You might think that the grocery budget would be super easy with only two of you. The truth is you’ve found yourself eating out more than you care, and those meal kits look really tempting. As inflation continues to hit everyone’s wallet, I don’t want you to feel left out of the money-savings game because you don’t have children to care for.
The good news is that you probably have some flexibility as you set your grocery budget. My husband and I found ourselves in that position after we got married. It allowed us to try out meal services and kits to see what works for us in addition to cooking from home.
Now, this doesn’t mean you’ll never eat out again but take a serious look at how much you’ve been eating out so you know where to cut back. If you don’t know, track your spending for the next week or two to see where your money is going.
Ideally, you would track your money for the next 30 days, but you may be feeling the grocery pinch now. In that case, track your spending for at least 7 days. And that means everything you spend money on, whether you use cash, credit, or debit. Keep all of your receipts and figure out exactly how much you’ve been spending. If you’re like most people, you’ve underestimated how much you’ve been spending. If you need a money tracker, I’ve created one for you.
Now that you know how much money you’ve been spending, let’s get to the practical issue of saving money at the grocery store.
Meal planning –
Take some time each week to plan your meals for the week. This will help you know exactly what you need at the grocery store. Another reason this works is that it allows you to schedule meals around when you’re likely going to feel like cooking. But don’t fill your meal plan with complicated meals every day. Give yourself a break and put some easy meals in there.
Get good at 5-10 easy meals –
You want to keep an arsenal of easy-to-prepare meals in your plan for those days when cooking really feels like a chore. For some people, this means keeping extra frozen pizzas or something like that. Even if you had frozen pizza, this would still be better than ordering out because you didn’t have anything prepared. Some good go-to meals can be pasta dishes, one-pot meals, casseroles/bakes, and any variation of beans and rice mixed with vegetables and other proteins.
The store brand isn’t always cheaper –
That’s right. It flies in the face of years of grocery savings, but the generic brand isn’t always cheaper and may not be what you want. Instead of defaulting to the generic item, compare the price per unit of the item and the ingredients to see if you are truly getting the same product. Sometimes, there’s a reason the generic costs less but you don’t want to sacrifice quality for the sake of savings.
Create your list based on what you already have at home –
How often do you create a list based on a recipe without checking first to see what you already have at home? I’ve done it. Then I learned to check off what I had first and then buy the rest at the store. You may find you have all of the ingredients you need (or substitutes) right in your home. Some people call this a negative shopping list. Whatever you call it, use this technique to make sure you don’t end up with 7 packs of shredded cheese because you kept going to the store without checking the fridge first. I plead the fifth on that.
Use meal kits sparingly –
Meal kits, like Hello Fresh, can be a good assist and help keep down grocery costs. Because they come portioned with the right amount of ingredients, you’re less likely to experience waste. We tested the vegetarian Hello Fresh kits and found them pretty good. We only use them for three dinners per week and somehow scored a coupon where we only pay $71/month. As I move away from dairy products, I’ll likely cut that back and use the additional $71 in the grocery budget to buy more whole-food, plant-based ingredients. Also, note that in our kits, meals can take anywhere from 30-60 minutes to make. So they are not always quick meals.
Try a rotisserie chicken instead of cooking it yourself –
This is one of my favorite tips I heard on a recent episode of the Frugal Friends podcast. Jen mentioned the deal of getting a rotisserie chicken for only a few dollars and how it saves time and money. I found that a hot chicken at my nearby Walmart was only $7. Cheaper than the free-range chicken we would have bought and I didn’t have to cook anything. Score!
Buy foods already prepared –
If the idea of prepping your food keeps you from eating at home, there is no shame in buying your food already chopped, diced, sliced, etc. When they are already prepared for you, you’ll have a better cooking experience because everything will cook evenly, and you’ll spend less time in the kitchen. Again, this is great for those days when time and energy are at a premium.
Stock up on frozen foods (including fruit) –
There is no rule that says you always have to buy fresh produce. If you’re tired of chucking rotting fruits and vegetables, then you may want to stock up from the frozen food section. Many frozen foods are picked at the peak of ripeness and flash frozen, making them just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts. In fact, unless you need it fresh, consider packing your freezer with frozen items.
Buy online and have it delivered (or pick it up) –
If you have a tendency to put things in your cart you didn’t have on your list, then you’ll want to try online shopping. Even places like Walmart and your local grocery store offer online grocery shopping with delivery or pickup. If you have an Amazon account, then you should be able to take advantage of shopping online at Whole Foods. And if you use SNAP EBT, you’ll be able to use it online with Amazon, Instacart, and perhaps other retailers. Then simply select if you want to pick it up or have it delivered to your door.
Batch cook for the week –
This is still one of my favorite ways to save money on groceries. By batch cooking and prepping pantry staples, like rice, vegetables, and your choice of protein, you’ll be more likely to eat from home, rather than eat out – this includes hitting up the hot bar at the grocery store.
Although there are a ton of ways you could save money on groceries, these are a few of my favorites that my husband and I have used.
Are there some tips I forgot to mention? Leave a comment below and let me know your favorite way to save money on groceries!