I have a confession to make…food shopping is my LIFE! Well, that may be a bit of a stretch but it’s something Sonny and I enjoy doing together so it’s not really a chore for me like I know it can be for some people. That said, keeping to a sensible grocery budget is probably my biggest struggle in my quest to save money. I’m still a work in progress and, as part of my debt free adventure, I’ll be the first to admit that, in part, I’m doing this research and writing this particular post in an effort to improve MY food shopping habits. So, let’s dive in…
Shop your Pantry
Before you plan your menu and make your grocery list, check to see what you already have on hand. Chances are you have the ingredients to make a few meals! A couple of favorite websites I use to figure out what to fix with the ingredients I already have are SuperCook and Allrecipes. Save yourself some money and shop that pantry (don’t forget the fridge and the freezer, too!)-you might just come up with a new family favorite!
Check the Sale Flyers
There are several grocery stores in my area and I imagine it’s the same for you, too. Keeping track of what’s on sale at each store is a bit of a chore but there’s an app to make that a little easier, too. I have the Flipp app downloaded to my tablet so that all the sale flyers are at my fingertips when planning my weekly menu. Check those flyers regularly (most come out with new sales on Wednesdays) and buy what’s on sale!! A neat trick from Aldi-their sale flyers overlap every Wednesday so you can save on last week’s AND this week’s at the same time. Nice!
Make a List (and Stick To It!!)
Once you’ve figured out what you have on hand and have scanned the sale flyers, it’s time to make your menu and then your list. Living with a guy with autism has made making a weekly dinner menu an absolute necessity in my house. My sanity depends on it…Anyhow, once you have your menu written, determine what you need from the grocery store and write your list. Don’t forget breakfasts and lunches because once you write that list, you’ll be sticking to it. No ifs, ands or buts. Grocery stores are PACKED with shiny things and it’s up to you to avoid getting sucked in. They’re good, but you’re better!
Did you know that most store brand merchandise is manufactured and/or packaged in the same factories as name brand items? This article from Hip2Save lists a BUNCH of name brand and store brand items that are identical in everything except the labeling. And marketing. Speaking of marketing…
Look UP, Look DOWN
Grocery stores shelves were designed by absolute marketing GENIUSES!! If you want to know what the stores want you to buy the most just look straight ahead. The biggest money makers are at eye level. If you want the bargains, scan the upper and lower shelves.
Eat at Home
Have you ever seen the meme about spending $200 on groceries but ordering a pizza because you’re too tired to cook? Um, no. We’re not doing that. I can still remember when a meal in a restaurant was a treat, not an everyday occurrence. According to a report at The Simple Dollar, the average American spends $232/month on restaurant meals. SMH, y’all!! The pizza guy misses me, but we went from ordering pizza a minimum of twice a month to maybe once a year. Last time we had a pizza delivered it wasn’t even that GOOD! Anyhow, if you’re trying to get out of debt you need to stay OUT of restaurants, unless you’re working there! (Hat tip to Dave Ramsey!)
Eat at Work
Do you go out for lunch everyday? If you’re trying to get out of debt, it’s time to stop. It’s not forever-just for now. Hubs and I have been brown bagging our lunches for as long as I can remember! Use the calculator I found here to figure out your own savings. If you’re feeling brave, post your results in the comments. Even if you don’t have access to a breakroom microwave you can still have a good lunch without going to a restaurant. Hubs is a mailman and he does it everyday so I know it can be done. Get yourself a good insulated lunchbox, some reusable ice packs and, if you want something warm, a good thermos. The money savings is worth the effort-I promise!
Breakfast is a big money grab, too, especially if you frequent the drive thru on your way to the office every day. I make my own coffee at home and make myself a mug omelet at work before I start my day. 2 eggs, a little bit of bacon and cheese, some non-stick spray in a soup mug and 90 seconds in the microwave is all it takes. An added bonus is that I know exactly what I’m eating. I got the idea from Hungry Girl. She has a bunch of variations on the Egg Mug theme you can check out here.
I hope I haven’t sounded too harsh, here. Ultimately it’s your choice if you want to spend your money in restaurants while you’re trying to pay off debt. An occasional treat is perfectly fine, but for long term money savings it’s best to eat meals you fix yourself. If you have some other money saving ideas when it comes to food, please share in the comments.
Be well and God Bless-until we meet again…
Note-Any and all items contained in the Older Wiser Money Miser Debt Free Challenge are intended as a resource for informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional tax or investing advice.