How to Trim the Fat off your Grocery Bill

How to Trim the Fat off your Grocery Bill

Are soul-shattering grocery bills cleaving away the lion's share of your social budget? Are you stumped by the mountains of rotting produce in your fridge that you never got around to eating? Do you find yourself, amid the eerie linoleum and buzzing neon of the local grocer, geographically, financially and emotionally adrift? Here are a few tips for saving big bucks on your monthly food bill, and (with any luck) salvaging what remains of your sanity:

Plan Your Meals:

Investing some time before your weekly grocery excursion can cut your bill by up to 50 percent (provided you stick to your list). Impulsive buying will be your most incorrigible adversary. Bite the bullet and glance through the weekly coupon packets that clutter up the newspaper. If a deal catches your eye, throw it on your weekly meal calendar.

Accustom Yourself to the Lame Idea of a “Meal Calendar”:

It's not that bad.  Honestly, take a piece of loose leaf paper, draw up a rudimentary 7 x 3 chart, and have at it.  Give yourself some variety, but try to plan so that you can utilize leftovers. Having an open block or two for "foraging" will ensure that your food is being put to good use. Don't put yourself in a position where you have to throw away, e.g., five of the 6 red peppers you splurged on for your imagined "stir fry masterpieces."

To illustrate!

BREAKFAST:

M "“ Bagel & cream cheese, banana

T"”Cinnamon Toast Crunch, blueberries

W"”Bagel & Cream Cheese, banana

Th"”Cinnamon Toast Crunch, blueberries

F"”Bagel & cream cheese, banana

Sa"”Denver Omelet!

Su"”(Out to Brunch!)

Once your calendar's organized, it'll be easy to buy only the items which appear that week. You won't need assorted English muffins, Eggo products, and deluxe imported sausages on a weekly basis.

Don't be afraid to alternate your meals from week to week. Eat seasonal fruits and cereals/grains that are on sale to maximize your savings.

Track Your Spending:

Save receipts and calculate your monthly food budget. (Scratch off toiletries and miscellaneous purchases for the most accurate total.) Consciously noting your spending will not only (theoretically) force you to be more accountable, but it will give you a solid understanding of how much you ought to be spending.

Shop at Grocery Stores:

Sounds intuitive perhaps, but remember that convenience stores are out to get you! Honestly, snack items at convenience stores can be marked up as much as 60% from their equivalents at the grocery store. If you need a last-minute coffee or Diet Coke, try to get in the habit of paying in cash (and bringing in only as much as you need so you're not tempted to buy that gorgeous chocolate chip muffin for $3.99.)

Don’t Shop Hungry:

You'll end up impulsively buying items you don't need. Going shopping after work, when you're tired and starving and dour, is never ideal. Try to make the outing enjoyable. Go with your roommate or your spouse. Make fun of the people who look really out of sorts.

Just Say No to Pre-Packaged Meals:

They're appreciably more expensive (and nowhere near as satisfying as consuming your own handiwork.) Comparable dishes can generally be made with basic ingredients at only a fraction of the cost.

Don’t be Bashful about Buying Generic:

Sooner or later, you'll identify which items have indistinguishable generic aliases and which items do not. When the generic version is just as good (especially for ingredients and sauces) don't think twice. You'll save big.