Next to housing and transportation, food is one of the biggest household expenses in the U.S.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2016 Consumer Expenditure Survey, the average household spends $7,203 annually on food. The survey breaks this number down even further to include food at home, $4,049, and food away from home, $3,154.
Notice the numbers are relatively close, despite the fact most people tend to eat at home most of the time. If you want an easy way to save money every month, eat out less! This means buying more groceries.
The good news is there are some simple ways you can save on groceries that don’t require extreme couponing. Here are 7 ways to save on your next grocery trip without clipping any coupons:
Choose the Right Store
Unless you live somewhere with very limited options, you likely can choose where you buy your groceries. Figure out which stores offer up the best bang for your buck.
This might take some trial and error but you should quickly be able to tell which store or stores offer the best deals on certain items. Set aside time once to do this price comparison, and your efforts will pay off at the checkout over and over again.
Know the Sales Cycles
Once you choose your store or stores, learn the sales cycles. Most supermarkets place items on sale every 12 weeks or so. When you’re shopping and see a really good deal, try to stock up for at least 3 months worth of supply.
This way you will be finishing your supply come the next sale cycle. Some stores also offer deals on certain days. Mark those days in your calendar or set reminders on your phone so you know when it’s a good time to shop.
Circle Expensive Items on Your Receipts
The next time you go to the supermarket, hang on to your receipt and circle the most expensive items. Then, consider lower-cost alternatives for those items on future shopping trips.
Take red meat, for instance.
The average price per pound for sirloin steak is $8.52, according to recent figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Spend less than half of that amount on your protein purchase by going with boneless chicken breasts instead ($3.21 per pound).
Another expensive category is organics. If you prefer buying organic produce, opt for cheaper alternative brands versus brand names.
Whole Foods’ 365 brand or Walmart’s Great Value brand are significantly less than premium organic brands. Also learn what the dirty dozen and clean fifteen are by searching them online.
Skip Meat Altogether (Sometimes)
I’m not saying you have to become vegetarian. But going meatless once or twice a week has its benefits. First, you’ll save money in the long run.
Second, you’re not just subtracting from your diet, you’re adding whole grains, lentils, beans, and more vegetables, which all provide health benefits. You’d be surprised how good meatless meals can be if you learn some tasty recipes.
Check Unit Prices
What’s the better buy, the smaller package or the larger one? An easy way to check is to compare the unit prices displayed by most grocery stores, either on a shelf sticker or on the product packaging.
Unit prices break down the cost by a specific measurement. Meats and seafood are typically by the pound. Liquids are measured in ounces, quarts or gallons. And for non-food items, like say a package of diapers, the unit price is per diaper.
But, unit prices aren’t uniform — and they’re only mandatory in a few states — so pay close attention to the actual “unit” being measured in the price. As a general rule of thumb, the larger the quantity, the less you pay per unit. But always double check.
Buy Seasonal, Including Frozen
Fruits and vegetables taste better when they’re in season. So buy fresh seasonal produce when you can. But when produce isn’t in season, it can get expensive. That’s when you look at frozen fruits and vegetables instead.
The good thing about frozen produce is it’s usually harvested at peak ripeness, so you’re getting maximum nutrients. It can also be way cheaper than fresh produce, up to 75% sometimes . So if you have a large family, you can feed them on frozen fruits and veggies for a fraction of the cost.
Have A Menu Plan
Never go to the grocery store without a plan. You should know what items you’re buying and in what quantities before you walk through the doors.
Reducing food waste is one of the best ways to save money on food each month. To ensure you don’t waste, write out a menu plan for the week. Do this on Sunday or any day before you go to the supermarket.
It doesn’t have to be more complicated than this:
Monday – Mexican food (tacos, burrito bowls, enchiladas)
Tuesday – Meatless meal (spaghetti, lentil sloppy joes, etc)
Wednesday – Crockpot meal
Thursday – Leftovers
Friday – Pizza night
Saturday – Surf or turf (steak, salmon, veggies, potatoes, etc)
Sunday – Leftovers
Themes are an easy way to keep things organized but allow room for creativity in your menu. Write out your own menu plan for the week and shop based on the themes.
To a richer life,
— Nilus Mattive
Editor, The Rich Life Roadmap