7 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Food Budget
When prices for utilities, transportation, housing and other non-negotiables inch their way up, there are only so many variable budget items a savvy girl can scale back on. Luckily, by adopting a few easy, savvy shopping practices, one of those variables that can make a big difference in your budget is groceries. Studies show that it can take up to 40 days to adopt new habits, so be patient with yourself—and your grocery bill—if you don't see an immediate drop in expenditures. Be consistent in these seven habits and you'll reap noticeable financial rewards in due time.
Make a Weekly Meal Plan and Corresponding Grocery List. The best time to do this is on Sunday afternoon after the weekly advertising circulars arrive announcing sales. This will ensure you plan around deals, don't double up on supplies you already have on hand and won't be swayed by pricey impulse buys at the store.
Shop Produce Deals. Put produce needs on your list according to quantity and category rather than type, i.e. 3 types of fruit, 3 types of vegetable rather than "apples, bananas and pears," etc. At the store, take advantage of produce that's on sale—chances are, it's fresher too.
Shop Meat Sales. Browse the meat section for sale cuts that are about to expire and be flexible about substituting different cuts than what the recipe requires. Just be sure to use or freeze the meat before it goes bad. If you get a really great deal on a larger quantity of meat than you needed, break it up into smaller units at home and freeze for easy access later.
Buy Generic. Your store's private label brand is very likely exactly the same or close enough to costly name brands, so don't hesitate to buy generic everything, including pasta, rice, cheese, milk, etc.
Skip the Junk. Packaged, processed snack foods, meal mixes and sugary cerealsare high-ticket items you really don't need. Generally speaking, by sticking to the perimeter of the store where "whole" foods like dairy, produce and protein lie, you'll beat the high-cost sections entirely.
Be Loyal. To a Point. Join loyalty programs at all your local grocery stores and attach discount tags to your keychain so you never miss a chance to save. If stores offer double coupons, it's definitely worth it to clip and bring coupons along.
Look at the Unit Price. "Convenience" packaging on everything from rice to dish soap to yogurt is a costly buy. Keep your eye on unit prices, which are usually displayed on the shelf price tag and make sure you're getting the most for your money.
Savvy Tip: Always take a moment to skim your receipt before you leave the store to make sure you didn't get overcharged for sale items. If you see an error, the next available cashier or customer service desk should fix it hassle-free.
Do you have any savvy grocery shopping tips that are not included on this list? Please share them in the comments below!