Did you know that Americans, on average, spend $660 on food every month?
This includes $372 on home-cooked meals and $288 on food consumed away from home, including restaurants, fast food chains, cafés and food trucks. That represents 10% of average household spending, according to recent research by The Ascent,
This is even more than what Americans spend on health care, education, entertainment, apparel and personal care such as hair care and esthetic services.
The amount spent on food adds up to $7,920 a year, and that’s a lot of money.
If you cut it in half, you could easily:
- Pay off debt;
- Establish an emergency fund;
- Put the money in your retirement account;
- Save for kid’s college;
- Add a new work skill or certification;
- Replace an aging appliance or get new porch furniture;
- Get healthier by hiring a personal trainer;
- Improve the lives of others by donating and so much more!
Since you have absolute control over how much you spend on groceries, follow these top 10 tips and save money by cutting your grocery bill in half.
#1 Make an organized grocery list and stick to it
A well-thought-out grocery list helps you stay focused and aligned with your budgeting goals when you go shopping.
A grocery list prepared in advance also means that you are less likely to buy unnecessary things and forget the ones you actually need. No more repeat trips (and extra money spent on gas) to the grocery store!
Pro tip: Make a menu plan to help you put together your grocery list, so you buy only what you need and nothing else.
#2 Know when to go grocery shopping
Did you know that one way to reduce your grocery bill is knowing when to do your grocery shopping? That’s right.
According to Catey Hill, a consumer reporter for MarketWatch, if you want to take advantage of the mid-week bargains, you need to do your grocery shopping on either Tuesdays or Wednesdays.
“Most grocery stores release their circulars and deals on Tuesdays and Wednesdays,” Hill notes.
“They also tend to get shipments of all the new stuff right around then. If you want the best deals with the most inventory, you’re often best off shopping for groceries on Wednesday.”
#3 Don’t shop when you’re hungry
Research shows that, on average, hungry people spend 64% more money than those who were less hungry.
New Scientist notes that:
“People buy far more stuff and spend more money when they’re hungry than when they’re full, and that extends to non-edible goods, too, according to a study of the association between our bellies and our belongings.”
You may be wondering: why?
Science has the answer: when we experience hunger, our stomach releases a hormone called ghrelin.
Ghrelin is known as the “hunger hormone.” Still, its overall effect also spills over into non-food domains – prompting humans to acquire more of everything when they’re hungry, according to research done by Yuxiang Sun, MD, Ph.D., Children’s Nutrition Research Center, Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine.
So, based on the research findings, it’s best not to go shopping when you’re hungry. Otherwise, you risk spending extra money on food and other items that you don’t actually need.
In her Business Insider article dubbed “19 tricks stores use to make you spend more money,” Kathleen Elkins argues that supermarkets use different techniques to get people to spend more when they shop.
From playing the “limited-time offer” card to putting colourful fruits and vegetables at the front to get your attention (and, ultimately, make you buy them) to placing the more expensive items at your eye level – the goal is to sell.
“Anything a store really wants customers to buy is placed at eye level, so it’s easiest to find, and particularly favored items are highlighted at the end of aisles. Look above and below for similar items with lower prices and fewer markups”, Elkin writes.
Overall, when you do your next weekly grocery shopping, make sure to scan store aisles from top to bottom before making a purchase – the 2$ cookies may be hidden underneath the $8 ones.
#5 Choose seasonal food
Generally, fruits and vegetables are cheaper when they’re in season.
Take New Zealand, for example.
Nicola Growden, a consumer price manager, says that “During the winter months, without the usual imports to fill the gap in local supply, we have seen a sharp rise in courgette prices.”
The same tendency is also seen in Canada.
According to a Global News article, “Cauliflower prices got attention last winter when they soared to $8 a head.”
So, what’s the solution?
Well, you can easily stock up on, for example, berries at your local farmer’s market during summer (when they are in season) and then freeze them for later use in the winter months.
The same goes for corn, peas, broccoli and other veggies.
For more information on how to properly freeze fruits and vegetables, please click here.
#6 Check out the reduced food section
Reduced vegetables are great for slow-cooker soups, stir-fry and different stews. Fruits like overripe bananas are ideal for making banana bread or smoothies. Day-old bread is good for eating and makes perfect French toast or grilled cheese sandwiches. Ripe peaches can be used to make a small batch of jam.
The options are endless!
#7 Opt for generic (store) brands
Generic (store) brand items are usually cheaper than brands with flashy packaging.
Try store brand products such as flour, sugar, canned vegetables and staple cereals to save money.
Suppose you worry that well-established brands offer better food quality. In that case, you don’t need to – 75% of those surveyed believe store brands are just as good in quality as the major national brands, according to a 2017 IRi market research study.
#8 Don’t buy pre-made food
When you buy pre-made food, whether it has been pre-boiled, pre-cut, pre-wrapped or, in the case of vegetables, washed and trimmed, you are likely to pay an extra, CBS Money Watch reports.
As mentioned in the report:
“The average price of a pound of potatoes is about $1.26. If you pick up potatoes that are pre-wrapped and ready to go in the oven, expect to pay more than double – about $3.11 per pound.”
#9 Don’t buy bottled water
Did you know that recent studies have demonstrated that bottled water costs around $7.50 per gallon, which is about 2,000 times as costly as the water that comes from your faucet?
If you’re really sensitive about your water quality, then the best option for you is to invest in a filter.
#10 Use smartphone apps
Several supermarkets have mobile coupon apps that you can download on your smartphone and look for deals. Still, you can take things a step further.
Here are five great money-saving grocery apps that will help you save on groceries:
- Farmstand – great for finding local, in-season foods;
- Grocery Pal – helps to find sales items;
- MealBoard – helps you manage your recipes, stores grocery lists, and more;
- Key Ring – helps you organize all of your loyalty cards and memberships;
- Big Oven – helps you plan family dinner from the leftovers. Just add items that you want to use, and the app will show you recipes!
Making most of your grocery budget doesn’t have to be complicated. With the right strategies, smartphone apps and a determination to stick with your budget, you can easily cut your monthly grocery spend in half.