This past year our budget fluctuated several times as the result of some big changes for our family, in that time I chopped our grocery bill in half and some months even cut it by two-thirds. I don’t clip coupons, I don't shop at more than two stores per trip, and I don’t jump through hoops. I have three little bitty kids, I need a system that WORKS without adding more stress to my life. My new shopping method has revolutionized our budget and today I’m going to share that method with all of you. Merry Christmas, Happy Valentine’s Day, Happy Presidents Day, Happy Memorial Day, Happy Birthday! Now go save some money and maybe treat yo self to a little latte on your new grocery shopping adventures!
1. You can’t have it all. Choose what you are going to make a spending priority and what can take a back seat. This takes two forms for our family: we decided to prioritize and narrow down what we buy organically, and we had to limit the special extra little treats like soda or dessert. For me, the biggest thing I want to avoid is added hormones in our food so I spend money buying organic meats, milks, and eggs (sometimes). I chose to sacrifice our bodies on the alter of pesticides cause most things we eat are peeled anyway (whatever, it’s what helps me sleep at night). I also pick ONE special treat-- lately it’s been La Croix, on a really bad week it’s Diet Dr. Pepper. We don’t have to give up every special treat and we don’t have to buy every organic product out there. It’s all about moderation.
2. Don’t be a hater, buy the store brand.
3. Make fewer, larger trips to the store and cut out the weekly, random trips.This helps cut down on extra things you really don’t NEED that get added into the cart.
4. Plan to shop at a total of three stores, usually two per trip [don’t freak out]. I rotate the three store types: one bulk, one regular store, and one economic alternative--Aldi. And by making larger and fewer trips it’s really not a big deal because I’m not constantly going.
5. Find an economic store aka ALDI, ALDI, ALDI. I too used to be skittish about the Aldi brand and it’s cheapness. But once I did my research I learned that their business model is cram packed with ways to be the most efficient grocery store known to man in order to keep their prices so low. Second, Aldi is about to get even better!
6. Be realistic about how much fresh produce your family will ACTUALLY eat in a 1-2 week period. (and only buy that much)
7. Shop the specials, shop the specials, SHOP THE SPECIALS. Let go of your meal plan for the month and embrace the Combo Loco (as our grocery store calls their specials) in a full frontal bearhug. Plan your family meals around the specials you find.
8. The freezer is your friend. Buy meat when it’s cheap regardless of if you need it.
9. The pantry is your soulmate. Every single time I go to the store I grab one or two cans of pantry items whether I need them or not (mostly canned goods that won’t expire for a LONG time). My default cooking is tex-mex so I buy chopped green chiles, some type of canned tomato product, and black beans every time I shop. This gives me an easy way to make a cohesive meal for my family when all we have left in the house is half a leftover chicken breast, quinoa, black beans, plain yogurt, and eggs (yea that was a real meal and it was delicious).
- Buy whatever pantry items fit your favorite style of cooking. Asian: soy sauce, water chestnuts, rice, and rice noodles. Italian: pasta, jar of sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, and pesto sauce. Soup lover: black beans, northern beans, corn, rotel, chicken broth.
10. When you’ve got a pure coupon, use it. Pure coupon: adjective \ˈpyu̇r\ noun cou·pon \ˈkü-ˌpän, ˈkyü-\ A coupon that is actually a discount and not a trick into making you buy multiples of the same thing while only saving your mere cents from the total. Example: 50 Cents Off (pure coupon) vs 50 cents off when you buy three boxes of cereal (this is the tool of the devil). Be careful not to fall into the trap of using coupons for things you don’t really need or quantities you don’t need them in. I realize that method works for people that have their own television shows, but you don’t have a TV show and you also don’t have time or energy to play those mind games. In the rare occasion that you do have the time energy and space to buy twenty boxes of Mac N Cheese to save two dollars, go for it...but I have a feeling you wouldn’t be reading about this “pain free method” if that was your situation.
And there you have it. Those are my top ten life altering, budget slimming, tips for grocery shopping on a budget. I loved writing and sharing this because I know all too well the impact of a tight budget, and I also know the joy that comes from making it work well for your family! If you are facing a financially tight season--you can do this. You can do this thing and do it with joy and have fun and it doesn't have to suck the life out of you. I promise.