A few months ago, I wrote a review of a popular meal service subscription. In it, I mentioned that one of the main reasons I wouldn't use it after my free trial is because the price was way higher than I could justify.
Usually, I said, our weekly grocery bill for our family of 5 (two adults and three girls ages five and under) is around $75. To spend $60 on three dinners was way too big a chunk of that grocery budget.
I was totally shocked by how many people commented or emailed directly to ask how I kept our grocery bill that low.
If you, like most of us, wish you were spending less on groceries, here are a few things that are probably pushing that number higher than you want:
You buy too many snacks and fun foods. Half the emails I got talked about how they buy organic snacks or their kids pound through a Costco-size box of fruit snacks in two days. Those snack prices will KILL you at the register. As I was reading the comments and looking at my own grocery budget, I realized that one of the main things that keeps my bill down is that I don't buy many fun foods. My girls mainly eat oatmeal for breakfast (the kind you buy in a giant container), pb&js with fruit and veggies for lunch, and then whatever I'm making for dinner. I don't buy fruit snacks or many chips (in large part because I could eat ALL the chips in the store), cookies or single-serve packages, or fun cereal. I know this is not a fun answer, because I love new and exciting snacks and food as much as the next person, but if you're really serious about bringing down your grocery bill, the sodas, the packaged foods, and snacks and treats will make a huge dent in your bill right away.
You throw away food you've already bought. The worst thing is to pay for food and then bring it home to rot. Keep track (on your phone, on a list on the fridge, or mentally) of what food you need to use up. Freeze stuff before it goes bad. Eat your leftovers. Channel your Depression-era grandmother.
You don't meal plan. I know. You hate meal planning. Most people do (one of the most popular things I share on Instagram are my weekly dinner menus). It doesn't have to be fancy, but planning out what you're going to eat every night for dinner is going to save you so much money. And also mental stress, too, which is worth a lot in my book.
You buy things with coupons that you wouldn't have bought anyway. I'm guilty of this too, but if you wouldn't have looked twice at some fancy yogurt or diet drink, don't buy it just because you have a coupon. $1.00 off of a $3.00 item is still $2 you didn't plan to spend.
You go to the grocery store too often. I basically do not go to the grocery store more than once a week. If I forgot something, I deal with it. If we run out of milk a day before shopping day? We can drink water. I Google a substitute, skip that ingredient or eat something else. Every extra time you swing by the grocery store, your budget will suffer.
You don't make a grocery list. No good has ever come of walking into the grocery store without a shopping list. You'll buy things you didn't mean to and forget the things you did intend to buy, and then you'll be back at the grocery store the next day to do it all over again.
How about you? Do you stick to your grocery budget or do you struggle like crazy to keep it in check? Do you have secrets or strategies for managing it?