Not too many people actually enjoy grocery shopping. From the amount of time it takes to plan and go to the store, to the money spent each week on food, it can be an often-dreaded household chore. Most of us also don’t realize how much money we waste while food shopping. There are many ways an average household can save money while shopping for groceries, so let Andrews Federal Credit Union teach you how to save time, money and stress so you can focus to the things that really matter – like family, friends and more personal time.
Meal Prep and Plan for The Week
Meal planning is the number one way to save money on groceries and keep your busy schedule moving. At the beginning of each week, decide which meals you want to make each day. Ideally when making your meal list, you first look to see what ingredients you already have that can be made into a meal. For example, if you have leftover chopped meat in a freezer, you could make that info hamburgers or a meat sauce for pasta. Once you have identified what you have, you then make a list of ingredients that you will need for the week. While making your meal list, think about meals that are simple, will last long in the refrigerator or freezer and will yield leftovers for lunch or to feed hungry teenagers.
Make a Grocery List
While you are meal prepping, you are finishing up your grocery list, but it’s most efficient if you can have that list handy throughout the week. Have a whiteboard or notepad in a central spot in your kitchen, or even placed right on your refrigerator, and get in the habit of writing down items that are running low, nearing their expiration date or new recipes you’re looking to try. This way, you will know exactly what you will need when you’re finalizing the list for the week. Food shopping without a detailed list will result in a much more expensive grocery bill and will save you time so you don’t walk aimlessly around the market trying to figure out what to buy.
Find a Discount Grocer Near You
Grocery stores in the large footprint that Andrews Federal Credit Union services include large chains, bulk stores and smaller retailers. If you are looking to save money on grocery shopping, a good rule of thumb is to buy things you use most often (e.g. paper towels, soap, toilet paper) in larger quantities from bulk retailers. While everything is not always inexpensive at these retailers, you are more likely going to save money if you know you will use the products. You will also want to look for local discount grocers like Shoprite or Stop & Shop that offer a large variety of goods at low prices.
While it isn’t practical to buy all of your food from discount grocers, being able to buy the things you use the most will save you money in the long run. You can then shop the smaller stores for more unique items.
Save Money While You Shop
Once you’ve plotted out where you are shopping, it’s important to understand how you can save money while at the store.
- Start buying store brand products: Grocery stores create store brands to offer a cheaper alternative to name brands, and to compete with other markets. Store brand items are typically just as good in quality as the brand name and tend to be significantly less expensive. Marketing and brand loyalty can cause us to stick to name brand products for years, without realizing that the store brand is equally as high in quality! By focusing on purchasing store branded products when available, you’ll save time in the market as well, as most labels match each other and will be easier to spot on the shelves.
- Use store cards to your advantage: If you’re a coupon-clipper, then great. But most of us don’t remember to bring the coupons we clip or forget to use the coupon apps on our phone at checkout. Instead, pay attention to store sales and ensure you are using store cards to maximize your savings. You should also look into having a rewards credit card, which can give you cash back for everyday purchases you make, including groceries.
- Be green: In Maryland, Washington DC, New Jersey and other states, you can avoid fees for using bags if you bring your own reusable bag.
- Avoid impulse purchases: As you get to know your store, you’ll be a pro at picking up just what’s on your list and nothing more. Don’t be distracted by impulse buys or you can end up spending all the money you were trying to save in the first place.
Learn How to Cook
Foods of convenience can save you time, but they come at a premium cost. Frozen pizza, or even pizza delivery, are more expensive than making a homemade pizza. If you want to save money on food, determine what is more valuable to you – saving some money on a last-minute meal, or taking a little extra time to make something yourself and saving you money.
On average, it is almost five times more expensive to grab takeout than cooking a meal at home. By learning how to cook, even if you keep it simple, you could save hundreds of dollars a year. At first, it may feel like a task that is actually taking up more of your time, but with practice you could be creating meals in record speed and saving money while doing so.
To make cooking easier, consider investing in a slow cooker and an InstaPot. Slow cookers are the easiest way to cook large portions with minimal effort. Simply add ingredients to the pot and let it cook while you are busy doing other things. Similarly, cooking in an InstaPot allows you to quickly whip up meals for nights that are busier – avoiding the cost of takeout.
Keep Your Kitchen Organized
An unorganized pantry is a chef’s worst nightmare. Professional chef or not, your kitchen should be as organized as possible so you can spend less time hunting for paprika, and more time cooking your meal. Keep your tools and spices organized, and discard of any extra or unnecessary items that have stockpiled over the years. Once you become totally familiar with the layout of your kitchen, learning to cook and meal prepping will feel that much easier and will end up saving you time duplicating items you already have.
At Andrews Federal Credit Union, we know what it’s like to balance a busy schedule with eating healthy and maintaining some savings. Try these tips and you’ll be on your way to being a frugal grocery shopper. You can also try our online money management tool to help you easily monitor your finances and create a realistic budget.