We are in part three of this challenge. Have you found it helpful? If so, let me know in the comments below:) This will be the second to last instalment, unless many of you wish to see it continue.
In part one I talked about trying to use up the food you have on hand before going grocery shopping. This may sound obvious, but how many of us actually start with bare cupboards and an empty fridge before getting groceries? Getting creative with meals to use up what food we already have helps to ensure we don’t buy anything we can’t use or that will spoil before it gets eaten.
In part two I shared my thoughts on meal planning and why it can be an effective money saving tool. Not only does it save you cash, but it can reduce the stress of wondering what to prepare for dinner!
This week I want to share some tips for being efficient while shopping. Now, when I make my grocery list I divide it up into categories. There is a separate section for produce, bread, dairy, meats, frozen, and pantry goods. And each section is listed on my sheet of paper in accordance with the layout of the store. Most grocery stores around my area have the produce department closest to the entrance. Usually the bread/deli is located just past that, and the coolers are located along the outer walls; pantry items and dry goods are usually in the centre aisles. It doesn’t really make sense to me to start in bread, then go across to dairy, then back to produce, and then take a trip through the centre aisles before going back to cash, so I made my list in such a way that I am walking a natural path around the store.
Dividing up my list this way also helps me save money because I am only shopping for what is listed, and avoiding any sections or aisles that contain food I don’t actually need. For example, I do not NEED packages of cookies, so I will avoid that aisle. But if I were to walk down it, and see some on sale, I might be inclined to toss it in the cart. But since I don’t need it, I shouldn’t buy it, especially since I am trying to stick to a strict grocery budget.
My second tip to remain efficient while shopping is pertaining to reusable bags: if you use them, keep them handy so you can give them to the cashier/bagger first. I used to work at a grocery store and it was very frustrating when someone came through with a large order but they had their bags at the bottom of the cart. Handing your bags over right away ensures you are getting through the line quickly, which also means you are less likely to look around at the “impulse section” and buy something you don’t need.
Thirdly, I advise you to eat BEFORE doing any grocery shopping because if you are hungry in the store you may be tempted to buy convenience foods from the deli or hot counter, or maybe a large bag of chips to eat on the drive home. It’s likely that you don’t need those extras and they can quickly add up!
My final tip, which maybe should have been at the start of this list, is to know your budget and stick to it. Full disclosure: when we started grocery shopping only monthly, I set a budget for $300. At the time we were shopping at a higher end grocery store so the prices were quite high, but we were able to stick to the monthly budget. I tried a few different stores and found one that is much cheaper AND family run, which I like, so now our budget is about $200 for the month. By shopping my pantry first, planning out this month’s meals, and following the tips listed in this post, I spent less than $100 for the month of February. Don’t believe me? Check out my Facebook page for proof!
For what it’s worth, we have a several game birds in the freezer that we have been eating so that reduced the need to buy any meat (maybe the validity of hunting for meat should be another post?). We also had a lot of bread in the freezer from the previous month, which meant I didn’t need to buy as much.
As important as it is to stick to a budget, there have been times I have purposefully gone over. In the summer we often stock up on fresh made, gourmet sausages when they are on sale, because they savings are too good to pass up (I’m talking 30-50% off regular price). If we buy enough for the current month and the one after, at a reduced price, we won’t have to spend the full amount next month. Does that make sense?
Be sure to comment below letting me know how you have been liking this challenge.
PS: I want to add that I shared my figures not brag, but to show you that it IS possible to reduce your grocery budget without sacrificing too much. The amount you spend on groceries will probably vary depending on what you buy and where you live.