In this post, I will give you a few tips and tricks on how to save money at the grocery store. Tricks that I’ve tried myself and people I know.
People, nowadays go to the supermarket too often, including me. If they want to cook something and some ingredients are missing, they rush to the supermarket. I’ve learned along the way that this isn’t necessary. If I want to cook something, but I don’t have all the ingredients, I postpone it until I go to the supermarket the next time. Instead, I cook something with what I have in the house.
If you check your fridge, freezer, and cupboard you will find a lot of food to make for at least a few days. I’m sure that you can think of a lot of ways to cook them. This has been my challenge for a few months now. To cook more with what I have in the house and it has been a great journey.
At the beginning of my marriage, I would buy a lot of food, mostly non-perishable, but nonetheless, a lot. I would cook every day, only for one day. The next day, I would cook another soup and second course. What I did wasn’t very good on the budget, even though I loved and love to cook.
Now, I’ve changed a few things. Most of the time I don’t cook every single day and also, I make food to have leftovers for the next day. That’s what works for me now.
And now for the tips. I have quite a few because there are so many ways to cut back on the grocery expenses if you organize just a little bit. These are working for me and I’m sure they will for you too.
1.Have a monthly/weekly budget
This first one is quite important because it’s not the same if you spend around 200 euros/per month or 400 for 2 people. So it’s important to have a budget and to stick to it. I’ve noticed that if I’m imposing myself a grocery budget, I’m more likely to stick to it. So, maybe that would work for you too. For example, I imposed myself to spend no more than 50 euros per week for the both of us. That includes veggies, meat, eggs, bread etc. When we need to buy non-food related items, we spend a little bit more, depending on the situation.
I eat bread very rarely, normally just my husband eats, and he also takes sandwiches to work. So I buy a few baguettes and I freeze them. Every night we take one baguette out of the freezer and we make the sandwiches for work. If I would get only one baguette from the supermarket, I would have to go there every single day. And I can’t keep them in the cupboard because they would get stale. So this works for us perfectly.
2. Go to the grocery store only one to two days per week
I know that this one is kinda difficult for the most of us but it’s super important. This way, you will save money, of that you can be sure.
When you think you don’t have anything in the house, think again. Search the fridge, the freezer, and the cupboards and you will surely find loads of food. Always look what you have in the house before rushing to the grocery store. So, search the internet and see what you can make. Pinterest is an amazing website where you can find loads and loads of great meal ideas. Scroll the internet and see what you can find.
Another great idea is to take a week off from the grocery store and to force yourself to find great meal ideas with food that you have in the house.
I will give you a few ideas of meals with what I have in the house right now.
Chicken breast or thighs, sausage: roasted with what kind of veggies you have in the fridge and freezer, grilled with mashed potatoes, in a mushroom sauce, in pepper sauce, where you can also use that brown or white rice you have lying around.
Brown rice, White Rice: Pilaf with chicken breast or just with veggies you have in the fridge and freezer, white rice pudding,
I have an amazing brown rice pilaf filled with veggies. You can use whatever veggies you like and have.
Pasta (noodles, macaroni, spaghetti): pasta carbonara, simple spaghetti with tomato sauce that kids will love, simple shrimp pasta if you have some leftover shrimp in the freezer, chicken noodle soup.
Oats: oatmeal or granola with yogurt, milk and fresh or frozen fruits.
Leftover Greens: Smoothies, salads with what you have in the house.
Chinese Noodles: Quick stir-fry with leftover veggies and chicken (optional)
Fruits: as a snack
Beans, Lentil, Chickpeas: hearty stews and soups and roasted chickpeas, perfect as a snack
Above you have a few recipe ideas when you don’t to what to cook next with what you have in the house. That happens to me as well. Sometimes I can’t think of anything to cook and I look for ingredients in my cupboards and I find lots of them.
3.Always make a list and stick to it.
This is an easy one if you get used to doing it. I have an app on my phone where I make my grocery list and the meals I want to cook in the future. For me, this one works best because I know what I want to buy and what we ran out off. This way, I don’t buy something that we already have in the house and I keep track of the expenses.
If you like snacks or sweets, choose to buy only that one that you like best. I am a fan of potato chips. I know they’re not healthy at all, but sometimes I really crave them. So I choose to buy a bag or some other snack that I like. And my husband does the same with his favorite snack. This way we stick to the list and we indulge a little bit. And we buy a lot of the healthy groceries that we really need. You just have to prioritize and to know what’s best for you.
Also, very important: don’t buy junk and sweets from the checkout that you didn’t want in the first place. Maybe you crave those because you spent a lot of time at the grocery store and you’re just hungry. Go home and eat something nourishing. 😀
4.Don’t go to the grocery store hungry
This one is really important because it can make a hole in your budget. When you go hungry to the grocery store, you are like a child. You crave everything and imagine that you will use everything you bought. So be careful with this one.
5.Stock up with non-perishable items when they’re on sale, but buy only what you need. Be careful not to go overboard with the sales. Stock up with meats and produce.
Sales are a tricky thing and you can (surprisingly!) spend way more when there are sales, even on what you don’t need. You have to be realistic and to organize a little bit. Think about what your family eats and likes and stick to those items. If there is a sale of shrimp per example, but your family hates shrimp, of course, you will not buy them. Because no one will eat them. Or, if there are things that cost only 1 euro, but you will not use them, don’t buy those things. I know that it’s tempting because they’re so cheap but stay away from those.
Lastly, stock up with what your family eats, like fruits and veggies and meat. When there are sales and when some fruits and veggies are in season, stock up with those.
Portion the meat in bags for convenient future uses.
Here you have some examples of what you can do with all that frozen produce:
Mango, spinach, ripe bananas, berries, apricots, cherries, peaches, nectarines, apples: smoothies, in oatmeal, oat bars, pound cakes, quick jams, clafoutis, crumble, fruit baked oatmeal, berry cookies, berry loaf, banana bread
Pumpkin, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, green beans: pumpkin risotto, broccoli pilaf with spinach, baked cauliflower or broccoli, green bean stew.
Carrots, bell peppers, herbs (mint, parsley, dill, celery leaves, rosemary, chives, thyme):
- carrots, bell peppers, celery, leeks: buy them in bulk, wash and chop them and reserve in bags for future uses in meals. This way you don’t have to chop veggies everytime you need them. I do this for a long time now, and it works perfectly for me. And they don’t get moldy.
- do the same thing with the herbs. Wash, let them dry and then chop them. Add every herb to a small container for future uses. They remain green and fresh in those containers.
This would not be your normal meal plan, where you cook almost the exact meal and prepare it for the week. If that works for you, do that. But also you can make a list of recipes you want to make and prepare the ingredients. This way, when you start cooking, you have prepared ingredients in the fridge and freezer.
7.Eat your leftovers
When you cook something for the family, usually remain leftovers. There are people who don’t eat the leftovers. Don’t be like that. Don’t throw perfectly good food. Eat the leftovers for you, your budget and the environment. Sometimes, a good meal is even better the next day, when the ingredients had time to soak into each other.
Did you know? People throw away every year tons and tons of food. Why be a part of that? And what’s even worse, they also throw tons of food on a specific day, Christmas. Isn’t that extremely sad??
8.Take your time to compare prices and choose generic food items.
If you have more than one grocery store in your area, take your time to compare prices to the items you are interested in. If you can, take a notebook and make notes about what you want to buy. And when you go to another grocery store, do the same. And in a few weeks or months, you know where are the best prices. I’ve compared generic food items with brand named and from what I’ve seen, they have the exact same ingredients.
Of course, there are food items that are best in buying brand named because I can see the quality, but that is not always the case.
Look for the ingredients and if they’re the same, go generic.
9.Stick to whole food, rather than processed junk and precooked meals from the main aisle
I’m sure that life can be crazy sometimes and you don’t have time to cook but make better choices for you and your family. It’s really easy. You can organize a little bit and prepare the ingredients for the next meals. And kids can help, they love that.
10.Keep the receipts and track what you spend a month/week
This is a really great thing to do because it helps a lot. After each month you can go through the receipts to see how much you’ve spent. This way, you really know how much money you spend on groceries, takeout or coffee. I know that there are a lot of people that buy takeout and coffee on the go. If you count only in one month how much you spend on those two things, you’ll be amazed. Maybe you don’t even know because you never kept the receipt. But try doing that only one month.
I have receipts from 2-3 years ago and I can clearly see the journey that has been to spend less on groceries. For takeout or coffee on the go, we never had a problem. Because we don’t order takeout. We never did since we got married. And for the coffee, maybe we buy once or twice a year, but that’s it. For us, the food that I cook at home is the best.
If we crave burgers, we make burgers. If we crave pizza, we make pizza. We don’t need to order takeout because it’s not even as good as the one you make at home.
11. Buy seasonal produce
With this one, you can also save money. When some fruits and veggies are in season, cook more with those. And you can buy in bulk and freeze them like I said on no.5, to stock up, chop and freeze veggies. This way, you always have prepared veggies when you need them.
Pumpkin: buy it when in season, chop and use it in a lot of recipes, like pumpkin risotto, a warm pumpkin salad with quinoa and chickpeas, roasted with veggies and chicken, in cream soups
Broccoli: Chop and store it in the freezer for cream soups, roasted
Leek, Celery, Carrots, Bell Pepper: When these are on sale, buy more, chop them and reserve them in the freezer to have them always on hand.
I know that some people don’t think that you can save money at the grocery store with these tips, but you really can.
Another important tip is to not buy a lot of fruits and veggies if you don’t freeze or eat them because they get moldy and you just threw the money out the window if you do that.
So, if you think you can’t save money at the grocery store, think again. With just a little bit of organization, a bit of work to chop all those veggies, a bit of searching in cookbooks or internet, and you saved some money. How many of these tricks did you apply in your life? They worked for you as they worked for us? Do you have any more tips to add to this list?
Have you made any of my recipes? Please tag me on Instagram with the tag #booksandlavender because I would love to see your creations.
Subscribe, so that you don’t miss any of my latest posts.