We’ve all been there. Those late night delivery orders or grabbing extra items at the grocery store can quickly add up leading to overspending on food – sometimes way more than we realize.
Studies show Americans’ spend on groceries has increased by 17% since the start of the pandemic. And while it’s unclear whether this is due to “panic buying” or just families enjoying more meals at home, one thing is for certain: most of us may find ourselves spending a lot more on food these days.
If you find your budget suffering under increased food and grocery expenses, we’ve got some useful tips to help you save more on those purchases to get your spending back on the right track.
Develop a Meal Plan
If you’re not already in the habit of setting up a weekly meal plan, now is the time to start! These can help you plan your meals more efficiently and make cooking more budget friendly as well.
You can find a wealth of affordable, easy recipes online, or you can opt for a pre-made meal plan that includes ready-made grocery lists and easy-to-make recipes to help you shop more effectively. This is also a great way to repurpose leftovers from at least one meal every week to minimize overspending on your food and grocery budget.
As you’re creating your meal plan, align your meal choices around ingredients you already have in your pantry, what’s in season, and what’s currently on sale. This helps eliminate buying unnecessary items saving you even more money while out grocery shopping.
Avoid Impulse Buying
Perhaps the biggest threat to any food and grocery budget is impulse buying. Whenever possible, avoid any situations where you know temptation cannot be avoided. For instance, if you’re tempted to eat junk food, stay away from fast-food restaurants.
Online grocery shopping is a great tool for avoiding in-store temptations when, you can’t grab candy or gum in the checkout aisle just because it looks good to you in that moment. You can avoid going down the snack or baked-goods aisles of the supermarket or any aisles that may tempt you. By shopping entirely online, you remove the opportunity for impulse buys.
Another important rule for avoiding impulse buying is to avoid grocery shopping all together when you are hungry. We tend to make poor decisions when we’re hungry – plus, if you’re in a store surrounded by food, it’s going to be hard to resist any item that’s not on your grocery list.
This is also why it’s great to always shop with a list. Creating a shopping list helps you calculate what you’ll spend, which in turn helps you with planning and encourages you not to overspend.
Stick to Your Budget by Paying Cash
You can further save money by setting aside your weekly grocery allowance in cash. This will allow you to see exactly how much you’ve already spent and how much you have left for the week. You can’t go over your credit limit when you’re paying in cash. What a great way to stay in budget!
If you’re not a fan of cash, you could load your grocery money entirely onto a prepaid debit card and use that instead. You get to use it as if it is cash, without having to worry about any loose change.
It doesn’t always pay to buy the name brand. Often, the generic store brand is just as high quality as the name brands, but they cost significantly less. Granted, there are some things that you won’t want to settle on. But with basics like household items, pantry staples and canned goods, buying generic will save you money while giving you an almost identical product.
Make Eating Out a Treat
A recent study shows that it’s nearly 5 times more expensive to eat out than to make a meal at home. That means for every dinner you eat out; you could be cooking an entire week’s worth of dinners at home!
Cut back on dining out as much as possible if you’re trying to cut back your food budget. This is often the first source of budget distress, so make it a rare treat for yourself to eat out. You’ll find yourself saving much more money, and a lot of empty calories as well.
Get a Helping Hand
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