It’s the time of year where every penny counts and keeping your grocery budget under control can add up to big savings that can then be used for Christmas gifts, savings, you name it.
Aside from your mortgage, your biggest monthly expense is likely groceries. And unlike your mortgage, your car payment and most of the rest of your bills you actually have some control over how much you spend at the grocery store. Your grocery budget is totally under your control.
Let’s talk about how to get the most out of your grocery budget without feeling deprived and doing without some of the things you enjoy.
What is the average cost for groceries for a family of 4?
The USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion uses national food intake data and grocery price information to calculate different costs for a healthy diet at home. The USDA compiles this information into a spreadsheet that anyone can access.
The latest numbers for a four-member family: a thrifty food plan, $148 a week; a low-cost food plan, $195 a week; a moderate-cost plan, $244; a liberal plan, $296 a week. Some food waste is built into these costs.
How Much Money Should You Spend on Food
Start by tracking how much you’re spending on groceries for a few weeks. From there, come up with a weekly or monthly grocery budget. Allot that amount of money for groceries.
Then the next month, try cutting back your grocery budget by $20 per month. Keep going and see how low you can go. The remaining tips will help you do that without feeling like you’re depriving yourself.
Keep Track of Prices
Who doesn’t love a bargain or a good deal? They are all over the place! But how do you know if the deal you’re getting is a GOOD deal or just one to drive sales for the company?
One way is to track prices of your favorite products. You can do this one of two ways, manually or through an app.
To keep track of prices for your grocery budget manually just keep a little notebook in your purse or keep a text document on your phone with the regular prices of the items you buy most often. Not only can you see if that “deal” really is a deal, you can also determine what kitchen staple is cheapest where and adjust your shopping accordingly. Your price book will also come in handy when you browse through weekly grocery flyers. You can decide if a loss leader deal is worth driving to the store long before you ever set a foot out the door.
To keep track of prices for your grocery budget using an app there are a few favorites in the iPhone app store and Android Marketplace, but always be sure to read reviews before installing.
An app I love to use for grocery shopping and really all of my shopping is the ShopSavvy app. This app is so easy to use. You just scan the barcode of a product and the app will tell you if you’re getting a deal or if it is cheaper somewhere else online or in your area.
Come Up With A Few Frugal Dishes
You don’t have to make drastic changes and eat nothing but rice and beans all week. Instead think of a few inexpensive dishes your family enjoys. They may be rice and beans. Or how about a big pot of soup or chili?
Often meatless dishes will be your best frugal bet, or use meat in small portions on frugal dish days.
Enjoying frugal meals even just a handful of days during the month combined with using up any and all leftovers will make a big difference in your grocery budget.
Cut Out The Extras
Make a list before you head to the store and stick to it. All those little extras like the fancy bread from the bakery or the candy you grabbed at checkout start to add up. Get in the habit of skipping those extras unless there’s a good reason to buy them. Stick to your list and you’ll cut your grocery bill by quite a bit each week. It’s amazing how all those little extras add up.