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How Shopping for Groceries on a Budget is the Most Helpful Deal of the Day

Shopping for Groceries on a Budget

Have you ever worked out your average monthly cost on groceries? Groceries are a significant expense and if you don’t set a budget, you can easily overspend. As we head into the New Year, full of economic uncertainty, I wanted to share why shopping for groceries on a budget is the best way to save money.

It’s all too easy to wander down the aisles filling your basket with food – most of which you don’t really need. Not to mention, the temptation of those strategically placed sweet snacks on your way to the checkout counter. This can quickly lead to overspending and you’ll find yourself asking “Where did all my money go?” by the end of the month.

The best solution to this problem is to follow this guide and go shopping for groceries on a budget.

Disclaimer: This blog post may contain affiliate links. Keep in mind that I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you when you click my links and make a purchase. However, this does not impact my opinion in any way. I only promote brands I believe in and products that I use and love myself. I try my best to keep things fair and balanced to help you make the best choice for you.

Credit: Gaelle Marcel

Track Your Spending

If you don’t already have a budget for groceries, then it’s time to get started. But you can’t set a budget without knowing what you’re currently spending on food. Track your spending the next time you go to the grocery store and calculate how much you spend on average for the month. If the number is high, take a look at what you purchase and use this information to figure out if you can make some changes in your spending habits at the grocery store. Keep your receipts and use a budget tracker (I love this one) to keep track of everything.

Monthly Budget & Weekly Plan

Once you’ve tracked your spending, you can confidently set a monthly budget. A rule of thumb would be 10% – 15% of your net income. (Your percentage will vary depending on the size of your household, where you live, and food restrictions.) However, just setting a monthly budget won’t help you stick to it – you need to have a plan. Divide your monthly budget by four and plan your meals out for each week, according to the calculation above. By planning out your meals, you’ll avoid overspending during your weekly trip to the grocery store. This strategy will also help prevent unplanned takeout orders. Use a calendar meal planner and prep for the week ahead on a Sunday.

Shopping for Groceries on a Budget
Credit: Karolina Grabowska

Make a List & Stick to it

That brings me to my next point – you need a grocery list. Heading into the grocery store without a list is a recipe for disaster. More often than not, your grocery bill will be higher and you’ll arrive home, only to realize you’re missing an essential ingredient for the meal you want to make tonight.

Don’t make your life more stressful than it needs to be.

Make a list of ingredients you need based on your meal plan for the week and then stick to it!

I love this meal planning calendar/grocery shopping list pad from Amazon. Stick it on your fridge, plan out your meals, write down what you need to buy, and then tear off the sheet to take with you when you head to the store.

Use Coupons Wisely

Now that you’ve prepared yourself with a budget, a plan, and a list, it’s time to shop. But food is pricey, so it can be hard to stick to that carefully considered budget. One way you can stretch the dollar while grocery shopping, is to use coupons. These are a great way to save, but only if they’re for items you actually use and need. Don’t be tricked into buying unnecessary items simply because you have a coupon for them.

A good deal is only a good deal if you’re going to save on something that is on your grocery list already. Click To Tweet

Smart shopping is the ability to distinguish between essential and non-essential items.

Credit: Fikri Yasid

10 More Tips about Shopping for Groceries on a Budget

The golden rule is not to go grocery shopping when you’re hungry.

Seriously.

Don’t do it!

Being around all that food when you’re hungry is way too tempting and you’ll end up buying a lot more than you intended. Plus, you’ll probably end up snacking on something unhealthy you just bought before you even reach your car.

Shopping for groceries on a budget works best when you’re prepared. But there are other ways to make the experience easier:

  • Budget alert: Shop your refrigerator and pantry, as you’re creating your list of food and supplies, so you don’t end up with items you don’t need. Also, be creative with the foods you already have on hand when planning meals.
  • Go grocery shopping early in the morning when the store is less busy so that you can get in and out without waiting in long lines or getting side-tracked.
  • Buy non-perishable products such as dried fruit and protein bars online to save money on food tax – just make sure shipping is free.
  • Purchase fruit and vegetables according to when they’re in season as they’ll be more affordable and more nutritious.
  • Buy food such as meat, cereal, and staples in bulk at the start of each month to cut down on costs.
  • So you think you can’t eat a healthy diet with frozen vegetables.? You absolutely can and you’ll save too. Cauliflower, carrots, and peas are the least expensive and do well in recipes for soups, etc.
  • Keep yourself informed about what’s on sale and don’t hesitate to compare prices between grocery stores.
  • Don’t be afraid to buy store brand items instead of name brand items – the quality is generally just as good but at a more affordable rate.
  • Leave room in the budget for some fun and tasty “guilty pleasure” items as you don’t want to restrict yourself and your family too much.
  • If you’re unsure if you need something, let it go.
Shopping for Groceries on a Budget

The Cost of a Healthy Meal

Most people believe that the ingredients for a healthy meal are expensive. Although this can be true, it doesn’t have to be; especially if you follow the tips in this post.

So, do you want to cook a healthy meal for your family?

Great! Here’s an idea. How much do you think it’ll cost?

For a delicious and nutritious roast chicken meal with vegetables all you need is:

  • 1 pound of potatoes
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 2 teaspoons of olive oil
  • 3 chicken breasts with bone and skin
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon of poultry seasoning
  • ¼ cup of fresh parsley

I love this meal and you can get the full recipe on the food network.

Surprisingly this entire meal costs under $3 per serving. Add a healthy salad (also inexpensive) and you’re done!

Summary

If you’re aiming to spend less and save more in 2021, shopping for groceries on a budget is a good starting point.

As with most things in life, it won’t work without a good plan. So your first step is to track your spending habits and formulate an appropriate budget from this information. Then, plan out your meals and use a list and coupons to shop wisely and frugally.

Finally, make sure to follow the tips I provided for best practices when it comes to shopping for groceries on a budget.

Do you tend to overspend when it comes to groceries?

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Comments 12

  1. Such great advice, Ronni! Meal planning is so important and a step many people leave out when they think about creating a budget for groceries. Often there are recipes that will stretch to more than 1 or 2 meals if you are a little creative in the kitchen. Also, having a well stocked pantry with staples is another important element to saving money on groceries. Shop from your pantry first is fabulous advice.

    1. As I mentioned to Sabrina, my son is such a good cook and can make an incredible meal from whatever we have on hand. All of our meals include salad and vegetables so, those items are always in our fridge.
      Planning ahead does make all the difference.

  2. We have several food intolerances in our home so we do spend more on groceries. But, it is usually for snacks not so much on fresh produce and fresh items. We like to buy whole chickens because per pound it is more cost-effective than buying pieces already cut up. The less the item is processed, the cheaper the meal. Learning simple meals and doing them each week will give you routine and a healthier lifestyle. Thanks for sharing your tips.

    1. These are great tips too. My son is a terrific cook. He’s come up with some of the most creative ways to cook without spending a lot of money. He makes his own bread, tortillas, he can do anything with beans. And he is a very healthy eater!

  3. This past week on “The Kitchen,” they did a whole show about affordable meals. You really can eat well if you plan your meals and shop smartly. As you point out, stick to the list. It is often those spontaneous purchases that are the least healthy and most expensive. Resist the urge the pick up something you know you don’t need!

    1. What is, “The Kitchen?” It sounds like some thing I should be watching. I’m a list maker and I don’t like shopping, unless I have it with me. I’ve learned the hard way.

  4. These are excellent tips for being wiser with your grocery budget. I will admit that we don’t have a strict budget when it comes to groceries. We eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, and protein. I rarely buy sweets, although we do keep a stock of Yasso frozen yogurt pops. They satisfy the desire for sweets but are a healthy alternative. Since the start of the pandemic, we don’t eat out and rarely get take out. Those are huge savings. But as you can imagine, our grocery bills have increased. But overall, our food expenses went down in 2020. However, I noticed that grocery prices have risen a lot.

    1. We used to eat out a lot. It was one of my favorite things to do. Just like you, we haven’t eaten out either, since last March and yes, we’ve also saved money that way.
      I have to admit, I’ve really enjoyed cooking at home and eating well-made home cooked food, without a lot of salt. Vegetables are my go-to.

  5. All great tips. I used to make a list, then my husband would do the shopping. It meant that I had to plan our meals beforehand and stick to what I planned. We saved a lot of money this way.

    1. My husband likes to do the grocery shopping and boy can he cut corners. He’s taught me a lot. I’m the one who buys all the fun food. I don’t mean junk food because I try not to keep that in the house. More like healthy guilty pleasures.

  6. You are so right — if you go grocery shopping hungry, you will come home with things that will make you wonder, “What was I thinking?!” These are all wonderful tips for inventorying, planning, budgeting, and shopping.

    My big question about meal planning is, what do you do if you don’t want what you planned once that day comes? Do you just eat what you don’t want? I have always felt that I’m missing an adulting gene, because any time I’ve planned a meal more than one day in advance, I find myself wanting something completely different on the day-of. On Sunday, I could plan fish For Tuesday, but Tuesday I want Mexican food or pizza. Do you not have strong cravings where only that food will do or you’re miserable, or do you just eat what you planned, no matter what? (Apparently being a professional organizer doesn’t mean I can organize my appetite!)

    1. Julie,
      I’m smiling because I hear what you’re saying and it does make sense, to a point. I have so many go to recipes that my family and I enjoy all the time, regardless of what day it is. Also, you’re planning a week ahead so you have seven days to shuffle which meal you want to make that day.
      To this point, growing up, we had the same meal every Friday night. I couldn’t wait. I loved it. It was never a problem for me or my family. I knew on the other nights there would be choices, from the wide selection my mom prepared. I loved that too.

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