I like finding ways to save money, but I also like simplicity. I’ve never tried couponing or bulk-shopping or following the sales. In all honesty, it seems like way more work than I’m willing to put in.
But despite that, I have found ways to trim my grocery expenses without too much effort. If you’re looking to save on your groceries without all that work, try these simple strategies:
1. Make a menu – If you write a full-blown, detailed menu for the week, more power to you (Shari’s even got printables for you!). But I know intense menu-planning isn’t for everyone. Still, if you give at least a brief thought to the week ahead, you’ll know what food you need – and more importantly, what you don’t.
2. Simplify – Remember, your meals don’t have to be four-course made-from-scratch masterpieces every night. A grilled sausage and a salad takes minutes to prepare and is perfectly healthy and satisfying.
3. Make a list – Based on your menu, draft a grocery list and commit to stick to it no matter what. You’ll eliminate some of those impulse buys and over-purchases that add up to wasted money.
4. Eliminate mid-week grocery runs – So you forgot the cheese that was on your list and you send your husband on a quick run to the store. $40 later, he’s home with way more than just cheese. Make a firm rule that you don’t go to the store between shopping trips. If you forgot an ingredient, make do or do without!
5. Cook less food – I’d bought two zucchinis to grill as part of our side dish, but as I was chopping one, I had a realization. I don’t think we’ll eat both of these tonight, and nobody likes mushy leftover vegetables. So I put one back in the fridge for another day. Really think about your family, their preferences, and how much they eat.
6. Reconsider snacks – I started saving a lot of money when I stopped buying snacks for my kids. People have differing views on this, so do what feels right for your family – but in mine, we generally don’t do snacks. There was definitely a time when the kids needed to eat more frequently because they were young, but at 7 and 3, my kids know that they eat their fill at meals. While snacks are necessary for little ones, at some point snacktime turns into more of a routine and habit rather than necessity and we forget to eliminate it. Again, evaluate your family’s need and do what feels right. If you have a teenaged football player in your house, you probably need snacks. If you have a young toddler that still needs to eat every 2-3 hours, you probably need snacks. If your child’s school serves lunch at 10 am, you probably need an after-school snack. But do some intentional reflection over your kids – do they really need snacks, or do they need to learn to experience slight hunger in order to eat their fill at meals? [I’m not talking about feeling like they’re starving here, but often we are afraid of kids feeling any level of “hunger,” when really hunger is what motivates them to eat well at mealtimes.]
7. Dish up plates in the kitchen – I love family style dinners, but it’s easy to eat more when a big pile of food is looking right at you. Keep serving bowls in the kitchen and dish up plates before setting them on the table. Everyone can have seconds, but it will be because they want them, not because they’re conveniently sitting in front of everyone. It’s likely that you’ll eat less (which means you’ll save more!) because you’ll only eat what you need. Plus, it’s much easier to convince your kids to eat their green beans when there isn’t a delicious bowl full of mashed potatoes in front of them!
8. Freeze everything – If you have leftovers you know you won’t get through, throw them in the freezer. I make fried rice with previously frozen rice and chicken, most proteins can magically turn into a fantastic chili, and frozen grilled chicken is easily repurposed in soups and enchiladas. You might not have plans for them right away, but you can get creative at a later date. Don’t let food go to waste – you’re just throwing money in the garbage can!
9. Prep for the week– Take some time in advance to chop all your veggies, cut up chicken, brown ground beef, and mix together marinades in advance of the week. This makes is much less likely that 1) you’ll stray from your plan and splurge on take-out because you’re too overwhelmed with cooking at the end of a long day, and 2) that your produce will go bad because you never got around to cooking it.
10. Shop with cash – If you take your budgeted amount to the grocery store in cash, then that’s all you get and you can’t spend any more. I use the free app Out of Milk to track my bill as I go so I have an idea of where I am. If I find myself nearing my limit I have to make decisions about what things I really need – and what I don’t.
Which of these strategies do you think might work for your family? Do you have any other super simple ways to save money on groceries without coupons, bulk shopping, or shopping the sales?!? Help a mama out!
Do you have a topic idea for Top Ten Tuesday? We’re looking for guest writers for this feature; email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your 1-2 sentence pitch. If it’s approved you’ll be asked to write the full article and it will be published on allmomdoes!