One of my biggest variable costs each month is how much money I spend on food. I'm always looking for how to save money on groceries without going full on extreme couponing. Not that I have anything against using coupons, I just don't want to spend so much time on it to save maybe $100 dollars a month.
Though I must admit after a little research it appears that the amount I spend on groceries is pretty reasonable. Turns out the USDA comes out a with a monthly report about how much people spend on food, based on age and family size. For singles ladies such as myself, spending between $162-$254 a month is pretty reasonable. Though spending more than $325 is considered liberal.
Look at the chart and see where you fall, is the amount you spend on food - thrifty, low-cost, moderate-cost, or liberal? If it is liberal or even just a bit more than you would like, make it a goal to drop down to the next tier.
Saving on Groceries & Finding Balance
If you are able to eat as you like on the thrifty plan, more power to you. If not, so long as you aren't spending more than you make, don't sweat it too much. Life is all about balance, if you restrict your spending too much you will come to resent it and life is too short.
If you are currently living beyond your means and one area that you are overspending is food, then it's time for tough love, you need to cut back. While it may be hard to cut back, try reframing how you think about it. Instead of thinking about it as restricting yourself, think of it as a chance to try something new, cook at home more and try new recipes. Instead of going out to restaurants with friends, arrange a potluck dinner.
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How to try new things and not waste money
As exciting as it is to try new recipes when you are cooking more to try and save money, nothing is worse than a recipe not working out and wasting money and food. To avoid this, as with any change, start small. Start with a side dish or a variation of something you already know you like. Think back to new dishes you'd tried at restaurants and see if you can tackle those.
Easy & Quick Ways to Save Money on Groceries
There are are simple things you can do to save money without being an extreme couponer.
Change grocery stores
While stores like Whole Foods are great, they can also be very expensive. Just changing grocery stores could result in significant savings. Stores like Aldi or Market Basket have plenty of organic options if that is something that matters, but it's usually at a lesser cost.
If the most convenient grocery store is the most expensive, is there one not much further that would be cheaper. While some grocery stores are more enjoyable to shop in than others, you don't have to shop at one you hate. If you live near or in a city chances are there are several options for grocery stores and you can probably find one or two that cost less than your current store. Try a different one each week until you find one that fits your budget and your style.
Extra Time Required: Maybe 5-10 minutes more for driving to the new grocery store
Every week I get ads from grocery stores in the mail. I go through them to see if anything I need is on sale, that way I can stock up. The key is only looking for the things you need and not just look to see what is on sale. If you are buying something just because it is on sale, you are still buying something you don't need and spending money unnecessarily.
Extra Time Required: 5 minutes max
Check the coupons you get in the mail
I also get coupons in the mail and I always take a couple minutes to see if there are any coupons for items on my grocery list. I also look for coupons thing items that won't spoil like paper or hygiene products that I can stock up on, knowing I'll eventually need them.
You can certainly also use the coupons as a way to try new products at a slightly discounted rate. However, always make sure you determine how much trying something new will cost you, not just how much you saved in trying something new. In an effort to save money I will maybe use a coupon to try a new kind of coffee because I buy coffee anyway, but I don't use coupons on things like Unstoppables because I just don't need them. Trying a new brand is one thing, spending money unnecessarily is another.
If you don't receive coupons in the mail you can use a site like Krazy Coupon Lady to find out about coupons and sales.
Extra Time Required: 5 minutes
Use apps to save money on groceries
There are tons of great apps to help you save money when shopping, be it for groceries or otherwise. The best one I've found so far is Checkout 51. Shopping for one, in just two trips to the grocery store I've earned $10.75 back.
How Checkout 51 works
You download the Checkout51 app and sign up. Each week on Thursday, "new deals" come out. Go through and star the items that are on your list. Do your shopping and at the end use your phone to snap a picture of receipt through the app and hit submit. Once you earn $20 in rewards you can cash out and Checkout51 will send you a check.
Extra Time Required: 5 minutes
To save money on groceries, download the Checkout51 app and sign up for free. Each week on Thursday, "new deals" come out. Go through and star the items that are on your grocery shopping list. Do your shopping and at the end use your phone to snap a picture of receipt through the app and hit submit. Once you earn $20 in rewards you can cash out and Checkout51 will send you a check.
To implement all of these things you'd spend at most 20 minutes and likely save a good $20 if not more. The more you do each of these things the more you will save money on groceries.
How do you save money on groceries?