For many people, the grocery bill is one of their largest monthly expenses. Fortunately, you can easily save money on groceries this week — and every week after that — with a little pre-planning and a lot of creative frugality.
Nix the Takeout
Life is busy; so, for many singles and couples, eating takeout is almost a given. And if you have children who take part in extracurricular activities, eating out often seems like a necessity.
One 30-something estimated she and her fiance were spending $40 on meals several times a week, plus another $12 every weekday on lunch. However, when she planned out her meals and prepped them for the week, her bill was just under $65. That’s more than $100 in weekly savings.
The takeaway: Establish a monthly restaurant budget and, once it’s gone, stop eating out.
Plan Your Meals
Once you decide to cut out all the takeout and late-night pizzas, it’s time to figure out your meals for the coming week. Planning ahead saves you time and money; it also helps limit your restaurant bills.
Think about your favorite foods and how they relate to one another. For example, consider having a chicken week where you make chicken in a variety of ways, and then use leftovers for salads. This will allow you to buy in bulk and save even more.
Stock Up During Sales
Grocery stores have sales cycles where they offer different items at a discount at different times. They also have loss leaders, which are amazingly cheap deals meant to get people in their store. For example, supermarkets usually offer turkeys at ridiculously cheap prices during the holidays, hoping that shoppers will buy enough regular-priced items to make up for it. Not you, though; you’re smarter than that.
With that in mind, if you know that chicken goes on sale every first Sunday at your local grocer, you can save a significant sum of cash by purchasing enough chicken to last the entire month. And by Using coupons and rebate apps for items you’d buy anyway, you’ll save even more.
Utilize a Food Prep Day
Set aside a day you use for food prep. Even if you just plan to start by taking your lunch to work, use a day to prepare those meals and separate them into grab-and-go containers. Food-prep containers are available at Groupon or Amazon that are perfect for this purpose.
Many people come to love cooking on one day and then reheating throughout the week — just keep in mind that some items will not keep all week long. For example, you shouldn’t eat chicken that’s been refrigerated longer than three days. So, if you cook chicken on Sunday and want to eat it through Friday, you’ll have to freeze some and unthaw it midweek.
If you’ve planned your meals, then you probably already have similar meals grouped together, so you may only need to cook chicken, rice and some veggies on meal-prep day. Then, put together salads as a side dish, and heat and eat throughout the week.
Having simple foods on hand will allow you to eat at home even on the busiest of days; some even help you reduce the $1,600 in wasted food a family of four averages each year. For example, when you cook a meal and have leftovers, you can freeze them for use later as lunch or individual meals, or you can cook double and freeze a complete meal.
Your slow cooker is your best friend for those days packed with activities. Simply put your meal in the crock pot and go to work or activities. When you return, the house will be filled with the delicious smell of your cooked meal. Even better, slow cookers tend to make meats more tender — even the cheapest cuts! You can also use more than one slow cooker and have the side in one and the meat in another.
Some people spend a day where they create a variety of freezer meals that they can toss in the oven during the rest of the month. Some people even invite friends and family, and they all work together to create a batch of meals that they can swap with one another.
You can easily save money on groceries by planning your meals around what is on sale, stocking up when prices are at their lowest, and having options so you eat out less. in fact, meal planning is a smart budgeting move for everyone from singles to families.
Photo Credit: Jay Phagan