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When deciding to start budgeting or saving money in general, most people quickly realize that one of the budget categories in which they overspend the most is groceries. It can be easier to cut back on eating out, entertainment, or other “non-essentials,” but you obviously need groceries to live. What makes cutting your grocery costs even harder is that grocery stores price healthy foods much higher than cheap junk food. So how do you save money on groceries without compromising your health?
The most effective strategies include meal prepping, making use of the freezer, and having a few “pantry days” when you’re really in a crunch to get through the rest of the month without breaking your budget. Learn about these strategies and more below.
Plan ahead and meal prep
By now, we’ve all heard of meal prepping. It’s one of the biggest trends of recent times. Home cooks everywhere have realized that, by intentionally cooking larger meals and freezing or refrigerating leftovers for use throughout the week, they can significantly reduce the time commitment needed to eat well at home. But one of the benefits of meal prep that goes somewhat overlooked is the savings.
By planning and pre-cooking your meals at the beginning of the week, you can make sure you’re safely within the range of your budget without needing to go back to the store and worry about spending money again later in the week. When you plan your meals, make a shopping list and only buy the items on your list to avoid being pulled in by grocery stores’ tricky marketing tactics.
Don’t waste food
One of the biggest budget-killers in the kitchen is wasted food. Just look at how many leftovers or expired items you throw away every time you clean out your fridge! Be mindful of expiration dates, and freeze things that can be saved for later to cut down your food waste and save more money. Try keeping leftovers at the front of an eye-level shelf in your fridge to draw you naturally towards eating whatever’s there instead of opening something new.
Empty the pantry
So what happens if it’s getting close to the end of the month and the budget is looking a little tight? Pantry days! Use the food that you already have in your pantry, and try to use anything expiring soon first. Not only will doing so help you not waste food, but it can also help you stretch that budget an extra couple of days. You could even use a recipe finder website to cobble together ideas with all the random ingredients you might have.
Buy in bulk (or don’t)
A common trick among health and money-saving enthusiasts is to buy staple foods in bulk. Grocery stores often price bulk quantities cheaper than smaller items to incentivize customers to buy more. On the other hand, however, grocery stores are aware that many people save money with this trick, so sometimes they’ll try a trick of their own and actually make the bulk items more expensive per ounce. Make sure you check the price per ounce or unit whenever buying something that comes in multiple sizes to make sure you get the best deal.
Stick with it!
Whether it’s saving money, personal fitness, learning an instrument or anything else, no plan will ever get you anywhere unless you stick with it. When you do stick with it, however, the payoff can be huge. Or, in your case, you’ll pay less in general.