you know that you’ll use 10 of them within 3 months time, you’ll save $10 and that’s the kind of savings that can add up and lower your overall grocery bill.
9. Buy essentials first and snack items last.
This is a vital way to stop blowing your grocery budget: Don’t waste all your money on chips and M&M’s when you don’t have any veggies, meat or bread in the house!
10. Buy whole foods instead of pre-sliced/diced/washed.
Whole apples are going to last a lot longer and cost a whole lot less than their packaged sliced counterparts. This is also true for most convenience produce.
So, make your own veggie tray for less than half the price! Grate your own carrots! Peel your own bananas! …wait, I don’t think that peeled bananas are a thing. 🙄
11. Only buy food!
Most grocery stores can give you good to great prices on groceries: the things you eat. As for those couple of aisle with cleaning products, toilet paper and office supplies, STAY AWAY!
Most of the time these extra items are overpriced and easily found for a better price at a drugstore or all-in-one store such as Walmart or Superstore.
12. Don’t buy organic if you can’t afford it
Sometimes we have an all or nothing mentality when it comes to eating healthy or eating organic.
Eating fresh fruits and vegetables that you can afford is better than eating none at all because you can’t afford organic. Do better, not perfect!
If you’re concerned about pesticides, GMO’s and growing practices, use your money wisely. Take a look at the EWG’s (Environmental Working Group) dirty dozen list to see what produce is best bought organically.
13. You do not need ALL the meat!
Need I say more?! Every meal does not need meat and when we do, we don’t need nearly as much as we’re probably consuming.
Think beyond meat for protein! There are many more wallet friendly delicious options such as eggs, beans, lentils and nuts! (ok, nuts might not be as inexpensive… but definitely still delicious!)
14. Buy store brands.
Sometimes we judge a book by it’s cover. I know I do! Save yourself some money by buying store brands rather than name brands. Most of the time they taste the same and you’ll be able to save $$$!
15. Check out deal racks before shelling out full price.
Does your store have a reduced rack? Why not find out and then stop by before doing your regular shop? You might find some things from your list at a reduced price!
For more tips, check out my post about how to search for reduced price sticker items.
16. Be realistic.
I know we all want to eat more produce and buying fresh fish seems like a great idea. However, next week that spring mix salad will be slimey and that fish will be smelly.
Buying more produce and healthy foods will not make you healthier if you don’t eat them. It will only cost you more money and produce more garbage. I’m glad that you want to make healthier choices. Next time opt for the frozen fish fillets and a bag of peppers or carrots that you will actually eat!
17. Pay with cash.
Did you know that you feel pain when you pay for things with actual money? Using credit cards, and debit cards (especially with the tap featchure) eliminates that feeling of cost, of pain, that will help keep your spending in check.
Also, if you only have a certain amount of cash for groceries to spend in your wallet for the month, that’s it! When it’s gone, it’s gone!
18. Stop shopping at the till.
I see you there reaching for a pack of gum.
Put down the magazine.
Stores know our self control is weak and our impulses are strong. So, come to the cash register armed with the knowledge that they’re still trying to sell you something.
19. Stay flexible.
I know that you’ve put your heart and soul into that meal plan, but that doesn’t make 5 dollar a pound broccoli any cheaper.
Maybe you could substitute 2 dollar a pound green beans instead.
Remember that your grocery list isn’t a contract.
If peanut butter is on your list, but not on sale that week, you can always wait and see if it does go on sale next week.
When you’re willing to change some plans and even forego a non-essential ingredient in a recipe, you’ll be able to save your money and stop blowing your grocery budget.
Related: How To Make Cheap Healthy Meals
20. Watch the cash register
This is my last, but definitely not my least most important tip for how to stop blowing your grocery budget!
When you’re at the check-out, be sure to watch the cash register or computer screen as your items are being scanned. There’s been many times where the price that was on the shelf doesn’t meet the price that comes up when the item is scanned.
If this happens, it’s best to politely inform your cashier and they are usually happy to fix the mistake.
Some stores voluntarily adhere to the Scanning Code of Practice. This basically says:
- If the scanned price is higher than the price on the shelf, the lower price will be honoured.
- If the correct price is $10 or less, than the item is free.
- If the correct price is higher than $10, there will be a discount of $10.
You can read more about the Scanning Code of Practice here and see a list of participating companies.