Grocery Budget tips to save money and not overspend
Do you feel as though your grocery budget is just out of control? Every month it’s starting to increase and add to the stress of paying other bills! It’s easy for your food budget to get out of control for many reasons. I know your reading this because you feel as though enough is enough! We are going crush those excuses and think of solutions. Let’s dive into how to stick to your Grocery Budget!
The numbers are shocking growing of people that are still unemployed and are struggling. We try to think of more and more ways to make it through with what money we own. When you have to think about cutting back, it becomes more complicated when it involves food. Even when I was struggling, I would try to work my way around food.
My Personal challenges I had to overcome
Groceries was something I never wanted to be stricken. When I was younger, food was always scarce. Living on assistance as a child, we had limitations. So yes, we have Milk, cheese, and Cereal, but always all the cheap kinds—mostly items that were in a box, or in a can, like boxed mashed potatoes.
After having a family of my own, I didn’t want to limit my child to just cheap, unhealthy food. I believe it was my fear of these things that didn’t allow me to research and find a way to eat healthily still but on a budget.
When my food budget got to be out of control, it was time for a change. I had to come up with a grocery budget and stick to it. Saving money on groceries was always a challenge for me. I was spending hundreds of dollars on groceries multiple times a month. After realizing how much I’ve spent. I needed to come up with a plan.
Let’s Plan Together!
We will discuss my strategies on how I stick to my Grocery budget—starting with having a budget. You can plan on saving without knowing your limitation. The budget is what tells you how much you can spend on Groceries.
Depending on your household and income size, I use two simple equations to determine the grocery budget. Along with the budget, planning your trip is next; what exactly do you need? Or what you want? And then we conclude with additional tips to help you save money on groceries.
It all starts with a Budget.
I’ve noticed the trend of how easy it is to overspend on food when you are home more often. You could be working from home or unemployed as alot of people are now, and our comfort zone is only a room away.
Food is another way alot of people cope with stressful situations. I know it’s easy for me to dig deep in a strawberry shortcake on a tiring day! Before I decide what I want to buy, I have to be realistic and develop a budget for my groceries. If you don’t know what a budget is, I go over it in detail here.
Related articles on Budgeting
How to calculate your Grocery budget?
When I do my budget, I divide my categories by my percentage model. My Shekeepsthechange budget model is 30% Fixed, 30% Variable, 25% housing, and 15% Saving and Sinking funds. Groceries are considered to be within the Variable percentage.
Doing a monthly budget and times it by the percentage to get your number for the month. Keep in mind this is for all variable expenses. When you are trying to figure out what portion of it should be for food, it would have to balance out with the other variable expenses.
- The cost of food per month should not be any more than 10-15% of your Income.
Income after taxes: 3,000 Variable Expense (30%): $900 (Groceries and other bills)
- Suggested Monthly Budget for Groceries (10-15%): $300-$450
By using the suggested percentage for Groceries leaves you with $450-600 to spend on other variable expenses.
Sometimes, I’m not all about math. Suppose you want a quick tip to go by. I recommend $100 per person in your household. So if you have 4 people in your home, then $400 is reasonable to budget for the month. Going back to the percentage models. The grocery budget for $400 still leaves you with $500 to use for variable expenses.
Another Percentage Model to try
Plan your Grocery budget Monthly or Weekly?
It’s easy for a variable expense like groceries to go over budget. One reason because it always changes. The amount is different every time, depending on what you need and how you shop. It’s not like a bill that stays the same, so you have to keep track.
I go grocery shopping twice a month, so I take my monthly allotted grocery budget and divide it by two. Think about how many times you shop and divide that by the number. So if you shop once a week it would probably be four.
Monthly Grocery Budget Example:
$400 a Monthly = $200 Bi-Weekly or $100 per Week
Whenever I go shopping, I have to keep in mind my grocery budget. In using the example above, I would not be able to go over $200. You have to be really disciplined and try not to go over. I know you might be thinking, well, if I go over $100, I can cut back on my next shopping trip.
Trust me; you need all $200 each trip. Buying a bunch of food for one trip will be more wasteful in two ways.
One, like in my home, they will consume it faster! Oh, you should see my son’s eyes when there is a ton of snacks. They are gone the next day! And two, the fruits, vegetables, and even meat can only preserve for so long.
If you missed something, be creative and find an alternative. Just think in the back of your mind, you will be spending another $200 next time so that you can try that meal then. Another benefit I’ve not mentioned is that sales change every week. What you couldn’t find on sale that one grocery trip might be on sale next time, so yes..save the money!
Preparing to Save for Groceries
You have your budget amount, and now what? There are just a couple more planning steps that will help us stick to your grocery budget. First, we come up with a meal plan, and then we check our pantry. Lastly, we make a list then search for sales and coupons.
What can make you overspend your grocery budget more than anything is to walk in without a list. I remember using the back of envelopes to scratch a list before I head in and totally forget that I had a list!
The majority of the reason we go over budget is that we don’t shop with a list! A list can save you so much money because its main purpose is to help you buy what you need. The other number one reason is that it saves you time! When I have a list, I’m literally in and out of the store. No pausing, no extra time spent looking at other products.
Why don’t we shop with a list? I can recall one of my many reasons, but the main one was that I thought it was time-consuming. Is it? Sure, you have to write stuff down, check your fridge, but it’s really not that bad. In fact, I have some tips for that as well!
The best way to make your Grocery list is to record as you go! I’ve downloaded an app for note-taking on my phone. Every month my note is titled Grocery list and the date. As I run out of something or recall that I needed something, I add it to my list.
If I don’t have time to write down a grocery list, I can go by my notes. Using this quick tip, I’m still buying things I need and can run in and out of the store. Keeping an ever-running list can save you alot of time for all things, even errands or To-dos!
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Making the Most out of your Grocery list
The second way I create my grocery list is by meal planning. I’ve started meal planning after buying so much food and still couldn’t create meals from them. So in return, I would go to the store and spend more money trying to finish meals. Enough was enough; I had to break out of the cycle and plan my meals.
At first, when I started meal planning, I would run out of ideas. So I turned to Google, Pinterest, and any recipe site I could find. You will be surprised by what you will find just by entering in the words: Quick, Easy, and of course Meals! Then I would have a whole list of ideas, more interesting recipes that I’ve learned to repeat.
My meal plans usually run just as long as my grocery shopping days, up until the last day. Since I grocery shop twice a month, I have to come up with two weeks’ worth of meals. As a parent, this could also mean Snack time as well as Lunch, Dinner, and Breakfast. Besides meals to add to the list, of course, will be drinks, desserts, and snacks.
After I’ve made my meal list, I check my refrigerator and pantry to see if I have any ingredients. The one problem I had run into was that I would buy items I already had and then have too many.
In return for buying duplicate items, I wasted extra money. Keeping my budget intact meant not doing any unnecessary spending. So after that, I’ve always decided to shop my kitchen first.
The next step is finally creating the list. Most of the meals will have similar items like eggs or certain meats. Just take note of how many you would need to complete your meals. If you need to buy two cartons of eggs because you are doing some baking and cooking omelets, write 2x.
When I’m creating my grocery list, I like to sort it by categories finally. I would make a list of dairy products, meats, deli, etc. One thing that can be a little annoying is going in circles in the grocery store. This could just be me but trust me, walking around in the store is not part of my exercise routine. It’s like going in the dairy aisle to grab milk, then heading to the deli, then going back over for yogurt. Now that I have everything sorted, I’m grabbing then checking out!
How to grocery shop on a Budget
Follow Sales and use Coupons
In the past, I had struggled to make ends meet because I had a career change. My income decreased drastically after the changes. Even though I was making less, the problem was that it didn’t change the number of people in my household. And Yes! We all need to eat! So shopping for sales was like an elaborate plan I had to do ahead of time even though I had a list.
The one thing that can significantly reduce your grocery expense to stay within budget is shopping for sales and using coupons. Shopping for deals can take a little time, but if you have a smaller income and more mouths to feed, it’s an important step.
First, I start by looking through the circulars. I go through all the flyers and search for the best deal for the item on my grocery list. Comparison shopping is a good tip when shopping for sales. What might not be on sale at one grocery store can be on sales at another. For example, the discount stores like Aldi are smaller, and their prices can be alot lower versus a more massive retail chain like Giant Foods or Stop and Shop.
To make this step super easy, I use an app to Flipp through circulars called “Flipp.” Say goodbye to those piles of store circulars from the mailbox. I remember flipping through those large pages would pick up so much wind they would blow the other papers off my table, lol.
Flipp makes comparison shopping super quick by letting me search for items and pulling up the best prices by store. I can also flip through the circulars and virtually circular items I want to buy. The things I click add up to their grocery list I compile together. If you want to use Flipps grocery list, you can add items from your paper list by snapping a photo, and Flipp will upload it for you. Don’t you love technology? lol
Next, I go back to my grocery list and place the store’s initials and the price. Adding this extra step, streamlines my shopping, and keeps me organized. Shopping at multiple stores can eat up your time so labeling your list can help. I can still keep my same list but know what to buy where. For example, in my dairy section, I might have the following:
- Milk 3.79 AL (for Aldi)
- Yogurt 3/$5 SS (for Stop and Shop)
My second tip for saving money on food is to search for coupons. You can search for coupons while comparison shopping on Flipp as well to save time. I usually go to the store’s actual website and search for coupons. Clip all and any coupons that will stretch my grocery budget. Becoming a loyalty member or having a store card is necessary for most stores to download coupons. Start with signing up for a membership to catch all the best deals.
Using physical coupons
I don’t shy away from cutting actual coupons, especially if I can load it to my card digitally. Every Sunday, I grab two newspapers and go through and cut. I find it’s best just to cut them all to save time and sort them after. I usually start with aligning the same pages together, and I cut them all out.
When I can’t find what I need in the newspaper, I turn to coupon websites like coupons.com or lozo.com. There I can find tons of coupons to print and add to my savings. Printing coupons from the website, however, have limits to 2 the most per printer.
Since I have a coupon binder, I have already presorted sections from toiletries to can goods. As a couponer, I’ve long since gotten over bringing my large coupon binder in the store. I’m not embarrassed by it at all, it helps me save money, and that’s all that matters. If there is a time when I don’t feel like dragging it along, I take a Ziploc bag and add all the coupons I want to use.
Couponing Tips and Strategies
Additional Grocery Budget Tip
Saving while shopping in Store
It’s time to break out the handy dandy tool that you use for everything. The tool I’m talking about, you guessed it, your phone. The calculator on my phone I like to use while I’m shopping. As I already feel confident in my shopping because I’m all planned out, I searched for deals and coupons, but we still have to stay under budget. Use your phone’s calculator to add up your purchases while you shop. When I’m adding up everything in my cart, I usually round up to the nearest dollar. Rounding up will always keep you under budget when you check out. If something is $4.79, I just add in $5.
After you have checkout, you can reap in the glory of everything you did to save money on groceries. All the tips I’ve shared will help you stick to your grocery budget every time. I hope that you can start using all of these tips on your next trip.
Let’s recap everything we learned.
First, you start with an actual budget. You need to know your limit to have an idea of what you can spend on groceries. When you get your grocery budget number, divide it up into the number of times you will be shopping.
Always try to stay within budget with that weekly or bi-weekly number. Don’t go over one week and try to cut back the next. Spend the exact amount each time. Get creative with meal ideas and know that sales change week to week.
Come up with a plan before heading to the store. Make a list based on what you need, not on what you want. Finding out what you need is best by shopping your kitchen first. In this way, you are not buying something you already own.
Create a list based on a Meal plan is another way to grocery shop with a purpose. Make a list of meals according to the days until your next shopping trip. It could be 14 dinners, breakfasts, and lunches. Limit the items on your list by using similar ingredients. Shop your kitchen first as well. Check to see if you already have some of the things before adding them to your shopping list.
Shop for sales and coupons to stay within your budget. Comparison shopping and the use of coupons can bring your checkout total down. Every dollar counts when you are on a tight grocery budget. Sign up for the store’s loyalty program automatically get discounts in the store. Search through the circulars for the best deals and load or cut coupons to save on the total.
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