Tips for Grocery Shopping on a Budget

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Grocery shopping is almost always the biggest expense from our monthly budget that we have control over. I can easily spend $600 on groceries for the month when I don’t pay much attention to what I am buying, but when I plan my meals and choose good things to eat I can slash my spending to $400. It makes a world of difference and can be very simple to do. Educating yourself on what you are buying, how it can affect your family each week and each month will slowly change your buying habits until they are exactly that, a habit.

Cheap Doesn’t Mean Inexpensive

Tips for Grocery Shopping on a Budget - Sale

When you walk through the middle aisles on a grocery store you see products that advertise as being cheap, but what are you really getting for that money? Understanding what you are actually getting for your money is utterly important when it comes to shopping inexpensively. Lets take noodles for an example. There are the 98 cent packages, the $1.98 packages and the $3.98 packages. Flip over those packages and look at the nutrition facts. The 98 cent package is full of mostly chemicals and cheap flour. The $1.98 package is flour, just flour. The $3.98 package is generally your gluten-free or made with veggies category.

When I buy the cheap stuff my kids could eat the whole package by themselves with or without anything else added to their plates. I have watched my 11 go back for a third plate because he was not full yet. I would have to buy 2 packages of the cheap stuff and serve something else with it for everyone to feel full.

When I buy the $1.98 stuff everyone gets full but I can not count of left-overs. If we serve it for lunch or depending on what else we are having for dinner, we usually get enough for a little left overs but those noodles would be more of a side dish to our meal or maybe someone’s lunch the next day. Getting a small amount of leftovers for the same price as the chemical-packed noodles is a win-win in my book. You are feeding your family flour and getting more “meals” out of it.

Tips for Grocery Shopping on a Budget - shopping cart full of groceries

The “expensive” package should be tried and tested in your family. I feel they are worth it because my family only eats about 1/2 to 1/3 of the portion size of the flour type noodle. They are getting rice flour (I don’t like corn flour) instead of wheat flour (which tends to make us fuller for longer and is really better for you all around) and in the case of the vegetable noodles, they make us full with only a small amount of noodles and they are getting a small serving of vegetables without even trying. These types of noodles are a win-win-win for me. I spend the extra $2 and get much more value out of the amount of food possible.

So do you see? Shopping based on the price-tag is tricky. Sometimes spending more money up front will actually save you in the long run AND be better for your family’s health and your children’s growing bodies.

Price Tags are Misleading

When you go through an isle, grocery stores are very good at getting you to buy what they want you to buy. Check out the price of one item and it may say that it is $2, the same product below it is $4, you are trying to save money so you reach for the $2 item. Wait! There is a reason that product is half the price, check out the quantity of each. The $4 version is 32 ounces, the $2 version is only 12. So which one is really less expensive when it comes to feeding your family?

Most stores have a “price per…” under the actual price but even this can be tricky. Comparing the same product one price tag can say “price per ounce” and another tag can say “price per unit.” I look very closely at those amounts or a better way to shop when you are first figuring out what is best for you is to get your calculator out and start typing in numbers.

Tips for Grocery Shopping on a Budget - price tag of kale

It’s always very simple.

Price divided by quantity.

In the case of the $4 version we have $4 divided by 32 ounces = 0.125 cents per ounce

In the case of the $2 version we have $2 divided by 12 ounces = 0.1667 cents per ounce

The store wants you to buy the $2 version because their profit is larger and you feel you are saving more so you will come back to that version over and over again. Once again, spending more in the short term will save you in the long run. Buying the $4 version will give you 2/3 MORE than if you had bought 2 of the $2 version.

That’s a lot of numbers but when you are shopping on a budget, you deserve to know what you are buying. You owe that to yourself and your family.

Store Brands

I am a big believer in shopping store brands. Most of them will save you a ton of money and you get the same quality. However, not all of them. Be mindful of what they may be adding to their products to make them cheaper. Give the nutrition facts a glance versus the name brand. Also, if you are picky with some types of product’s taste, try the store brand, there is nothing that says you have to commit. I buy mostly store brand products but there are a few things that taste better or are better for us and I continue to buy the name brand even though it is more expensive.

Just like I mentioned above cheap and inexpensive are two totally different things. It may take a little while to get to to know what you prefer, but when you find what is best for your family, it will be well worth the time you took.

Tips for Grocery Shopping on a Budget - piggy bank penny pinching

Buy Healthy

Buying healthy can be daunting. It really does save money and (it goes without saying) it is so much better for you and your children. Substitute your noodles with brown rice. It can be a replacement in any meal! Brown rice is about $1 per pound of rice which makes more rice than my whole family could eat in 2 days! Buying fresh fruit and vegetables (as long as they are in season) will make an impact in your eating and your budget.

I am all for having some canned and some frozen fruits and vegetables on hand just in case. It’s very convenient, but we are talking about your budget here so let me give you an example from my Kroger grocery store ads this week:

Peaches

.41 cents per each fresh

1.29 per can – store brand

2.00 per can – name brand

How much more can you buy to fill your family up when you are buying fresh versus canned? Unfortunately it isn’t the time of year when I could give you many examples. Peaches have gone up in price because they are nearing the end of the season but we are going to use them for our example anyway.

According to this site 3 peaches fit in one can (as far as I can figure using their tables, it may be a bit more or a bit less but 3 is an average I figured). When you buy the name brand can you are paying 67 cents per peach. When you buy the store brand you pay 43 cents per peach. This doesn’t seem like a lot but when you look at the in-season fruit (I have seen peaches this season as low as .29 cents) the difference can be a lot more.

When you buy canned, you also get the water, sugar and sodium they are packed with as well. Like I said, I am all for having a few things in the pantry, but buying fresh can save you money and calories!

Small Change, Big Savings!

Don’t try to make the change all at once. A penny saved is a penny earned. These simple changes may not seem like a lot but they make a difference and they will completely shift the way you shop for your family’s food. Take a little time each shopping trip and compare one or two items. You will get to to know what to look for and what your family prefers. It does take extra time in the beginning but if you make a little progress each time you shop, before you know it, you will be zipping through the aisles quickly and intentionally.

Tips for Grocery Shopping on a Budget - k eating fresh

Buy Inexpensive, Not Cheap
Buying Healthy Is Worth It
Take Time Now, Save Later!

Peace and Balance,

MommyASKK

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Tips for Grocery Shopping on a Budget

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