My family shops frugally and sticks to a grocery budget of $100/week. For a week of food supply, it is a comfortable budget and we usually spend less than that.
However, I am surprised to know that many people often exceed this amount when they grocery shop. I guess they end up with a cart full of random items while walking down the aisles but they don't amount to much in terms of nutritious and filling meals.
You can always buy that caviar but you won't have much left for other food. Even offered at half-price, delicacies are out of our league. Unless it is Christmas or Thanksgiving, or you won't see any delicacies in our grocery bags.
Here is a list of essential tips which have enabled us to stick rigorously to the $100 grocery budget.
1. Never leave home without coupons.
We never head to the grocery stores without bringing along coupons - they can really make or break our grocery budget. Though we are coupons addict, we are not swayed easily by temptations from coupons to buy more expensive branded items.
Use coupons wisely by doing online research, checking out grocery fliers, and matching coupons with items you need. Most stores will accept coupons even if the items are on clearance.
2. Research recipes to get healthy and cheap ingredients.
I know healthy and cheap may sound like strange bedfellows. How can we have the best of both worlds?
It is true that a lot of the cheap food is unhealthy. For example, meat sold for less than $1 a pound is often fattier, or not fresh. But that doesn't mean healthy food is always expensive.
These food are always on our grocery shopping list: in-season fruit, beancurds, dried beans, eggs, salmon, chicken fillets and ground beef.
3. Write down a list.
Web sites like CookingLight, and SparkPeople are wonderful resources for healthy free recipes and snack suggestions.
You can identify suitable recipes and stock up the ingredients in your freezer. Write out a list of these items you want for your weekly menu before grocery shopping. You can breakdown the list into categories including fresh, packaged and frozen to keep you from running all over the store.
Lists are essential to keep us focused during grocery shopping and also prevent wastage as we have planned for all ingredients to be used up.
4. Buy in bulk.
Before you go and grab whatever you see under the pretext of buying in bulk just to save time (making the trip, waiting in line) at the grocery shop, I have to remind you not to buy more than you can eat fresh in a week or so.
My neighbors buy a lot of food during his grocery shopping and stuff his fridge choke-full but the problem is they don't know what they have after a while. They end up cleaning out the fridge and dumping food which have gone bad every week. This is a pure waste of money.
However, learning how and what to buy in bulk can help you save lots of money while keeping your fridge stocked with veggies and fruit.
Buying items in bulk lowers the price you spend per unit drastically compared to supermarkets. The following items are great staples to keep in your pantry and fridge so that you always have food in your house.
* Frozen meat and fish - most retailers offer plenty of bagged options for meats and fish like chicken breasts, tilapia, salmon etc.
* Frozen vegetables - broccoli, mixed veggies, corn, spinach and potatoes don’t go bad for a while and are always a healthy snack or side dish in a meal.
* Fresh fruit - strawberries, apples, oranges - you can easily freeze the strawberries if you are worried about them going bad, and they make great additions to smoothies that won’t water them down.
* Fresh Vegetables - mushrooms, spinach and asparagus.
* Bread - usually offered in packs of two, freeze one loaf until you use the other. Just place in your fridge overnight to thaw or pop in your toaster.
* Canned goods - soups, vegetables, fruit, sauces are easy to keep, last forever and when mixed with the right condiments or recipe, can be delicious.
* Packaged Goods - cereal, snack bars, minced garlic, chips, trail mix, nuts, yogurt and even sandwich meat and cheese (usually in packs of two, freeze one till you use the other)
5. Keep a price book.
All the smart frugal shoppers keep price books, where they note down the best price they can get for any given item. That is what we have been doing since we started balancing our household budget.
We examine our receipts at the end of the week and get a rough estimate of the prices for the things we buy the most: cereal, milk, eggs, chicken and produce.
This goes beyond comparing prices in that store and on that day. Instead of buying the cheapest meat available, I may not buy any meat on that day if the price exceeds what we have in mind.
Try out the following tips and let me know if you can survive on a $100 grocery budget. You can slowly whittle it down if you are starting off from a high level like $200 or $300 weekly budget.