Food and groceries are not something you can simply strike from your budget. It is difficult to spend money wisely on food expenses, especially while also trying to fulfill the requirements of a balanced, healthy diet. Many people give up on the dream of a well-budgeted, healthy grocery list, but it is possible. The following tips can help someone with even the tightest budget eat healthy without breaking the bank.
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Store Brand vs. Name Brand
Store or generic brands tend to be cheaper than name brand products, and they are often just as good, if not identical, in terms of quality. Opt for these less expensive options whenever possible.
Planning meals out optimizes the use of food and helps mitigate food waste. Basing multiple meals around similar ingredients reduces how many items need to be bought and results in less waste.
Make a Shopping List
Sticking to a list lowers the risk of impulse buys and allows the shopper to estimate a total beforehand. Keeping these lists and comparing them later can help you optimize your shopping list over time and save even more money on groceries.
Junk Food List
Keep junk food intake to a minimum. Even if it is debatably cheaper in a monetary sense, it does have a health cost. Some chains do offer cheap, relatively healthy options, but they are few and far between. Furthermore, such immediate payoff may encourage people to eat more often (and therefore pay more), as opposed to if they had put the time and effort into preparing their own meal.
Compare the prices of competitors. This is a good way to get a good idea of which stores are generally less expensive. Also, some stores offer price matching.
Buy in Bulk
Bulk pricing is often cheaper per unit. This is especially helpful to large families.
Freezing is an especially useful practice in conjunction with buying in bulk. If the bulk item is too large to consume before the expiration date, freezing can help preserve a portion of it longer. Additionally, in a situation when there is a bulk sale but a family won’t be able to use the ingredients for awhile, freezing can provide a way to store the food until it can be used.
Groceries may be a necessary expense, but it is necessary less often when food is preserved well. Take the time to carefully cover and store food every time it goes back into the pantry or refrigerator and put it back immediately after use. Exposure to air or warmer temperatures can quickly reduce the shelf life of food.
Also, consider expiration dates when strategizing a meal plan. It is easy to lose track of what will expire when. Fitting that factor into the schedule from the get-go will resolve the expiration issue and reduce food waste.
The ideal course of action would be to use a store website or app in order to get the estimated total of a grocery list beforehand. In lieu of that, however, it is helpful to overestimate rather than underestimate. When calculating the total, round up to the nearest dollar for every item. For example, if the cheese is $7.49, add it to the total as $8.00. This method makes it easier to tally up the total cost, will be relatively accurate, will account for the extra money in tax, and elicits a feeling of reward when the total is lower than the estimate.
Check for clearance racks and mark-down stickers. This is a great way to fill gaps in a grocery list or impulse buy without going way over budget.
Double-check Your Receipt
Cashiers are human, just like everyone else. As such, they sometimes make mistakes. After check-out, give the receipt a once-over to make sure everything was scanned correctly and coupons were deducted as they should have been. If there is a problem, bring it up to the cashier or service desk.
Many retailers offer “rain checks,” which is a way to benefit from a sale price even if the corresponding item is no longer in stock. The store will usually guarantee the same sale price on the item once it is back in stock, even if the sale is technically over by that point. Alternatively, they may allow the customer to append the same sale price to a similar item that is in stock.
Apps to Save Money on Groceries
- Checkout 51: Checkout 51 awards users with cashback based on photos of their physical receipt.
- Ibotta: This app also offers cashback based on photos of receipts. However, unlike Checkout 51, there is not a minimum requirement for payout.
- Shopkick: Shopkick allows shoppers to get “kicks” (reward points) just by entering their partner stores or buy scanning barcodes on select grocery items.
- SnipSnap: SnipSnap solves the hassle of paper coupon clutter. Users can take a picture of paper coupons and instantly convert them into redeemable digital copies.
- Target Cartwheel: This app is exclusive to Target stores. Many of the deals found here are only available on the app.
- Yowza: Yowza is not just available for groceries and clothing; the app also indexes coupons for a variety of services like gym memberships or car repair.
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