8 Ways Singles Can Save At The Grocery Store
Your grocery bill is one of the few items on your personal budget that can be modified.
Grocery shopping on a budget is a challenge for anyone (single or family) and the grocery needs of a family will be different from that of a single person.
Before I made my journey from Consumer to Saver, I was spending around $600-$800 a month on food – just for me! I’ve managed to keep my bill down to about $300 a month using these steps.
Do you want to better manage your food spending bill? Here are 8 things to do when it comes to food shopping.
Make a list
Some of you may be thinking, “blah, lists, bah humbug!”
I have such a hard time making lists and sticking to them but it’s the ONLY way I was going to keep my shopping budget from exploding.
I used to make lists on paper but I would forget the paper. Or I would justify buying items not on the list because they were on sale, or because I was hungry and craving sweets. Sound familiar?
I still have a hard time sticking to a list but there is an app for that!
Out of Milk for Android is my favorite shopping list. I use it to track the price of each item in my basket so I know exactly how much I’m spending while I shop.
Sometimes I make a second trip through the store to put back the items that sneaked into my basket (hint: they were not on the list).
A list will help you think seriously about the food you’re buying so you can stay within budget (you really don’t need that bag of Oreos)
If you don’t use a list to plan out your grocery items (and stick to it) its open-season spending at the food store.
Set a budget
This one is obvious. You knew it was coming. Just roll with it.
I was spending anywhere between $600-$800 on food just for me. So when I started tracking my money and putting together a budget, I only had a couple places where I could cut down on spending. The food budget was going to the chopping block (pun intended).
My first goal was to keep my food bill under $400. But I had to reduce it further cause I needed more to put toward a debt I wanted paid down by December 2015. So I tried a $250 a month food budget. That was too low. I was starving!
I then settled on $300. This turned out to be my happy number and it’s been this way for the last few months.
Now that I had a good amount set for my food budget, I had to figure out how I was going to use it. Here’s what I did.
Only Shop on certain days of the week
When I tracked my food spending, I noticed I would go to the store three or four times a week to buy food (thank you Mint.com for pointing that out to me).
I was shocked at how many trips to the grocery store I made in a month!
The only way I was going to cut back on my spending was to reduce my trips to the store. Now, I only shop once a week on alternating days.
Each week has a spending cap of $75. That way I can spread out the $300 throughout the month. This was manageable and it’s worked beautifully for the last four months.
I have to be strict with what I buy to stay within the weekly limit and only buy enough food to last one week. So, I shop on alternating Thursdays and Saturdays. If I forgot an item during that trip, too bad. I wait until next week.
Sounds strict but it works with my super busy work and school schedule. I don’t stress out about food shopping anymore cause there’s no need for an impromptu food run. My food shopping day has its own little time and place within my weekly plans.
Now that I had a budget, a list, and a time to shop, I needed to make my trip count and my money last.
Buy foods that will last
and keep you fuller longer
I quickly learned I had to be strategic with the items I shopped for so it could last the week and stay within my budget.
I looked for foods that were versatile. Rice, pasta, quinoa, chicken, meat, bread, peanut butter, jelly, avocado, and eggs to name a few.
These foods can be prepared in different ways to make different meals. One day I make chicken and rice. The next, avocado and eggs with rice; quinoa and eggs, or chicken sandwiches. See what I did here?
I could never stick to pre-planned menus. I tried last year but admitted a horrible defeat.
Buy foods that can be mixed and matched so they last you longer.
Also buy foods that can be frozen and thawed easily (hello meats and fish!).
And I buy foods that are high in protein because that lasts longer in your stomach so you eat less.
The best investment I made was to take advantage of Schwan’s food service every two weeks. I make sure my bill doesn’t go above $45 (on the week they deliver my grocery store bill for that week will be no more than $30 so I stay within my $75 weekly budget).
Schwan’s has frozen, pre-packaged, single-serve meats, meals, and vegetables. PERFECT for the frugal single.
Look around your area to see if there is a Schwan’s food service (or something similar) that delivers to your door once or twice a month. The small increase in price is well worth the extra value you’ll get for convenience and less waste.
Eat a snack before shopping
A “no brainer” but I’ll mention it here because I always forget.
Last week, I went over my food budget by $20 because was hungry.
You need to be vigilant with this one. Have a small snack like yogurt, a banana, an apple, or a granola bar. Something to turn off the unstoppable physiological urges of hunger.
Having a full stomach will help you stick to your list and budget.
Dedicate your food shopping to one store
I thought I was a super saver frugalista by hunting down all the deals at the different grocery stores in town.
That lasted a few months but it was exhausting and took almost three hours out of my precious weekend to shop for food. Plus, I always over shopped.
You will find more value if you shop at one store and take advantage of their loyalty program. This will reduce the money spent on food, your personal time needed to shop, and gas (cause you won’t be driving all over town looking for the best sales).
I joined the Kroger loyalty program that gives gas discounts and never looked back. I usually get 10-30 cents off per gallon each month because I spend all my money at Kroger. I couldn’t take advantage of that if my money was spread out among different stores.
Another great perk of being loyal to one store is they let you use digital coupons. No more searching and clipping coupons!
Load up on digital coupons
With a Kroger loyalty card, you can download digital coupons right from their website. They also take manufacturers coupons up to $1. So there’s really no need to clip coupons.
After having a snack and making your list, but before you leave the house, get online to load the current week’s digital coupons onto your loyalty card.
The discount gets taken out when you scan your loyalty card during checkout. Easy as pie! No excuses now!
Shop during “off” hours and days
This one will add value and sanity to your shopping. Unless you love crowds, it’s a good idea to shop during the “off” hours.
Depending on where you live, off hours are usually 6am-9am, 1pm-4pm, and after 7 pm. Unless it is a holiday weekend or if there’s a special event.
Also consider the day of the week you are planning to shop. Fridays, Saturdays, and paydays are the busiest days.
Lastly, take into consideration when the new sales start. Where I live, the sales run from Wednesday thru Tuesday of the next week. You can take advantage of newly stocked shelves on Wednesday (but make sure you go during an off hour).
The big take away
Your food budget is the most versatile expense. If you’re on a mission to reduce your debt and keep your spending low. These steps may help you reach that goal.
Make a list, have a snack, plan your trip, and buy versatile foods that will keep your tummy full and minimize wasting.