While recently doing a spending analysis I was shocked at how much our grocery bill had crept up. We were easily spending over $1000 a month on groceries for a family of four (including a baby). Groceries were by far our largest variable expense and spending less on our grocery bill was essential if we were to stick to our budget.
I’m sure you’ve seen people who use coupons to plan out their grocery list. However, I live in Canada and not only is the food more expensive here than in the US we also have less coupon offers available to us. While I’m not opposed to using coupons I also had to find other ways to spend less.
Here’s how I set about reducing our grocery bill.
You need a meal plan
It’s almost impossible to save money on your grocery bill without a meal plan. Having a meal plan also makes my life so much easier as it takes much of the last minute decision making away from making dinner. I’ve made a master list of about 24 meals my family likes to eat. I’ve also included a few recipes for sides which would complement those meals. Every weekend I sit down and plan out the week’s menu. And because I’m only choosing from those 24 recipes I don’t need to spend hours combing through cookbooks or the internet looking for ideas. It’s saved me so much time and energy. I’m sure my master list will continue to evolve and change with the seasons and my kids taste buds but meal planning is no longer such an overwhelming task.
To spend less a grocery list is a must
You will not save money on your food bill if you do make a grocery list. It’s as simple as that. So, once I’ve figured out our meal plan for the week my next step is to create my grocery list. I check the items on my list against what I have in the pantry to make sure I’m only buying what we need. I aim to only do 1-2 grocery shops per week. The goal is to do only a single shop but sometimes I need something fresh midweek and I end up going to the store twice.
I plan my list in conjunction with the store sales flyer to take advantage of the sales. This might mean altering my meal plan to take into account what meat or fish items are on sale that week. Once we’re in the store we stick to the list. If I can’t make it to the store without the kids I will consider getting my groceries delivered (a free service our local store offers). I find that taking two small children to the store results in unintended purchases and missed items.
Stick to the outside of the store
Once you’re at the grocery store be strategic about the aisles you visit. Try to stick to the outside of the store and only visit the centre aisles you need to. The outside of the store will have your fruits and vegetables, meat, dairy and bakery. The centre aisles contain everything else and that’s where impulse purchases are most likely to take place. An added health benefit will be that you will find yourself buying less processed food.
Plan to shop the sales
Every store has a sale cycle. This means that almost every item in the store will come on sale once every 6-8 weeks. If you’re able to know that sale cycle as well as how much your family will consume of the product between sales then you’re able to stock up strategically.
Related post: 10 Things I’ve Stopped Buying To Save Money
For massive savings cut the branded items
When you buy a brand name you’re paying for the label.
It’s as simple as that.
Unless you can find your preferred branded item on sale for cheaper than the generic store brand lose the brand. The store brand product will be of a similar quality (if not better) than it’s branded equivalent at a much-reduced price.
Don’t believe me?
Check out the BBC program Eat Well for Less. They take families whose food budgets are out of control. In a test, they then remove all the branding from their food with some items swapped out for cheaper ones and some remaining the same. The end result is that overwhelmingly the family can not tell the difference between the branded product they used to buy and the cheaper generic item that it has been swapped for.
Learn to spend less on groceries with a free workshop
If you’re in the mood to learn more about spending less on groceries you need to check out this workshop. It’s from Erin at $5 Dinners. I took her paid course (the Grocery Budget Makeover) and it was so worth every penny. While Erin only offers her course a few times a year she does have her free Grocery Savings Workshop available year round and you can sign up here.