The cost of food is on the rise and I do not expect it to become cheaper. For example, in March of 2014, retail food prices rose 0.4% from February 2014. Keep in mind that food prices for the month of February 2014 also increased by 0.4% from the previous month. These marked the largest monthly gains in food prices since September 2011, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The average American family spends approximately 10% of their household income on groceries.
While average wages have gone down, the price of food has increased. Therefore, something so basic as feeding your family has become more challenging than our parents may have experienced. Therefore, grocery spending strategies cannot be overlooked if you want to get ahead of the financial game.
Here are ten tips you can implement right now to cut down your grocery expenses by 10% to 50%!
1. Set a Budget, Prepare a Shopping List and Stick to It – enough has been said about this, but it is the most overlooked step. Develop a weekly meal plan and calculate a budget for the week. Careful planning and organization will help you reduce waste and you have all of the ingredients that you need on hand to make every meal. Grocery spending becomes more manageable when you plan your meals. Studies show that you’ll spend more if you don’t have a list.
2. Avoid Food Waste At All Cost – 40% of all food produced in the United States is thrown away. That adds up to 20 pounds of junked food per person. This is a sin, you have control over the food waste at your home and can put a stop to the waste by making sure to use ingredients before they go bad. Consider a weekly meal of a soup or stew that can serve as a “catch-all” for any bits and ends of ingredients used throughout the week. The best ways to control food waste are 1) weekly food inventory before you go grocery shopping. When preparing your weekly meal plan, incorporate those items that are about to go bad, 2) Avoid waste by managing the portions served, avoid putting too much food on your plate, and 3) You probably have a pantry full of cans that have been there a while, go online and look for recipes based on those items.
3. Learn to Use Leftovers and Trimmings – make your own stocks and broths from meat and vegetable trimmings. You can freeze stock in glass canning jars as long as you leave 2 inches of head space to allow for expansion. Freeze temporary overstocks of bread, including hard crusts or stale bread. Use them to make French toast, bread pudding, or seasoned bread crumbs. Also, you can use leftovers by combining them in delicious wraps, omelets, or soups. If you have a collection of various fruits and veggies in your fridge, make smoothies from fruit and/or veggies that will soon be overripe. Ripe unpeeled bananas will turn black if you freeze them, but they will still be fine for smoothies and banana bread.
4. Make big batches – consider a pot of soup or stew, you now have enough soup for two, three or even four meals, depending on the size of your household. Pack up single servings in freezer containers; they will keep frozen for six months. This will save you time and money. Reheated in the middle of winter, a bowl of frozen chili made with the last peppers and tomatoes from your garden will taste like heaven.
5. Make your own baby food – believe it or not, babies ate long before the invention of jarred food. Would you rather pay $1.29 or more for 6 ounces of organic carrot baby food, or the same price for a pound of the same?
You can take whatever the rest of the family is eating for dinner – pasta, soup, veggies – and torque them in the food processor.
6. Grow Your Own Food – you may not have room for a full-fledged garden, but buy an herb plant or two. Growing your own produce can really help you save money at the grocery store. Take herbs, for example. A pack of herbs from the grocery store can cost anywhere from $3 to $6 and you can use the pack for one, maybe two meals. Potted herbs, on the other hand, cost from $2.50 to $4 and they last for about eight months.
7. Use the Cash Envelope System – if you find you’re spending more than you want at the grocery store, one system you can use is the envelope system. At the beginning of the week or month, put the amount of cash you plan to spend on groceries in the envelope, and ONLY take that cash to the store. No credit or debit cards. If you can, include a little extra in your budget to allow you to take advantage of great, unexpected deals like clearance items.
8. Buy Produce In Season – buying produce out of season is much more expensive because of the greater cost and effort in production. Determine what produce is in season and buy accordingly.
9. Stock up when things are on sale – loading up on staples when they go on sale is a great way to slash your food bill. However, knowing when a “sale” is a real deal is key to success here. Most people just go to the store several times each week, buying groceries at full price —spending too much money and time feeding their families.
10. Be Smart with Coupons – you should never buy an item at full price if you can. With the constant flow of coupons, sales, and discounts, you should only buy an item at its “lowest price.” 88% of coupons are in the Sunday paper, and since no other days have coupons, start your search there. You can also find printable coupons online at RedPlum, SmartSource.com, and Coupons.com. Coupons are worth the time they take to clip, print out, or, increasingly, load to a store card. Think of it this way — if you use just five $1 coupons per week on items you would have bought anyway, you’ll save more than $250 per year.
The savings from your groceries can be invested to reduce debt, invest to create passive income or invest in a business venture.