Save More Dough by Using These Simple Tips
It feels so good to be on a budget and know that your money is now going to work for you! But what if you’re spending more money than you realized on food? Even after slashing the takeout budget you’re spending more than anticipated. I know at one point I just thought, “food is just so expensive,” and that we’d always have a problem with this area of the budget. That doesn’t have to be true! Here are five simple hacks that can save you dough at the grocery store! Pun intended.
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1. Shop Your Cabinets and Make a Meal Plan
Before you even think about what to buy at the grocery store you need a solid meal plan for the week. Make a meal plan for the full length of time between grocery trips. Check your cabinets, fridge, and freezer for older food that needs to be eaten. Plan meals around these items first.
Opt for simple, inexpensive dishes if cooking isn’t your forte yet or you are typically pressed for time when preparing dinner. Examples of inexpensive meals include spaghetti night, taco night, turkey meatloaf, pasta salad, baked chicken and veggies…
Consult the Meal Planning and Recipe pages if you need some frugal ideas that are still pretty healthy. It may even be a good idea to invest in one or two good cookbooks. I am to a point where I have several recipes I use on rotation and love to keep a recipe file book on hand. It helps a lot to have a selection of tried and true recipes at hand to make meal planning and prep easier. This can either be a file box or tin with index cards or be kept in binder/book form.
If you shop once a week you need a plan for 7 breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. I actually prefer to sit down with the wall calendar and plan out dinners for the majority if not the entire month in one sitting. It saves time and a lot of hassle. It also prevents the endless “what’s for dinner?” question from anyone who can read! Leftovers can take care of at least one night a week with careful planning and portion control. See, budgeting can good for your waistline as well!
2. Make a List
Now that you’ve shopped your cabinets and come up with a meal plan it is time to make your list! Go through each meal on your weekly meal plan and write out all ingredients needed not currently in your cabinet. Need more than just a few items for that ambitious meal you’ve never made before? Is a particularly expensive cut of meat called for but no special occasion to celebrate? You might want to save that dish for later.
Be sure to include any snack items or the ingredients needed for snacks you plan to make yourself in the list. This is one area I need to improve on. I probably spend enough money on snack items a month that if I buckled down I could afford that food dehydrator I’ve been eying after just a few months.
You can even save yourself some time by buying double what you need for one meal and prepping two batches at once. Take that turkey meatloaf for example; from time to time when I bake this tried and true recipe at our house I mix up a double batch and freeze one for later. It takes the guesswork out of things on a more hectic day the following week. Just thaw the day before and put in the oven when you need to set the timer and forget it while you tackle something else on your to-do list.
One last thing on that list – it will take some practice, but organize your list in order of how you plan to move around the store. For example, I shop at Aldi, so I start my list with produce, then snacks, fresh meats, deli, dressings, canned goods, cereal, pasta, spices, and tortillas, dairy, eggs, then frozen foods. It saves a lot of time knowing I can get in, get what’s on my list, and get out without doubling back multiple times to the same aisle.
3. Save More Dough by Cooking from Scratch
Save your dough by rolling your own! I make my own bread and love it. The kids are a harder sell on fresh homemade bread; in fact, they both prefer store-bought. Hence the different school lunches I pack my daughter. See my article on 25 Frugal and Dairy-Free School Lunch Ideas or my Instagram story highlight on School Lunches to see what I feed her instead.
I do however bake bread for my husband’s lunches at work and occasionally enjoy an open-faced breakfast sandwich on one myself. The bread I bake every week can be found in my recipes!
I also save a few bucks here and there making all my sauces from scratch. The pizza sauce I make is really easy and can be found in my recipes as well.
4. Shop the Perimeter of the Store
I’m sure you’ve heard this one before. That’s because it works! Stay out of the seasonal and prepackaged food aisles! Avoid the convenience food section, the candy aisle, insert your weakness here aisle. I myself can be a sucker for the seasonal aisle at Aldi because heaven forbid that item I don’t even need isn’t there next time!
It will save you more dough and more time if you just stick to the list and don’t even go down the aisles that have nothing on your list. I repeat – just stay away from an aisle if its contents are not on your list. And put your blinders on when you’re in line at the register! Those items are there for a reason. So much psychology goes into the placement of items at stores. Be aware of this and pay attention so you don’t fall for their efforts to put more in your cart right before you check out.
5. Time Your Grocery Trips Right
If your favorite grocery store has a deal day (when they set out the weekly deals) go then. If your grocery store has a double coupon day for sure do your shopping then if you have any coupons for items you already plan to buy. Please don’t use a coupon for an item you wouldn’t buy otherwise; that’s not saving any money.
If you’re not worried about timing the sales then save money by timing your trip on a day you are out anyway; for example, my son’s therapy clinic (just graduated physical and is now in speech) is right behind our closest Aldi. Right now he has speech on Wednesdays and Fridays so we go grocery shopping on Wednesdays. Some weeks we’ll stretch it out and go on Friday if we have eaten with family more than planned or just want to wait till payday.
We plan our trips to avoid unplanned purchases and save gas. It really does add up; I’ve been more mindful of what time and how often I go grocery shopping this last month and I go two to three days longer per tank of gas between fill-ups!
Bonus Tip – Scan Those Receipts to Save More Dough With Cash Back Apps!
Who doesn’t love free money? That’s what apps such as Ibotta and Fetch Rewards give you! Browse the Ibotta app for cashback on items you already plan to buy and then redeem those points. There are any brand deals on certain items (say chocolate milk for instance) and any item deals that offer 10-50 cents back on literally anything. Just scan the receipt and cash out once you have earned enough rewards. Need a referral code to get started? Click here to get started with Ibotta and enter referral code itxrhcs. For Fetch Rewards download the app through Google Play or the Apple App Store and use referral code 8H9Y1.
For the full list of referral codes and links to cashback and survey apps that I use as well as hosting information check out my Recommendations page.