Friday, May 3, 2013

How To Save Money in the Kitchen | Part 1: Grocery Shopping

Saving money in the kitchen can be one of the easiest ways to make room in your budget. I'm not going to just tell you to stop eating out all the time like most money saving articles, but I will tell you how to save money each month by grocery shopping smart, cooking efficiently, while eating healthy and living well. The things we do in the kitchen are so normal to our daily or weekly chores, it's oftentimes something that we don't even think about. Once you have "saving money in the kitchen" on your mind, you will realize how much money you can actually save every month just by making conscious choices! Personally as a bonus, I have started eating healthier as well – fruits and veggies are SO much cheaper than processed food.  

While the cost of living varies wildly from area to area, every single one of these tips apply to anyone who's looking to save money in the kitchen each month. Soon enough, you'll be eating steak and asparagus (insert your favorite meal) on a rice and beans budget. Just because you can afford to spend $10+ per steak at the grocery store, doesn't mean you need to! Put your savings to good use elsewhere!


Create a Food Budget for Each Month

First and foremost, creating a monthly food budget is the most important thing. A budget is more or less a target or a goal of what you're aiming to hit or achieve. If you don't set a budget or keep track of how much you're spending, it is so easy to blow hundreds of dollars every month. It may be tricky at first to figure out how much you should be spending. Personally, my husband and I started out at least $50 lower than we had been doing prior to the budget. I wanted to see exactly how little we could spend each month on groceries, yet still eat like kings and queens.

Minimize Trips to the Store

Another huge decision my husband and I made, that has turned out to be really awesome, is to do one massive grocery shopping trip a month. Then I just go on a quick 5 min trip biweekly to pick up a few fresh goods at the discount grocer (Aldi). Before going on our big shopping trip, we go through our cupboards and fridge and make a list of everything we need. Having the list also prevents the questions like "hmmm do I already have brown sugar at home or am I almost out?" (At one point in time, prior to big trip lists, I think I had 3 brown sugars in my cupboard because I kept forgetting whether I had any at home!) By minimizing our trips to the grocery store, we see less things that we want or think we need – this rule is also super handy for trips to Walmart/Target as well. This seriously helps! It's also great for time's sake to do one big trip, versus a weekly shopping trip that takes forever. As a bonus, the newlywed in me enjoys the trip with my husband – it's nice to make small decisions together and to work as a team, otherwise the trip is just another chore.

Plan Meals Around Sales

Planning meals around sales, isn't new to the savvy shopper, so I'll be brief. If you plan your meals based upon what's on sale you can afford to eat literally whatever you want, you just have to wait until it goes on sale. There's nothing worse than spending $4 on a pound of strawberries, when Aldi has them on sale for 99 cents. 

Compare Ads 

Comparing ads is important because sometimes when stores have really great sales, they can even beat out discount store sale prices. Remember, just because something is in an ad, it doesn't necessarily mean it's on sale. Every time we make our big shopping list, I write down the sale price by the item we need and if I see the same thing in a different ad significantly cheaper, we will get it there (see below)! Don't forget to take in account the distance it takes to get something on sale at a different store though, it's not worth driving across town to save 50 cents just on pasta sauce.

Coupons & Price Matching

The only thing better than saving a few bucks on strawberries, is when your preferred grocer will honor another store's sale prices. Check with your local grocer to see if they honor other store's sale prices and/or coupons– this will save you time and money. At first, I was a little embarrassed to whip out my ads at the cashier to get the price matching, but don't be because people do it all the time! Just don't forget your ads or coupons at home!

There are a million ways to save money when shopping for food, you just have to work for it or in some cases put on the blinders. Here are a few other tips to remember:

•  Store branded goods are usually cheaper than advertised brands and are the same or of similar quality.
•  Where you shop can play a big role in the cost of goods even at regular sale price. Search for a local discount store, versus mid-range or upscale stores.
•  Prepared & precut foods are almost always more expensive than when you prepare it yourself.
•  Fresh meat, cheese, bakery items, etc can be found often at a clearance price when the goods are nearing expiration dates - still safe and good to eat.
•  Don't pickup any impulse buys at the checkout line.
•  Don't go up and down every aisle if you don't need to.
•  Leave your child at home, if at all possible.
•  Skip the bottled water, soda, carbonated water, etc if at all possible.
•  Don't shop when you're hungry! We've all been there, done that!
•  Ask for a rain check, when sale items are all out.
•  If you can make it, bake it or grow it at home, most of the time it will be cheaper to do so.
•  Wait for produce to be in-season, it will be the most affordable then

What other grocery shopping saving tips do you have? Feel free to share below!

Be on the lookout for Part 2 & 3 – happy shopping!

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