Maximizing Grocery Shopping

According to all the indicators, food prices are going up and will continue to go up into 2022.

After crunching my monthly budget numbers last week, I realized I am spending too much money on food.

This caused me to reassess how and what I’m buying at the grocery store every week.

My previous bad habits included:

  • Buying food from a restaurant when I was too tired to cook
  • Forgetting I had coupons for things I regularly buy
  • Choosing premium brands when another brand is just as good
  • Buying in smaller quantities when bigger quantities would save money
  • Being unrealistic about what I want and need in my house for food

This list could go on and on but I think you get the point.

My New Grocery Rules

Clearly it’s time for some new rules for me when it comes to grocery shopping.

  1. No eating out. Period.
  2. Set a weekly grocery budget and stick to it.
  3. Put in the prep work necessary to get deals.

No Eating Out

Whenever I get food from a restaurant, it costs me more than a meal should because I’m lazy.

The times I find myself getting restaurant food is when I’m exhausted from working. That means I’m ordering it from a delivery service and THAT means I’m paying way too much for it.

By the time I have paid for the meal, taxes, delivery fee, and tip I have spent way too much money on a single meal. What’s worse is I usually have perfectly good food at home and I’m just too lazy to make it.

This has to stop. If I’m going to get control of my financial life, I have to stop overpaying for food.

Set A Weekly Grocery Budget

In the past, I thought I was doing a relatively good job of keeping a budget when I went grocery shopping. I looked for things on sale. I had the store’s rewards card. I bought mostly the things I needed and didn’t splurge too much.

While all of those are good moves, I realize now I wasn’t doing enough.

When I look back at my grocery bills over the last several months, they’re just too high. I’m sure that’s a combination of factors including the rising prices of items lately coupled with my preference for name brands.

Whatever the reasons, I have got to cut this expense down going forward to get into a better financial position.

My grocery budget number is the number. I will try to fit as many items into that number as possible, but what doesn’t fit will have to go.

Prepping For Grocery Shopping Is Key

Before I step foot in the store I have a lot of homework to do.

First, I’ve started planning my meals. I know exactly what I’m going to eat for the week for Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and snacks.

This planning helps to keep my shopping focused. Instead of walking around the store and seeing what looks good and thinking I might want it at home, I know exactly what I’m looking for and how much it costs.

Once I have the week’s meals planned, I go onto the store’s website and look at the digital coupons. Most grocery stores will throw you a few bones and offer you a coupon on some of the things you buy frequently. Those are no-brainers. Add them to your store rewards card.

Then I take a look at the weekly specials. The stores and the manufacturers will have coupons good for usually a few weeks. If it’s something I need for my plan, I add those to my rewards card.

One word of caution: Seeing all these “deals” can entice you to buy something you don’t need. Resist the urge. If it isn’t in the budget for the week, you don’t need the coupon because you don’t need to buy it.

Check The Cost Per Serving

One thing I have recently been paying much more attention to is the cost per serving of the items I have been buying.

For instance, I have been buying the same size jar of peanut butter for months. It’s a pretty big jar and it lasts almost 2 weeks. I was happy.

Then I saw the absolutely giant jar of the same peanut butter on the shelf. When I calculated the price per ounce I realized I would be getting a better deal.

I eat peanut butter nearly every day so there is no chance of wasting it. Also, peanut butter has a good shelf life so it won’t spoil before I can use it.

This opened my eyes to a new way to think about my grocery buying.

When it makes sense to buy in bulk do it.

Making The Tough Decisions

Once I have gone through all these steps, I’m usually a little over my budget.

This is where the tough decisions come into play.

There are a very few things on my list that are non-negotiable.

For example, I eat a lot of frozen chicken breasts in a week. I have tried both the store brand and the name brand. For me, it isn’t even close.

The name brand tastes better, cooks better, and is packaged better. Even though I could save a few bucks a week eating the store brand chicken, I can’t do it. It’s simply not as good of a product.

If I bought the inferior store brand chicken breast, I know exactly what I would do during the week. I would be unhappy when it came time to cook and that would lead me to thinking about eating out.

For this reason, the cost is justifiable to me and a non-negotiable.

But I’m over budget so now what?

This is where I scrutinize my list and figure out either what has to go or what can be substituted with a cheaper replacement.

I did this recently on my coffee creamer.

I am becoming more and more lactose intolerant as I get older and I have been using almond creamer in my coffee. The problem is the almond creamers are about twice the cost and usually not as well stocked at the store.

So I made a tough choice. I’ll go back to a dairy creamer for the cost savings and deal with the stomach issues temporarily.

One Last Step: Fetch App

After I have finished shopping, there is one more step to get the best bang for my buck.

I scan my receipt into the Fetch App.

With Fetch I have already earned $6 in Amazon gift cards (redeemed points for two $3 gift cards.)

Again, this is a no-brainer. If I can earn a little money to spend on something I need at Amazon just by scanning a receipt of stuff I’m already buying, it would be dumb not to do it.

If you’re interested, I wrote about the Fetch App and other deals here.

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