Slashing Your Grocery Bill

by Elle Martinez, Guest Blogger

Founder/ Podcaster, Simplify & Enjoy

11.5.2021
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Slash Your Grocery Bill: A Check-List

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Whether it’s groceries for meals at home or grabbing a bite to eat from your favorite spot, for most families, one of their biggest monthly expenses is food.

The average American household spends $4,643 annually on groceries, based on 2019 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This works out to about $387 per month.1 Where do you fall in that range? More importantly, are you getting the best value with how much you’re spending?

Embrace Being Frugal Foodie

While our groceries tend to be on the lower end of the USDA’s range, that doesn’t mean we’re sacrificing good times. There’s no joy (or sustainability) in deprivation or cutting your food bill to the bone.

We enjoy having friends over for outside get-togethers by the firepit or picking up dinner and beer from local spots like Trophy Brewery. We love good ribeyes and fresh produce (some of which we grow ourselves).

It’s a way for us to balance hitting our savings goal while having a good time. We like to consider ourselves frugal foodies.

If you’re looking for ways to save and still have fabulous meals and a good time, here are some of my favorite tips.

The Magic of Meal Planning

Meal planning can save you a ton of time because you’ve already mapped out your week foodwise.

Some other big benefits of planning ahead include:

  • fewer trips to the grocery store
  • getting deals on when buying in bulk
  • less likely to get things that can upset your budget

Setting aside time once a week to just figure out your gameplan makes those busy weeknight dinners much easier.

Since Tuesdays seem to be a hectic night for us, I prepare a double portioned meal (usually a slow cooker recipe) on Mondays. Less fuss is a win for me.

Keeping Tabs on Prices

Back when we were starting off on our debt free journey, I scoured online and in books to find tips on saving money. When it came to managing the food bill, one piece of advice I saw again and again was creating a price book.

Basically you create a sheet or make a notebook where you track the prices of items you typically buy. The purpose of it is to see where you can get the best deal for certain items. 

What I like about the idea is how it gives you a better idea of which grocery store has the best prices.

What I didn’t like wasn’t so much the price book itself, but how some used that information to optimize their spending to such a high level without necessarily considering how valuable their time was.

Here in the Triangle, we have a variety of different grocery chains, which is fantastic for many reasons. The biggest plus is that our prices are fairly competitive.

I didn’t appreciate this until after a few family trips and saw firsthand how pricey fresh produce and other items could be.

I'm grateful to have a great grocery store right down the street from me and when I compared prices, they had some of the lowest prices for our staples. It’s a double win for us - we can save money and time.  

So if you want to try out a pricebook to objectively see where the best deals are go for it. You can then decide which one or two spots will be your go-to grocery stops.

Bring A Shopping List

Sounds too easy, but another way we’ve found to stick with our budget is to have a grocery list with us.

I usually shop on Wednesdays to get the new deals as they come out, so Tuesday night, I jot down my list.

With the meal plan sketching things out, this takes less than five minutes to do. I review the weekly specials to see if I want to swap a few things.

For example, when ribeye is on sale, we usually pick a few up and have it during the weekend.

Hate writing stuff down with pen and paper? Great news - many grocery stores have apps that allow you to make your list quickly and pull from the sales they’re offering that week. Double win again! 

Finding Deals: Beyond Clipping Coupons

Coupons can be a great tool to help you when you’re grocery shopping, but they’re not your only option.

Shopping in-season for your produce can allow you to buy more for less. As a bonus, you can often get food at its peak, when it tastes fantastic. Picking up locally sourced produce is also helping your community while enjoying a good deal.

Again, if you’re more digital, there are apps like iBotta that can help you save on items you were already planning on buying. You can apply for rebates and get cash back!

Putting the Money You Save to Good Use

Now that you’ve lowered your grocery bill, it’s time to take things to the next level - putting that money to work.

Depending on where you are on your financial journey, here are a few ideas on how to use your savings.

  • Build up your emergency fund, financial cushion, or down payment for a house or other big goal.
  • Pay down your high interest debts to help free up your monthly cash flow and improve your credit score. 
  • Start or increase your investments for retirement, your kid’s college fund, or other long term goals.

Coastal has some fantastic options and competitive rates with their different savings and investment options so you can make sure your money is earning more.

Try Our How Much Am I Spending Calculator

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1. According to nerdwallet.com, 2021.