Your food budget is the most flexible area of your household budget. Grocery savings will free up a significant amount of money if you need to balance the budget, or fund your savings accounts.
If you haven't figured it out already, your kitchen is a Goldmine. There are numerous ways to reduce the grocery budget and free up funds to use in other areas.
How much should you be spending on groceries?
The USDA Food Plans at the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion suggests that a family of four is currently spending about $100 to $116 per week based on the "Thrifty Plan", depending on the age of children. Anyone trying to reduce the food budget should follow the guidelines for the "thrifty plan."
This should give you at least some idea what the average family spends.
I recommend you shoot for something less than that figure if at all possible by implementing as many of these grocery saving tips as possible!
- Eliminate eating out! Period! - O.K. if you're family is screaming mad at you then take them out at least once a month.
Make it an occasion. Most of us get caught up in fast paced living and eat out at least one or two times per week. It's just an insane waste of money.
Your family will appreciate a dinner out much more when it's not such a regular event. Consider it "quality time out". And, remember to look for coupons good at local restaurants for additional savings.Minimize the use of convenience foods. - You can make it yourself for a fraction of the cost, try it! Many of us are so accustomed to convenience foods that we forget we can make it ourselves.
If you already love to cook from scratch then congrats! For the rest, I know this is a scary thought. It's hard to go back into the kitchen and actually get your hands dirty. However, I must insist you try this. There's gold in them there hands! Use 'em.
If you don't have a lot of time, don't worry there are literally hundreds of recipe books for the busy lifestyle. There are many that promote frugal living as well.
You'll find substitute recipes for everything from baking mixes to shake and bake and salad dressing. All it takes is a little extra time. Even if you had to pay yourself for doing the cooking you would come out ahead. Do your homework! - Know what's on sale and plan your menu around the weekly sales flyers. Investing a little extra time in planning will help maximize grocery savings and reduce the food budget!
I make it a rule to never buy meat over $2 a pound. Although I allow myself $2, I usually only spend on average 39 cents to $1.69. Occasionally, (rarely) I indulge in something special if it's a good value.Eat meatless meals at least twice a week. - Beans and rice are a good example. Egg dishes are a nice change in routine for dinner. Try a vegetable stir fry or casserole.Don't use packaged mixes. - Cake, breads, muffins, pastry, pizza dough, pancake, and waffles all come in a variety of pre-packaged mixes. Make your own for not much more effort and a lot less money!Know what your local stores offer. - Which ones have the lowest prices? Start carrying a little memo book to record prices of items you buy regularly. You can organize trips to save time and money when planning your grocery shopping.
Who accepts coupons and do they double? Do they have a rebate program? Do they have a clearance or bargain area? Which grocery stores accept additional discount programs like ValuPage?Build your coupon file! - It seems coupons are available everywhere now. Your newspaper is a great starting point. Pay careful attention when looking through magazines. These are easy to miss. I often find coupons in home, ladies, or cooking magazines.
Check out the free grocery coupons on-line. Be sure to do your research, many stores do not accept computer generated coupons due to the high incidence of fraud. Be sure not to waste your valuable time on this one if you don't have a local store that accepts them.
Be an informed consumer. I can't stress this enough!
Informed consumer = More grocery savings!
Once you know where to shop, use all your resources. Combine rebates, sales, and coupons whenever possible for maximum grocery savings. This takes a bit more dedication but, you can literally get paid to purchase items if you're willing to invest the time.
Grocery savings aren't just for the grocery store. many drugstores now have food sections where you can save on groceries.
Here's a great tip:
Always check your cash register receipt. Many stores offer a refund of full price policy for items that do not register the correct sale price.
I have cashed in on this one many times. Remember, these price adjustments are usually entered by humans. Human error is always a possibility, so cash in on it!
Because of a simple mistake, you have increased your grocery savings!
If you....Plan ahead - Use your sale flyers to plan weekly meals.
Use what you have on hand first - Plan meals based on foods you have in your fridge, freezer, and cabinets already
Utilize your savings tips - Get more for your money using a combination of resources listed above
Make it yourself whenever possible
....You will be able to tap into that Goldmine hiding in your very own kitchen!
Cheryl Johnson is a mother of four helping herself and others become and remain debt free. Publisher of Simple Debt Free Living at http://www.simpledebtfreeliving.com - A self-help plan, ideas, and resources for debt management, household budget planning, frugal and debt free living, and extra income opportunities. Money saving tips for groceries, clothing, home decorating, and much more, maximize savings everyday.