Saving money is something we could all probably stand to do a little better. I know I can improve. We’ve made some pretty aggressive savings goals this year so some areas have to get better. And since food is kind of a basic necessity, it’s a good place to start since we have to keep buying it! But how do you save money when you don’t have a lot of time to put into it? How to save money on groceries 101!
So how do you do it? Save money, eat good meals, and save time doing it. It’s possible, but it takes some effort on your part. If you just stroll into the grocery store with no agenda, you’ll likely overspend. By a lot! I’ve got 4 simple ways to save money and time on groceries that don’t require 10 different trips or a million coupons.
4 Ways for How to Save Money On Groceries
You don’t need elaborate systems or a binder full of coupons. Will you save more if you do? Maybe. But those systems take lots of time. I’ve got two part-time jobs, two kids, a husband, this blog, and more to keep up with. I’m not running all over town or clipping coupons from 20 papers. Now don’t get me wrong – there is nothing wrong with this! If you have the time and can put in the effort, you can save tons of money.
But I need quick and simple solutions to grocery savings. So how do I consistently save money each month on feeding my peeps?
There seem to be two opposing sides to this tactic. I’ve learned the expensive way that if I don’t meal plan, I spend more. Plain and simple. Some people are better at stocking up on sale items and then using what they have. I tried this before and I ended up with expired food and burgers with no buns, peanut butter with no jelly, and milk with no cereal. You get the idea.
If you look in our fridge on Saturday, there’s not a whole lot happening in there. Pretty lame and it makes me glad I don’t have one of those hip see-through fridge doors. It’d be like window shopping with naked mannequins.
The reason is we meal plan on the weekend and generally shop on Sunday. If we stick to our plan all week, it’s almost all gone by the weekend. I don’t have to throw away 18 bananas or toss out tons of good intentions.
We make a weekly meal plan starting on Sunday. Then we make a list to go with that plan and generally stick to it. It’s so much easier than having hungry people and you’ve got no idea what’s for dinner.
If you need a handy guide to print to keep it organized – check out this super simple meal plan sheet!
So how do you make an effective meal plan?
- Make a list of meals you like – or even new ones you want to try. Include some simple ideas and go-to favorites that everyone loves in case you’re in a rush. Keep it handy so you can reference it when meal planning.
- Check your calendar first. If you’re full of after school activities on Tuesdays and Thursdays, those aren’t the best days for an elaborate meal that you’ve never made. Make those easy meal days. If I’m working late, my hubs usually plans an easy meal that the kids love and he knows how to make. They get fed and he sticks to the plan.
- Stick with the basics for breakfast and lunch. Pick a few choices for breakfast and lunch that everyone can agree on all week. My daughter loves fruit. Each week, I ask her what fruit she wants in her lunches. She doesn’t need apples, grapes, pears, oranges, kiwi, watermelon or every other variety. Pick a few and that’s the choice for the week. Do you really need to buy $40 worth of deli meat each week? Maybe not. Choose one or two and make sure it gets used.
- Eat your leftovers! This one is huge. Don’t cook dinner and let leftovers go to waste. That’s just not cool for the waste factor or your budget! My kids know when we have beef stew, they’ll see that meal several times. It’s a budget-friendly way to get lots of veggies in them and we get at least 8-10 meals out of one pot of my favorite beef stew.
- Keep it simple most days. It’s amazing if you’re a fantastic cook and you love doing it. But if you’re saving money on groceries, it may not be the best idea to have 7 meals that week that require tons of ingredients that you’ll only use once. Pick one or two and keep the others more budget-friendly.
Grocery Shop Online
This is the number one way I save money on groceries. Hands down. No question.
And yes – I pay a convenience fee of $4.95 each time we do grocery pick up instead of shopping ourselves. We aren’t lazy people. It’s not that we won’t go into the store. I even work in the grocery store. But I spend at least $50 more a week if I shop inside the store versus shopping online and doing a pick up. $50 more a week consistently. Add that up.
$50 extra a week x 52 weeks = $2600 more grocery dollars a year.
And yep – I did the math. That $4.95 fee will add up too. To the tune of over $250. But compare $250 to $2600. Which is less?
Why? Impulse buying and marketing. Plain and simple. The grocery stores spend crazy amounts of money to figure out how to get you to spend more. That’s the reason the kid cereals are down low – eye level with the little people that want them! There’s a great deal on every aisle end. It’s so you see it as you turn the corner and think you need it.
If I’m not physically in there, I can’t see those things and neither can my kids. These cookies don’t have the chance to magically hop into my cart. So many stores now have so much more than groceries too – home decor, cooking utensils, and lots of other items that you’ll think you need. You don’t need them. You need food that goes with your meal plan.
And I know if I had a little more discipline, I could avoid the $4.95 fee that comes along with grocery shopping online. But it works for us. Now onto the next way to save money on groceries.
Buy Certain Items in Bulk
When I say “buy groceries”, this means anything I’d normally buy at the grocery store. I include toilet paper, shampoo, dishwasher detergent, laundry detergent, toothpaste, and other non-food items. These are things we need to buy consistently so they go in my grocery budget. And you can totally keep these items separate from your food budget if that works better for you.
I’ve found that buying some of these items in larger quantities can save me money. If there’s a great deal on paper towels and you can swing it that week, get two. Buy the giant rolls of toilet paper and stock up for the month. It’s a little pricier at the beginning of the month and you need to make sure you have somewhere to store those items, but it can be worth it.
We use Sam’s Club for toilet paper, cleaning products, shampoo, toothpaste, and some of the snack foods for the lunches. Just be wary. Sometimes it’s not a more cost-effective way to shop. You have to check the prices between your regular purchases and buying in large quantities. But, you don’t want to risk spending more on some food items if you won’t actually use them in your meals that week. It’s not saving money if you buy $20 worth of apples and throw $10 of them away.
Here’s an example. We took a trip to Sam’s last weekend. That shopping trip cost more that week than any other week in the month. But – we won’t have to buy snacks, toilet paper, cleaning stuff, soap, toothpaste, or shampoo/conditioner for at least a month. I also got 4 pounds of stew meat which I’ll use for two pots of beef stew (that’s between 16 and 20 meals) total as well as 4 pounds of ground round that I divided into 4 one pounds bags. Certain meats are more affordable in bulk. I also bought three different choices for the kids to have as treats in their lunches for the month.
And the last way I save money on groceries:
Shop Once a Week
No matter if you shop in store or online, do it only once a week. If you take 4 trips to the store each week, you’ll likely overspend. Stick to once a week shopping. If you’re able to go shopping only once a week and stick to your plan, you’re less likely to blow the grocery budget. Keep a list on the counter and add to it when you run out of something or have a meal plan idea. That way you aren’t running back and forth to the store because you forgot one ingredient.
It’s like saying I’ll go to Target three times a week, but only one of those times I’ll spend money. Nope – not happening. At least for me, it’s not. I get suckered into those dollar bins and clearance aisles every single time. Same with the grocery store except instead of random throw pillows and cute shirts, it’s a bag of chips or some other food you weren’t planning on buying.
- Make a list
- Shop for the list once that week
- Stick to the plan
I know it’s hard. I’m struggling right here with you. But it’s doable. And it can work if you make a plan and dedicate yourself to that plan.
Buy Certain Items in Bulk
Only Shop Once a Week
Try it for a month and see how you do. Hopefully, these tips for how to save money on groceries will impact your budget, even if only in a small way!
And if you’re looking for more money-saving tips – check out these posts!
Here’s to saving money and taking control of your money! Don’t forget to pin it!