The age-old question: What’s for dinner? Whether you are foraging just for yourself or you have a crowd to feed, there are few things as frustrating as staring into the refrigerator knowing that something in there ought to be a meal but not being able to find anything. (We’re pretty sure this is like staring into a closet and still having nothing to wear.)
Girlfriend Guru and professional menu planner LISA HOLCOMB knows only two well how hard it is to keep a food budget under control. Today, she shares ten great tips for keeping a food budget reigned in–and being able to answer the question “What’s for dinner?”
Do you walk into your favorite grocery store with the intent to pick up just two or three items and come out with a whole cart of things because “you might need them?” Or maybe every time you go to buy your groceries you spend way over your budget? How about this one….you have to make daily trips to the grocery store just to be able to feed your family dinner? Or perhaps you avoid the grocery store all together until your family’s ready to declare mutiny if you don’t get food in the house. Come on, fess up. You know if I’m talking to you or not.
All these scenarios lead to spending way more on your groceries than what you need to. My downfall is the mutiny thing. Having four boys and a hubby, co-owning and running my own business, homeschooling…… it’s hard sometimes to make the grocery list, get to the store and purchase what’s on the list, come home and put everything away, and then each day cook. I’m worn out just thinking about it. However, I have found over the years some great ways to help you plan and save on your grocery bills.
Here are a few suggestions.
- 1. Make a menu: I can’t stress this enough so I’ll say it again. Make a menu. You can make it yourself (some people enjoy that) or you can join a menu planning service that will help you do it. As long as you have a menu before you head to the store, it doesn’t matter if you did it or someone else.
- 2. Don’t shop when you’re hungry: Yes, I know you’ve heard that one but it’s worth mentioning it again. We’re far more prone to buying junk food or the “quick fix” when we’re hungry. This can really add to your bill.
- 3. Buy generic: There ain’t “nuttin” wrong with it. There are a couple of things that I don’t like to purchase generic, but otherwise I buy everything generic. Amazing savings. So, if you are a generic snob please get over it. Your bank account will thank you. Besides, think of the shoes you could buy with all the money you’d save. (Shoes that are on sale of course.)
- 4. Set a grocery budget and stick to it: If you don’t have a game plan before you go shopping, you won’t be able to stay within your budget. That’s where that menu and shopping list comes in. There are some apps and programs that will help you with your budgeting as well by telling you approximately how much your groceries will cost before you go to the store. Or, if you are very familiar with your stores prices you might be able to take an educated guess. Either way, stick to your budget like glue.
- 5. Don’t buy prepared foods: Usually, the more a food item has been processed, the more expensive it is. You can purchase the uncooked rice for not much or the instant boil in a bag, but you’ll spend quite a bit more. Besides, the processed foods are never as healthy.
- 6. Make fewer shopping trips: The more trips you make to the grocery store each week, the more you’ll spend. Again, planning a menu and sticking to your grocery list will cut down on the multiple trips to the store. If in between shopping trips you find you really do need something from the store, make sure you have a mini-list of what you are after and stick to that list. There are times I threaten to buy a milk cow and put it in our back yard because of how much milk my boys go through. Rather than filling a cart up with gallons of milk during my once a week shopping trip, I stop by the store a couple of times in between to get milk. But, I have that mini list and know just what I need.
- 7. Buy on sale: However, don’t fall into the “it’s on sale so I have to buy it trap.” If it’s on your list or you know you REALLY will need it soon, then buy it and buy it in bulk. Many things (like cheese) you can freeze. Also, much of the time you’ll find name brand items on sale but the store brand will still be cheaper.
- 8. Don’t purchase processed breakfast foods: Not only is the so called healthiest cereals not really that healthy, but you’ll save loads of money when you avoid the cereal, Pop Tarts, and frozen waffle isles. Instead, when you are making your menus, plan for breakfast as well. It doesn’t have to be a four course meal. My kids are happy with toast and fruit, oatmeal, eggs, and the occasional pancakes or waffles (homemade and not store bought). It really doesn’t take that much time in the morning but the benefits both financially and health wise are great.
- 9. Shop when you’re not stressed or in a hurry: Ok, there are some weeks when if I had to wait till I had plenty of time or I wasn’t slightly stressed, my shopping might not get done. Then we’d have the mutiny thing in my household. Try to find a time that’s good for you. That might mean going shopping after your kids are in bed and your husband can watch the little ones. Or, maybe you have older kids that can watch younger ones while you go shop. Whatever the case, try to plan sometime during your week that will allow you to shop without the stress of being slammed for time.
- 10. Avoid buying something just because it seems cool: Anytime an item’s main function is geared toward convenience (single serving mac and cheese for example) or a cool appearance, that item will cost you more. At a recent shopping trip with my kids, they spotted (because it just happened to be at their eye level) straws that when placed in their milk would magically make their plain milk taste like the most wonderful chocolate milk ever. Don’t even ask me what those straws cost! (No, they didn’t get the straws.)
As you can see, there are lots of ways to cut back on your grocery bill. Every little thing adds up.
LISA HOLCOMB lives near Austin, Texas with her husband and their four boys, ages 8-18. (Her oldest two children are married and have babies of their own.) She and her husband adopted their youngest two boys through the Texas foster care system. Lisa’s degree is in Child and Family Development and she is a strong advocate for family meal time. She is co-owner of BuildAMenu.com a site that helps people keep grocery budgets under control and bring families back to the dinner table.
What girlfriend advice do YOU have for saving money at the grocery store? SHARE!
Thanks Lisa! Check out her other great Girlfriend Guru posts:
- 10 Tips for Moms of Picky Eaters
- 10 Ways to Spend Mother’s Day WITH Your Family
- Table Time: Conversation Starters for Families
By the way, we LOVE guest blogs here at Girlfriendology. Have a great girlfriend story to tell? Want to celebrate your fabulous female friends? SHARE! (And, we also have Girlfriend Gurus – check that out to be featured on Girlfriendology!)
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