When the COVID-19 pandemic first shut the world down in March, nobody was sure how long we would be living this way. Fast forward six months and millions of people around the world are struggling financially - whether it’s due to layoffs, furloughs, medical bills or a multitude of other reasons. If you’ve found yourself struggling financially or worried about spending during these tumultuous times, one way to start saving right now is by cutting back on regular spending - like grocery costs.
Food is, of course, a necessity. And if you’re like many Americans, you’ve been spending less on eating out and more on groceries over the past several months. The problem is, it’s easy to spend more on groceries than you have to - especially if you’re purchasing without a plan. Below we’ve rounded up our top nine tips to help families like yours save more on groceries every month.
Tip #1: Plan Your Meals
When you’re already juggling a job and taking care of your family, cooking meals every night can be overwhelming. Pre-planning your meals for the week can help you better stick to only buying what you need and take the mystery out of “what’s for dinner?” every night. Other added benefits could include preparing healthy meals, avoiding food waste and resisting the urge to order takeout instead.
Tip #2: Use a Shopping List (And Stick To It)
Making a shopping list is pretty easy, sticking to it, however, can be a different story. Try to only include the essentials when creating your list - and be mindful about diverting away from it once you’re in the store.
Passing up on the small stuff - ice cream, chips, candy, etc. - can equate to big savings over time. Saving just $10 on your weekly grocery run can equate to $520 over a year.
Tip #3: Stock Up on Basic Supplies
Having a few basic items on hand at all times can be a time and money saver at mealtimes. These common food items are inexpensive, will last for awhile and can serve as the base of any meal:
- Pasta Sauces
- Rice or quinoa
- Frozen vegetables
Creating dishes out of these ingredients are not only simple and low-cost, but they are a filling and healthy to make for your family.
Tip #4: Cook At Home More
Whether restaurants in your area offer dine-in or take-out only, it’s almost always more cost-effective to cook your own meals at home. If you still want to support local restaurants and enjoy a night or two away from the kitchen, just be mindful of how often you’re choosing to eat out and how that’s affecting your monthly budget.
Tip #5: Organize Your Pantry
Nearly everyone has canned goods in their pantry that have sat on the shelf for months. Take an hour or two and inventory your pantry from top to bottom. Dispose of expired goods and take stock of what is still good to use. It’s likely you’ll rediscover a few useful items you can use for meals.
If you find items you know you’ll never use (and they have not yet expired), consider donating to your local food bank.
Organizing your pantry can make it easier to assess what you already have, meaning you can plan meals that require less food from the store.
In the United States alone, over one-third of all available food does not get eaten either through expiration and loss or waste.1 Helping to reduce food waste in your own home can not only benefit others through donations but also save you money, as well.
Tip #6: Make Leftovers
If you’re cooking dinner for your family at home, it’s likely you’ll have leftovers to put away at the end of the night. Repurpose them for breakfast or lunch the next day. Leftover meat, vegetables and grains can be used to create whole new meals. This is especially easy to do if you’re working from home during the week.
Tip #7: Shop Smarter
Pay attention to what you are buying. Even though you may be paying less for something, you’ll want to do a unit comparison to similar products. For example, say you’re choosing between one box of pasta that’s $4.00 for 16 ounces and another that’s $2.50 for eight ounces. Yes, $2.50 is cheaper, but you’ll want to look at the price per ounce to be able to accurately compare the two. The first box equates to 25 cents an ounce, and the second comes in at 31 cents an ounce. Purchasing the first box will give you more bang for your buck - granted you’ll eventually use the entire 16 ounces.
Store cards and coupons can be an important part of saving on groceries every week. Most grocery store cards are free and can offer you deeper discounts on everyday items.
Other smart shopping tips include:
- Frozen vegetables are often cheaper than fresh, and they still pack in important nutrients.
- Opt for generic or store brands when you can
- Check on upcoming sales either online or with the store manager
- Items nearing their expiration date (especially meat and perishables) will often be cheaper - just make sure you eat them before they expire.
Tip #8: Try Doing “Meatless” Mondays
If you prepare a vegetarian meal even once a week, you can not only save on money, but it could be better for the environment. By cutting out meat just one day a week, you can decrease your meat consumption by nearly 15 percent, which can help the environment as well, when it comes to the meat industry.2
Tip #9: Consider Growing a Garden
With so many people at home, now may be the time to start a vegetable, fruit or herb garden. While you will initially spend money on the cost of soil, a garden box and seeds or plants, growing your own produce or herbs can be thrifty and satisfying.
Make sure you are checking out the types of produce that grows best in your environment and in which season to get the most out of what you have planted. Not only will this save you money, but it’s a fun hobby that the whole family will enjoy and can feel proud of.
We are all doing the best we can to roll with the punches in 2020. While people may be heading back to work, economic uncertainty is still everpresent. As you try to approach your finances more strategically, every little bit of savings can help.
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