Last week I filled you in on my little secret for how we saved $400 a month on groceries. If you haven't read that blog post yet, you can find it here. Eating on a cycle wasn't the only thing we did to save big. Here are a few other tips and tricks that I regularly use to keep us from overspending...
1. Eat up what's in your fridge:
I know not everyone is a fan of leftovers, but if you can learn to love them, you can save a lot. I hate throwing food out and try to prioritize eating up whatever is left in the fridge for lunches and snacks before preparing something new.
2. Check your fridge before meal planning:
Make a list of the perishable items you have in your fridge before you make a grocery list. Use this list to help determine what you will cook the following week. You can also swap out ingredients in recipes for items you already have. Stir fries and pasta are great for this. Use mushrooms instead of peppers, broccoli instead of carrots, rice instead of noodles - you get the idea!
3. Freeze ingredients if you aren't going to eat them right away:
I like to freeze items like vegetables (spinach is a great one), fruit, and tomato sauce and tomato paste (use ice cube trays - works great!). I also sometimes freeze leftovers. Having a few meals in the freezer is awesome for those days you don't feel like cooking (or cleaning!).
4. Buy store-brand:
Sometimes the more expensive items truly do taste better, but I have found that there are a lot of things you can buy the less expensive version and not notice a difference. Some examples include: flour, sugar, broth, tomato paste, canned beans and some canned and frozen vegetables and fruit.
6. Cut down on the ingredients you need to make a recipe:
Does the recipe call for fresh parsley or ginger, but you only have dried? It will work! What about cheddar cheese and you only have marble? Totally fine. Curry paste and you only have powder - you can still make it delicious. I know some of these ingredients only cost a dollar or two - but it's those couple dollars that can tip you over the edge when it comes to staying on budget.
7. Buy bulk:
This is a tip that we have all heard. I know it doesn't work for everyone - but it does for us. We shop at Costco once a month, and buy enough meat, bread, grains and pasta, frozen fruit, yogurt, coffee, and a few other staples, to last us for the month. We spend a lot less on groceries weekly so we have enough money to do a big trip monthly.
8. Eat what you've bought:
This is a tough one for me. Sometimes I just don't feel like eating what I already have on hand. It is easy to make a quick trip to the grocery store mid-week to stock up. Try to make due with what you have instead. No eggs left? Have oatmeal for breakfast. No milk - get creative and find something else to put in your coffee - honey, or coconut oil are some options - you will survive! You can save so much money by using what you've got - and you might find some new favourites.
9. Pay attention to what gets thrown in the garbage:
I went a couple months actually taking note of the items that I was throwing out, and not letting myself repurchase them. Now I will repurchase these items, but in smaller quantities and only if a recipe truly requires them.
10. Eat less meat:
Yup - you've heard this one before - but I suggest you try it. We eat meatless (or leftovers) for breakfast and lunch, and only cook meat for dinners about 3 days a week. Vegetarian protein is less expensive, and depending on the recipes you make, can save a lot of money.
11. Use caution when shopping sales or coupons:
Sales can save you a ton of money, but I found that for our family they often cost us more. When I was shopping the sales I would often buy things we didn't actually need because they were such a great price - then I didn't have money left over for what we actually needed. I notice often times the things that go on sale aren't necessity items, but luxury ones.
12. Eat less processed food.
Once in awhile, I love a good old convenience meal. Our go-to is typically frozen pizza. The thing is, to buy the ingredients to make the crust (or buy pre-made crust), buy the sauce, get your toppings, and your cheese, the pre-made ones seem cheaper and easier. If you were to buy all those ingredients however, you would have a lot left over - you could probably make 6 pizzas! A bag of flour lasts a long time - pizza sauce and even cheese can be frozen if you don't use it all. A tub of yeast goes a long way. Making your own can and will save you money and its surprisingly easy! I realize making your own pizza can seem intimidating, but start with something easy like french fries, chicken fingers, or even salad.
13. Stick to a budget.
Are you aware of how much money you spend on groceries? I thought I was, but when I went back in my bank statements and added it up I was pretty shocked. Those quick little trips to the store to pick up one or two things can really add up. Set a realistic goal for what you would like to spend on groceries and stick to it!
14. Pay in cash.
This is a tough one. I bet it's also not a popular one. Not very many people that read this will even consider it. In our culture it is the norm to pay with credit or sometimes debit. I actually felt weird when I started paying with cash at the grocery store - but now it is totally normal. Only take enough cash with you to buy your groceries - no extra. Leave the cards at home. This way if your bill comes up too high - you are forced to put something back. Embarrassing? Well, maybe awkward at first, but those cashiers have seen it all the time and couldn't care less. If you feel the need you can explain to them that you are challenging yourself to keep to a tight budget for groceries - but honestly they don't really care. You also learn to be so much more selective with shopping. Yes those Oreos look delicious - but if buying them means you can't afford fresh fruit for your family - you will probably put them down and walk away! You have the ingredients to make cookies at home anyways.
15. Start Meal Planning
Of course I had to throw this one in! Heading to the grocery store with a list of all the items you will need for the week ensures you aren't buying things that you don't. This also helps keep extra trips to the grocery store in check. I think we all know that planning ahead can save us some cash, but we don't always have the time or energy to do it. Let me know if you want some help! Angela@Kinsalt.com.