I never budgeted for anything until I got married. My husband is a stickler for keeping track of everything we spend and making sure we don’t go over budget. One of the things he has asked me to try to reduce is the amount of money we spend on food every month. I’ve learned quite a few tips along the way about reducing the amount of our grocery bill.
First and foremost, do your own cooking. Don’t buy anything that you can make yourself. For us, that means I make the bread, chicken and vegetable stock, some pastas, cookies, cakes, graham crackers, marshmallows and pancake syrup. I don’t buy instant hot chocolate in the winter, I make it myself. Not only are most of these more inexpensive to make, they taste a lot better and have less salt, more fiber and you can control the amount of sugar and other less healthy ingredients.
Shop in the bulk department of your supermarket or health food store for dried herbs and spices. You will spend sometimes less than half of what it costs to get something prepackaged. Case in point, a 2 oz. bottle of sesame seeds recently cost me almost $3. I went to Whole Foods and got 4 oz. for less than $2. I also get my grains for making bread, dried beans and some rices in the bulk department.
Get a membership to a wholesale club and buy the things you use a lot in bulk. Check your prices first, some items are not always cheaper. However, I have saved a ton of money on toilet paper alone buying it at Sam’s instead of our local grocery store. Seasonal produce is sometimes a lot less expensive than a regular supermarket as well.
Keep a list. Really. Everyone says it, but it does help. I have a spreadsheet in Excel which lists all of the food and non food items we need along with the prices. I enter the amount I need, the spreadsheet calculates everything for me and I have a fairly accurate budget for the month. Once I’ve done my shopping, I enter everything into another copy of the worksheet and see how close to my budget I am. I can then adjust my spending for the rest of the list so as not to go over budget. Usually I come in under budget.
Comparison shop. If you shop at more than one store regularly, check the prices of your staples. Sometimes you won’t be saving much from one store to the next, but if you are already there, those few cents could add up to a few dollars.
Buy generic or the store brand. There really isn’t much, if any, difference from the name brands. In some cases, I’ve found that the generic or the store brand is even better.
Control portion sizes. A full serving of meat is only the size of a deck of cards. Serve more grains and vegetables to round out the meal.
Use powdered milk in baking. It seems more expensive to buy a box of powdered milk, but when you’re using 1/3 cup of powder instead of a whole cup of milk, you’ll stretch that box out a lot longer than that $4 gallon of milk would last.
Don’t buy bottled water. Not only is it overly expensive, it is also bad for the environment. Buy a replaceable filter for your tap and a reusable bottle to carry with you. Be a little greener, too.
There are a lot of little ways to save money on food if you are creative and think outside the grocery bag. (Bad pun, sorry!) A little bit here and a little bit there can save you a lot in the long run.