Groceries tend to be the area of the budget that can always get out of hand. It makes sense. Given a choice between the family “starving” and going over budget, people are always going to rationalize going over budget. Fortunately, there are steps anyone can take to gain control of this money monster.
Start Every Month With a Plan
One of the biggest budget busters when it comes to food are the last minute runs to the grocery store.
There will always be fresh items, such as milk and bread, that need to be purchased weekly, but these items should be part of the plan. What needs to be eliminated is the daily look at the pantry to decide what additional ingredients will be needed for tonight’s dinner or that dash into the store to find something quick, convenient and likely expensive. At the beginning of the month, write out a dinner menu.
Since most families tend to repeat meals frequently, this list may need very little change from one month to the next; but, writing it out will provide the opportunity to decide if new meals can replace some of the more costly repeats. Convert the menu to a grocery list, adding breakfast and lunch items also. When done, compare the list to the current items in the pantry to avoid overbuying. The first trip to the store each month will result in purchasing all the non-perishables for the month and the fresh items for the first week.
Figure Out who has the Lowest Prices
Many people run from store to store for the sales, trading grocery savings for additional gas expenses; but, at the end of the day, where was the best place to purchase the items that were not advertised? Traditional grocery stores are usually not the most cost-effective place to shop, using advertised loss leaders to get customers in the store while overcharging for related items. Look into discount food stores, such as Aldi, or mass merchandisers, such as Walmart, for doing at least the initial monthly shopping.
Wal-mart price matches competitors’ ads and accepts coupons. If the least expensive store is too inconveniently located to do weekly grocery runs, figure out which of the more convenient stores consistently has the best prices and get their discount card if they have one.