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Every single day, we all have the same challenges to face when it comes to carefully nourishing our minds and bodies through the practices of healthy eating and exercise to maintain our strength and ability to function.
Knowing full well that food is the fuel to our bodies, we all have to make sure that we not only stock up and buy the right food our bodies need, but that we also eat it when we do have it.
This usually means that we have to take time out of our schedules to take trips to the grocery store or farmers market relatively frequently, and over time we develop a kind of “ghost” grocery list of what we like, what we need, and what we feel like buying.
Grocery shopping is an important part of our monthly expenses, but the big issue lies in how quickly we can rack up a high grocery tab at the store when we are shopping without a carefully prepared plan.
Overspending at the grocery store can be almost too easy without taking precautionary steps to prevent impulse buying and going over your weekly budget, which can be detrimental to your wallet in the long run.
Knowing ways to help you manage your food costs and lower them effectively will help you maintain a clear budget and keep your from maxing out your weekly spending limit only at the grocery store.
How to Lower our Food Costs
Having a good plan for how to lower your food costs can help prevent you from overspending on your groceries.
Here are 10 good ways to lower your food costs.
1. Meal Plan Like a Pro
Before you ever get to the grocery store, it is a good idea to take time out of your day and sit down to compile a cost effective meal plan.
If this is not something you have never done before, this can be an overwhelming experience.
Not knowing where to start with meal planning is a common problem for most people who have never gone through a restrictive diet or have no limitations on what they do or do not eat.
Although it might seem like a daunting task, meal planning can be extremely easy for a novice.
Once you get the hang of how to properly plan your meals every week, you can effectively plan for going to the grocery store and only spending money on the items that you need to complete your meal from scratch.
It goes unsaid that you should use the freshest foods you can buy to initiate a clean diet and cut out anything that is processed and does not necessarily need to be consumed by your body to keep it healthy.
The best way to start developing a healthy cost effective meal plan is to compile complete recipes to choose from every week.
If you have an organizational brain and like to make lists and plans, this is a great task to dive into, and you will set yourself up for success when it comes to keeping your budget in check.
This will make the initial process of making your meal plan a breeze!
You will have the ability to pick and choose new meals that you would like to try, and once you start compiling a larger recipe index, you can simply pluck the things you would like from your recipe book and keep it moving.
Experimenting with new foods can be an exciting part of your week, and you will also help to plan ways to effectively keep your budget in check.
Meal planning also allows you to select healthy recipes before you go to the store, making it easy to stick to a healthy diet and save yourself money in the process.
This is an excellent way to start a new practice that benefits both your body and your wallet.
2. Buy Food in Bulk
Going to the grocery store can be an enjoyable time, and having a few plans in place to help lower your food costs before crossing the stores threshold can help ease your mind about potentially overspending.
A great way to overstep large food costs is to go to a major bulk store like Costco, BJ’s or Sam’s Club and buying food items in bulk.
It might seem that buying large quantities of food is a money long move, but it will in fact help you save money in the long run.
Buying non-perishable items in large quantities can help you stock up and keep your recipes at the ready while lowering the price per unit of the food item that you buy.
This has proven to be an effective practice for many people, and you can utilize it to your benefit as well.
Some of these bulk item stores are only accessible through a membership, but places like Costco are geared towards the common grocery shopper who does not want to pay an annual membership fee.
You can also make a point of buying perishable items that you can freeze, such as meat and vegetables.
Buying food in bulk can help you stock up for a month or more if you need to, making your grocery shopping trips a much shorter endeavor and keep your mind at ease knowing that you always have food at home.
Some bulk items to consider when going to the grocery store are cereal, tuna, milk, cheese, and canned goods.
You can easily pack in your pantry with one bulk grocery shopping trip and effectively reduce the costs of the foods you already eat.
3. Visit the Grocery Store Once a Week
This may seem like a no-brainer, but if you end up going to the grocery store multiple times a week, you are bound to over-purchase food items that you have already got and impulse spend on things you do not need.
It is easy to pass the store on your way home and stop in for that one item you forgot during your last trip, but the action of being in a grocery store causes you to be exposed to the temptation of impulse buying.
Staggering your grocery store visits as much as possible can be an effective method to cutting your food costs down.
Knowing how and when to grocery shop is an important part of keeping your budget in check and a great way to keep your diet clean and healthy.
It is not always easy to discern when going to a grocery store should be held off, but a good rule of thumb is to wait as long as possible.
The best rule for making the decision to go on your next grocery store trip is to ensure that you have consumed the food that you have bought before going back to the store.
Making a point to reuse scraps for things like stock can extend the life of the food you eat during the week.
Practicing diligence and creativity when putting your meals together can mean that you clean out your fridge and pantry effectively before you run over to the grocery store for more.
You will be surprised how long you can stretch your previous grocery trip before you have to stop in at the store again.
As long as you wait until you have come close to consuming what you bought for the week, you should be able to limit overspending by consciously choosing to eat what you have at home before going back to the store.
Try making a little game out of seeing how long you can go without visiting the grocery store.
You will be amazed at how long your food can last.
Using simple tricks like purchasing underripe produce that will mature in your home over the course of the week can keep your supply of fresh produce steady while you ride your week out.
4. Cut the Expensive Items
As tempting as it may be to buy that organic fresh pressed pomegranate juice, it will cost you.
Expensive food items are easy to be attracted to in the grocery store, especially if they promise extra healthy benefits and have the “organic” label on the packaging.
As delightful as it might be to splurge on something that you want more than you need, this is the kind of move that will cut into your budget, and cut it hard.
Staying away from items that have a significant mark-up can help you cut down on your spending significantly.
Finding alternative options for items that you love, or making things that you love from scratch instead of buying them prepackaged can be a good way to undo the price tag of eating things you really love.
There is no reason why you can not enjoy things that you like that are expensive, you have just got to find ways to make it yourself!
For example, buying something like remade guacamole will cost you. Instead of purchasing packaged guacamole, make it at home.
You will end up with considerably more of the food that you love because the ingredients themselves are inexpensive and much larger, and you will know exactly what goes into making your food.
You will not have to worry about consuming preservatives, excess salt, or anything that you might not want to put into your body while also cutting down on your food costs.
It is tempting to buy pre-made salads, smoothies, meal kits or other items that will take you almost no time to complete preparing for consumption, but these items come at a high mark-up.
Also being mindful of the fact that the most expensive singular item you will buy will be meat, consider keeping your diet vegetarian for a part of the week or all of it to bring down the amount of money that you will spend on meat alone.
5. Only Bring Cash to the Store
This little trick may not be something that you have considered as a cost-cutting move, but it is a great idea if you want to stick to a hard budget and have no room for changing your mind.
When you go to the grocery store, make a point of leaving behind your debit and credit cards and only bring cash with you to the grocery store to curb your overspending practices.
It’s very easy to go into a store and start adding extra items to your cart at random, but if you walk into the store with a limited supply of money you will have no room to buy items that are unexpected.
Impulse buying is a hard practice to stop because you don’t really take pause when you decide to throw the item in your shopping cart.
Knowing what you will buy at the grocery store ahead of time is a large part of doing this effectively.
Having coupons that you’ve compiled over the week for items that you eat often and will definitely use can also cut some dollars off the top of your grocery tab.
If you take the time to plan your meals, you will have a fully compiled list of what you should and should not buy before you go to the store.
Do not over look this simple idea if you have a hard time controlling your impulses when you’re looking at a new snack in the chip isle that you’ve never seen before.
Keep your debit card and credit cards at home, take the cash that you need with you, and know what you plan to buy before you step into the store so you know exactly where you need to go and what you need to grab.
It’s a very simple solution to keeping to your budget and lowering your food costs.
6. Overlook Brand Names for Store Brands
One great way of cutting down your food costs is to simply overlook name brand items for the store brand versions of them.
When you walk into the grocery store and head over to the shelves where your favorite food items are stored, you’ll notice that the food that catches your eye usually sits on the shelves at eye level.
This is where most grocery stores will stock the brand name items that are popular household names.
The purpose of this is to get you to purchase what costs more, but this is a cheap trick that can be easily foiled.
You may not be aware that store brands are usually produced in the same packaging facilities as your name brand items.
This means that you are purchasing the same food with a store brand as you are a name brand.
It’s safe to say that this is kept quiet because brand name companies want you to invest in their overall aesthetic, but that aesthetic doesn’t mean that your food is better.
Brand name products come with a distinct mark-up that is directly correlated to the marketing and branding of the product.
Simply because the brand name items have more advertising and are better known, they cost more outright.
Store brand items are of equal quality and tend to be on the shelves near buy to their brand name cousins.
All you have to do to find the store brand is look above or below the store shelf area where your desired item is stored, and you’re likely to find the same food in different packaging.
Purchasing name brand items also keeps small grocery stores that profit from the direct sale of their own products from making money.
If you are a supporter of smaller businesses and putting money back into your community, purchasing items that are not name brand can be a step in the right direction.
Another little trick to know about purchasing store brand food is that a lot of grocery stores have loyalty programs that allow you small discounts for purchasing the store brand food items they have on sale.
7. Make a Grocery List Before You Go
One of the best ways to cut down on your food costs is to make a well compiled grocery list before you step foot into your grocery store.
Make your grocery list at home where you can see exactly what you have on hand and what you will need to buy to complete your weekly stock up.
You’ll be able to compare and contrast what you have on hand and what you need while making sure that you are not at risk of being tempted to purchase things you won’t like or eat.
Impulse shopping can be curbed by trusting your list and using smart tools like coupons and weekly ad circulars from your local grocery store before you leave for your shopping trip.
Building your grocery list can happen over the course of the week as you consume the food you purchased preciously.
This can help you keep tabs on what you eat more of and what you eat less of as well.
Having a set meal plan means that you’ll be able to pick the necessary items needed to complete your meal without having to struggle in deciding what portions you need to purchase and why.
Always remember that you can easily organize a grocery list at home quickly, and it’ll be better than waking into the store blind.
Making a grocery list on your phone can help ensure that you don’t lose track of what you’d like to purchase and there are many apps that can help you dedicate your grocery list to one place.
8. Only Buy What You will Eat
A major part of cutting down food costs is purchasing only what you will need over the course of the week.
If you want to try something new, you can always do that, but you should plan ahead to include the new food item or recipe in your shopping list.
Experimentation and exploration are great parts of expanding your palette, but if you go into your shopping with no set plan, you’re likely to purchase items that you won’t know how to prepare or won’t have the interest to consume later.
If you end up buying specific foods every week that end up going bad before you can consume them, then you should cut that from your grocery list.
Lowering your food waste is a way of lowering your food costs.
Utilizing your deductive reasoning, you should be able to look in your refrigerator and decide if it’s going to be smart to purchase the same yogurt that you’ve had sitting in your fridge all week.
Heading to the grocery store without a plan means that you’re likely to buy items that you won’t ever get to consume before they go bad.
Try purchasing items that you can use in different ways.
Meal planning is a great way to see over all what you’d be able to use in different dishes and potentially combine to make composite dishes based around your leftovers.
9. Take Advantage of Different Meat Cuts
When you head into the grocery store and you’ve got meat on your grocery list, you’re probably going to look for the things that you like the most.
If this is how you add protein into your diet and is a way for your to and heft to your meals, then you should consider doing so in a manner that is cost effective.
Meat is by far one of the most expensive items you can purchase on your trip to the grocery store.
Items like fish and poultry can also be expensive depending on what you buy.
Taking the time to look over what you consume in the course of a week and how much it costs can lead you to discover that your grocery prices can be easily cut down by choosing different cuts of meat.
Although an expensive steak once a week sounds like a dream, this can be a detrimental choice for your budget.
Try purchasing meat depending on what meal you plan to prepare.
Making something like a stew doesn’t require you to have an expensive cut of meat, and can be just as delicious as the best sirloin when prepared with care.
Although you’re not likely to find American Wagyu or Japanese Kobe beef at your local grocery store, you’ll probably find a few cuts that cost substantially more than others.
With a week’s worth of meals to plan and a budget to stick to, choosing to buy cuts of meat that are cost effective and can be prepared with good planning in mind is a great way to make delicious, cheap meals.
10. Wisely Use Your Leftovers
One other way that you can cut down on your food costs is to leverage your leftovers in subsequent meals during your week.
Making lunch with the dinner you made the night before can help you consume the food that you’ve bought efficiently throughout the week.
It’s a great way to use your creativity and try making something new out of the food you didn’t consume the night before.
Making sure that you diligently plan ahead for your leftovers can also make your meal planning easier.
You won’t have to buy as much food every week because you know that you’ll have left overs for the following afternoon.
This is one of the best ways to keep your food costs low and keep your food waste to a minimum.
Commit to making dinners that you like with food that can be used again the next day and then plan your weekly meal plans around using your leftovers.
If you like the notion of meal prep, you can cook your food in large quantities and then portion them out for the week ahead with your meal plan recipes.
The Bottom Line
Cutting down on food costs can be easy with a little planning and some inspiration.
Having everything you need in your fridge and pantry before the week begins won’t be a stressing task because you’ll be prepared for what you need to execute at the store.
Keeping to a tight budget can become the easiest part of your weekly grocery shopping, and the process of putting together your weekly meals can be fun!