Groceries are merciless money thieves. It can cost a small fortune to keep a family fed and happy, and week after week, it takes its toll on your bank account.
Tired of watching my money disappear, I decided to make some changes. Now my weekly shop is a military-style operation that totals about half what I used to spend. It’s not hard — in fact, it’s made my life so much easier. If you’re up for the challenge, take a look at my top money-saving tips.
1. Arm yourself with a plan and a list
Here’s a quick way to spend lots of money on stuff you don’t need: Go grocery shopping with vague notions about what you might like to eat later in the week. I guarantee you’ll walk out with far less of the useful kind of food and far too much of the “chocolate and ice cream” kind.
Before you even leave the house, work out a sensible meal plan and check your pantry and fridge so you don’t double up on items you already have. Then, write out your list.
Savvy solution: Apps like Paprika allow you to easily save all your recipes from websites. Then, you can add the items you need to a shopping list on your phone. Boom! Meal plan sorted!
2. Go meat-free at least once a week
Hear me out! Going meat-free doesn’t mean you have to start eating tofu or bean curd instead. Sub out meat for cheaper vegetables, like pumpkin or potato in a curry instead of chicken, or lentils in a shepherd’s pie instead of mince. There are loads of recipes out there for delicious meet-free meals that will save you a pretty penny and won’t have you feeling like you’re missing out.
3. Have an end-of-week leftovers meal
The final night before your next grocery shop can be a catchall meal, where you use up all the leftovers in your fridge. My favorites are fried rice, curries and stir-fries because they are so versatile for using up veggies and only require other pantry staples to complete them, like coconut milk, rice or soy sauce.
4. Have at least one ‘cheap’ meal a week
You don’t have to eat gourmet every night. At least once a week, plan for a super-cheap meal option like soup. When in season, a head of cauliflower will cost a couple of dollars, and the rest of the ingredients for cauliflower soup can usually be found in your pantry.
Savvy solution: Plan your meals to take advantage of seasonal produce (Sustainable Table has a helpful guide). Buying sweet potatoes for 99 cents instead of $2.99 a kilo makes a big difference to your weekly total!
5. Don’t buy packet snacks
Packaged snack foods cost an insane amount of money, and you’re paying for nasty ingredients. A much cheaper option is to make bulk batches of healthy muffins or your own muesli bars.
Savvy solution: Popcorn is a super simple and brilliantly cheap snack idea. My family chooses from these seasoning recipes to keep it interesting. Unpopped corn kernels are cheapest — and use a popcorn maker or just pop them on the stovetop.
6. Once your shopping is done, put your purse away
Buy everything on your list and don’t go back to the grocery store for the rest of the week. If you’ve forgotten something, find a substitute in your fridge or pantry. An extra trip to the store usually results in buying more than you need (like the aforementioned chocolate and ice cream).
The exception: The only things I bend on are bread and milk — because the kids can’t survive without toast and I can’t survive without my morning coffee.
There’s a whole lot more you can do to cut back your grocery bill, but these top six are a good start. How much can you save on your grocery bill with just a few of these simple changes?