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When I started looking for ways to cut our grocery budget when we committed to paying off all of our debt I found tons of articles that told me to stockpile food, and to eat more pasta and rice. We don’t eat much pasta or rice at the best of times and we knew that if we were going to get savvy with our food budget, we were going to have to figure out ways we could eat what we wanted and still save money.
You don’t have to live on ramen to save money on food. All it takes is a little dedication, routine (yay), planning and creativity.
We were able to cut our food budget down from around $300 a week to around $150 – 200 a week. I know it probably sounds huge to a lot of people (and maybe small to others) but we do live in Australia which is not cheap, we don’t have access to farmers markets and we eat a fairly low carb and very healthy diet.
Here are some simple ways you can cut your grocery budget without giving up eating good, healthy food that you love to eat.
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1 – Know What Is In Your Pantry
How many times have you been to the supermarket, and found yourself wondering if you had an item at home, and then buying it ‘just in case’ because you weren’t sure if you already had it or if you had used it? It happens all the time!
When you want to cut your grocery bill down, you need to know what you’re starting with and to do that you need to take inventory of what you’ve already got in your pantry.
Grab a pen and paper and start going through things. As you go, check the used by and best before dates and be sure to discard anything that you can’t or won’t use. Take this opportunity to tidy things up a little so you can clearly see what you have.
When you’re writing down what you do have, you can even take notes of ideas for meals you’d like to make using the food you already have. This will help you for the next step.
2 – Meal Plan
Hold up. Before you go scrolling past or before you roll your eyes… just do one thing. Give it a go. That’s all. I was deadset against meal planning, thinking there was no way I could plan my meals in advance, I wanted to eat whatever I felt like that night, I didn’t think I had the time to do it… excuses out the wazoo. And then a friend said to me… try it for a week. So I did. And I was hooked.
Not only does it help us save a TON of money on food and save a heap on our grocery bill, but it also saves us so much stress! We don’t have to run to the grocery store every day for that one item we are missing from the recipe and we don’t have to spend ages wondering what we are going to cook or if we have the food to cook it.
I like to keep things super simple, so we don’t complicate the meal planning process at all.
At the start of each week, we look at what is happening that week (taking into account work schedules, sporting commitments, training etc), and then we look at what nights we should cook and what nights we should cook double so we can have left overs another night (meal planning genius right there).
Then we decide what we want to eat, check what we have in the pantry and write our shopping list out of all the things we need to get to make our meals work.
It’s that simple.
3 – Grocery Shop Once A Week
When you meal plan, and you know what you have, grocery shopping once a week is a breeze! Even if you don’t meal plan (you rebel) then you can still shop just once a week and make sure you use what you have rather than going out and shopping every day.
How does this save money on your grocery bill?
Simple. Because when you go to the grocery store to buy that ‘one thing’ you need for your meal, you never just buy one thing. That one thing turns into half of aisle 5 and a tub of ice-cream.
Shopping once a week reduces your overall spend because you’re not buying all of those ‘extras’ all the time.
4 – Grocery Shop Online
I love online grocery shopping, it takes so much hassle out of grocery shopping (my most hated shopping of all).
At first, I found it frustrating because I couldn’t just stroll the aisles, but then I realised that meant I just had to search for what I wanted to buy off my list and add it. So I was only ever buying what I needed and not being tempted to buy whatever was on sale, even if I didn’t need it.
It also meant I could shop between two stores easily and compare the prices of items so I was getting the best deal every time.
If you don’t want to pay for the delivery, most stores offer a click and collect option.
And if you want to save even more money, install the eBates browser extension and see if your grocery store offers a cashback option. Literally money back in your pocket. Winning.
5 – Create Simple Go-To Meals
You don’t have to cook like a Michelin Chef every night for dinner. I mean, if that’s what you love then you go for it. But for us, we love simple go-to meals that can literally be cooked and served in less than 15 minutes.
Things like a meat of choice on the grill and a simple bag salad is always a winner in our house and takes next to no time to put together. We keep these up our sleeve in case something comes up and we don’t have time to cook what was on our meal plan, or in case we just don’t want to eat what we had set out to eat that night.
Keep in mind the things you love to eat, and make a list of quick go to meals you can make with this and you’re set.
6 – Freeze Extras
We all live busy lives and often don’t have time to cook a big meal each night. Other times we just could not give a rats behind about cooking and would rather just do anything other than stand in the kitchen and prepare food.
This is where freezing extras is a big help.
When we make a meal that freezes well, we make a double batch and freeze the extra serves so we can either eat them for a meal another night, or so we have quick lunches on hand for when we are at work or when we need a quick meal.
This ties in really well with meal planning because we are able to work out what we can freeze and what nights we need to eat the left overs.
7 – Eat Seasonally
One of my favourite quick lunches is a fried ‘rice’ using cauliflower rice. When cauliflower is in season, 4 serves of this dish can cost me about $5 to make. When it’s not in season, it can cost as much as $15 for the same amount. That is a HUGE difference.
The same goes for all kinds of fruits and veggies. Blueberries in season are a fraction of the price when they’re out of season and I LOVE blueberries, especially in my smoothies and smoothie bowls. So, instead I buy them in bulk when they are in season and freeze them (if we have the storage space at the time) otherwise I just buy them from the frozen section at the supermarket.
If you’re worried about the nutrition side of things and that frozen isn’t as healthy as fresh then don’t fear. Studies have shown that the nutrition profile of frozen fruits and vegetables is just as good (and in some cases even better) than fresh.
Saving money on your grocery bill doesn’t have to be complicated and it doesn’t mean you have to eat boring or bland food. You can still eat the meals you love, you just have to be prepared and shop in a smart way.
Give these things a go and see how much you can cut your grocery budget, save money, and put extra towards your financial goals.