Itâs no secret that you can be healthy on a budget, but the real secret lies in how you can stay healthy and on budget.Â Just like adapting to a new diet, staying on budget is all about behavior change.Â In my previous article, I shared tips on eating healthy on a budget, and this time around, Iâm digging a little deeper into how to stay on budget on a shopping trip.Â Since I get groceries at least once per week, both for work projects and for my personal family shopping, I consider myself an expert in saving money at the grocery store.Â Here are my top 10 tips for shopping at the grocery store on a budget, and donât be surprised- some of these tips start even BEFORE you hit the store!
1. Check mail for coupons and ads
Cutting coupons may seem like a blast from the past, but if cutting out little pieces of paper can save $5 for my future, then Iâll be clipping away!Â Each week, your mail includes ads from local grocery stores and coupons from major brands, so tossing that mail out is like throwing away money. Instead, look through that mail to find deals on your frequently used items, and anything special coming up.Â Shopping ads especially help me to plan food for holidays, like for this budget-friendly spread for Fourth of July.
2. Make a grocery list.
I suggest planning out weekly meals and making a grocery list for it. This not only saves a lot of money, but will also save time in the grocery store and help reduce food waste (which is basically wasted money).Â Going into the store with a list makes me feel more prepared and in control of what I spend. Itâs pretty easy to say no to those extra treats in the cart if theyâre not on my list.
3. Shop where you bag your own groceries.
If you have a grocery store in town where you bag your own groceries, chances are that store has the best prices since the savings on staff can be reflected on your receipt.Â Plus, I like to bag my own groceries, as it gives me a final run-through of my purchase to make sure I didnât forget anything, and I get to bag them exactly how I want.
4. Eat before to avoid impulse and unhealthy buys.
The biggest mistake in overspending at the grocery store is going shopping when your stomachâs growling.Â That extra bag of chips gets half-way eaten before check-out at the register, and guess what?!?! It wasnât on your grocery list, in your budget, OR on your meal plan.Â Prevent that mistake by eating before a trip to the grocery store and it will be easier to stick to your plan.
5. Buy seasonal fruit and vegetables.
There are so many reasons why eating seasonally is better- less impact on the environment, more nutrients, and better taste- but buying produce in season is actually a great way to save money and eat healthy. â¯You donât have to spend extra on foods that are imported from different regions when itâs growing in season in your area.Â When produce is in season, itâs in abundance so farmers are able to give a better deal.
6. Buy frozen veggies.
While I stress that fresh is best, there are some times when it just makes sense to buy frozen veggies.Â One reason would be because of cost. If there is a good sale on organic frozen peas, Iâll go ahead and purchase some ahead of time since I can store it in my freezer.Â Another reason to buy frozen is because of seasonality. There is plenty of fresh and juicy corn available in the summer, but when it comes to winter months, I like to pull corn straight from my freezer.
7. Buy deli meat and cheese at the deli.
There is so much emphasis on how pre-packaged foods are more convenient, but these foods are not convenient on my wallet or my diet. When you buy foods that are already packaged, youâre paying for that extra packaging and all the costs that go along with that (from advertising, to transportation, to even stocking it on the shelves).Â On top of that, buying food already packaged up can mean you end up wasting some of that food if you donât use it.
That being said, I am all for soliciting the various departments of the grocery store and getting exactly how much I need, which means I pay for only that.Â I get my sandwich meat and cheese from the deli and what I love is that I can tell them how much to slice, how many slices, and even how thick to make my slices.Â Gone are the days of moldy cheese because I ran out of bread- now I know to shop for exactly what I need.
8. Buy bread and baked goods in the bakery.Â
Speaking of bread, I also buy baked goods at the bakery.Â Not only are these items usually made fresh in stores, they also skip all the fancy packaging and trickle all those savings to you.Â If youâre seriously on a budget, some bakeries even sell day-old goods for a fraction of the cost.
9. Buy meat in bulk, cut and freeze.
While youâre visiting the different departments of the grocery store, donât forget to make a stop to the butcher.Â I like to buy meat in bulk and cut it to freeze for later. Itâs so much cheaper to buy meat like this, and I love the convenience of having options to use in my freezer.Â My biggest tip is if youâre going to make chicken, get the whole chicken because thatâs considerably cheaper than one thatâs cut. Aside from using just the meat, you can also make a delicious chicken broth with the carcass, which is a great way to use the whole animal and also save money even more!
10. Buy Bulk Bin items.
You know those bulk bins at the grocery store?Â That section is like gold to me since every time I visit it, Iâm saving money!Â Since Iâm usually developing recipes, itâs just easier to purchase the exact quantity of something, that way I know exactly how much something costs.Â Whatâs even better is that I only have the amount needed for the recipe, and that leaves me with less food to waste each month. I absolutely dread throwing away food, because itâs like throwing away money, so by buying some ingredients in bulk, I know Iâm using up what I need.
Using ingredients from bulk bins, Iâm going to make aebleskiver, or Danish Pancakes.Â Ever since I got a special pan, Iâve been obsessed with making these fun-size pancakes.Â I usually donât purchase separate pans for specialty foods, but I really got my moneyâs worth for this pan since I use it a few times each month.Â Yes, I could buy these ingredients packaged up ahead of time, but itâs happened where I think I have enough flour for a recipe (usually after I already mixed up the other ingredients), but I donât have enough so I have to waste my time with an emergency trip to the store.Â But ever since I started using bulk bins, I know I have enough for my recipes every time, and when it comes to eating healthy on a budget, everything adds up!
The post Best Tips for Shopping at the Grocery Store on a Budget appeared first on MintLife Blog.
Use the grocery calculator below to estimate your monthly and weekly food budget based on guidelines from the USDAâs monthly food plan. Input your family size and details below to calculate how much a nutritious grocery budget should cost you. Of course, every family is different. Some love coupons and leftovers, while others prefer fresh fish and aged cheese. Once youâve established your budget, use the slider to adjust your estimate to your spending habits.Â
Getting your food budget on point takes practice. With this grocery calculator and the right spending habits, youâll have enough for your living expenses and exciting financial goals like paying off loans or buying a house.
Grocery Budget Calculator
A moderate grocery budget will run you:
Weekly Grocery Cost Food costs per individual are based on USDA research regarding Dietary Reference Intakes and Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and follow MyPyramid nutrition guidelines.
Monthly Grocery Cost Food costs per individual are based on USDA research regarding Dietary Reference Intakes and Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and follow MyPyramid nutrition guidelines.
What kind of spender are you?
Does your estimate look right? If your spending habits don’t add up, explore these other budget options and choose what’s best for your lifestyle.
Thrifty This is the USDAâs estimated food budget for families that receive food assistance like WIC or SNAP.
Cost-Conscious This is an ideal budget for nutritious meals if youâre looking to save a little extra cash with leftovers and coupons.
Moderate This is the standard for affordable, nutritious, and balanced portions for most families.
Generous This budget gives you some spending wiggle room for finer foods or extra portions.
See where the rest of your budget is going Sign up for Mint
Monthly Grocery Budget
Ever wonder how much you should spend on groceries?Â The average cost of food per month for one person ranges from $150 to $300, depending on age. However, these national averages vary based on where you live and the quality of your food purchases.
Hereâs a monthly grocery budget for the average family. This is based on the national average and likely varies by location and shop. For instance, New York City grocers are going to be far more expensive than Kansas City shops. Additionally, organic grocery stores like Whole Foods are pricier than places like Walmart or Aldi.
Youâll also want to consider dietary choices, like gluten-free or vegan diets. These can significantly affect your budget, so consider planning your grocery list online to compare prices and find your preferred alternatives.
Finding a reasonable monthly grocery budget ensures you and your family have what you need, while not overspending. Look back at previous months using a budgeting app or credit card statements to see what youâve spent at the grocery store. Decide if you want to maintain your current budget or cut back.
Purchasing Groceries vs. Dining Out
Donât forget what you spend at restaurants when you consider your food budget. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans spend 11 percent of their take-home income on food. It doesnât all go towards groceries, though. Approximately six percent is spent on groceries, while five percent is spent dining out â including dates, lunches with coworkers, and Sunday brunch.
With this framework in mind, you can calculate your total food budget based on your take-home income. For example, Rita makes $3,500 per month after taxes. She would budget six percent for groceries ($210) and five percent for restaurants ($175). So sheâll need a total of $385 for food each month. With a little practice, sheâll better learn her habits and be able to accurately adjust her budget.
Tips for Reducing Your Budget
There are several ways to cut back on what you spend without sacrificing the quality and taste of your food. Trimming your food budget can help you stow away more for your financial goals, such as building an emergency fund or saving for a dream vacation.
Coupons are easy to find in the mail, in store, in your inbox, and even in a Google search. Many popular grocery stores are rolling out apps that track your coupons and savings. Be sure to download and register your email for new updates and sales. These usually work in person or online, so you can shop when and how you like.Â
While a single coupon might not give you a large discount, you can save a lot with multiple coupons. Itâs also important you make sure you actually need the item youâre purchasing instead of buying it for the sale. This can quickly get out of hand and push you over budget.Â
Freeze Your Food
Freezing your fresh food before it goes bad helps your wallet and the environment. You can plan ahead and freeze prepared produce to save time on weekday cooking, or chop and freeze last weekâs produce before shopping for more. Frozen vegetables are great in soups and stews, and you can use frozen fruits for healthy breakfast smoothies.Â
Plan a Weekly Menu Ahead of Time
Plan your meals ahead of time to determine the food items and quantities you need before you head to the grocery store. This way youâre more likely to buy the exact items you need and can plan for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Try to plan for recipes that use the same ingredients so thereâs less to purchase. You can also make larger meals and plan leftovers for lunch so you have less to plan and purchase.
Bring Lunches to WorkÂ
A $13 lunch out might not seem like much, but it can blow your food budget fast if it becomes a habit. Push your monthly food budget further with delicious lunches from home. Salads, sandwiches, and leftovers are all easy, inexpensive, and nutritious.Â
Buy Store BrandsÂ
Many packaged products have a huge price disparity between brand name and generic items, and store brand items tend to be cheaper without sacrificing much quality. You can easily save 10 cents to a dollar per item, which adds up quickly over many trips.Â
Shop at a More Affordable Store
Your local farmers market, chain grocery, and organic store will all offer different specialties and sales. Check out the different shops in your area to find the best combination of quality and price. Some stores might even offer bulk items â great for your favorite products and those with a long shelf-life. Choosing cheaper staple items like milk and yogurt can also make a huge difference over time.Â
An accurate food budget that works for you helps you feel more confident and in control of your finances. Build a budget, learn your spending habits, and keep a grocery list to keep you on track and responsible so you can reach bigger goals, like a new vehicle or a down payment on a house.Â
Sources:Â USA Today |Â EurekAlert | Persistent Economic Burden of the Gluten-Free Diet
The post How Much Your Monthly Food Budget Should Be + Grocery Calculator appeared first on MintLife Blog.