Simplify, Shop Wisely and Spend Less

by Marianne Giullian

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Cut That Grocery Bill!

It is important to shop wisely. For years, I have been saving money on groceries. On average, I save 50 percent at the grocery store. In a month, I save almost as much money in food, clothing, etc. as I would make with a part-time job. By careful shopping, I can stay home with my kids instead of having a job outside of my home. However, shopping wisely does not mean that you need to buy the cheapest thing and give up quality and taste. Saving money in the grocery store does not need to take hours of clipping coupons, etc. Buy what you need and don't spend unnecessary time buying things you wouldn't normally use just because they are on sale. The following suggestions can help to simplify our lives and help us to be happier and stay in our budget at the same time as we shop wisely.

  1. By not spending, you save. Just don't buy the junk food. I bought two liter bottles of soda for 50 cents a bottle. It was a great deal. I couldn't stand watching my kids drink the stuff, knowing that soda is bad for them. I could have just given them water to drink instead of soda. It would have been healthier and cost less money. Candy bars sometimes go on sale for 40 cents each. Although it is a good buy and may be hard to pass up, it is healthier for you and your family if you save your money and don't buy junk food. Fruit snacks were on sale for a third of the regular cost. This is another good deal, but as I watched my kids quickly devour them, I wondered if it was worth the good price to have them eat the sugary, artificially colored and flavored snacks. I could have bought carrots for less money and they would have had something healthy to eat. Carrots have beta carotene, which is great for them.
  2. Look for better, healthier alternatives. I buy name brand cereal. I may be able to find store brand cereal for less, but many of them get soggy more quickly so I do not buy them. Even though buying name brand box cereal on special can be a good deal, a 50-pound bag of oatmeal or wheat cereal would cost a great deal less and would be healthier for us in the long run. In addition, hot cereal seems to be more filling than cold cereal.
  3. Try using less of a better quality product. I used to buy ground beef because it was cheaper than other cuts of meat. Now I buy leaner cuts of meat and cut by half the amount of meat in my recipes. Another alternative is to eat good cuts of meat occasionally and eat more beans. Beans can improve your health and protect you, so why don't we eat them more often? They are less expensive and better for you.
  4. Make it yourself. It seems like the bread that is on sale is usually not the kind that is high in fiber. To buy the good quality bread costs a lot of money. I make my own 100% whole wheat bread without any preservatives for a fraction of the cost of the same bread in the store. Homemade tortillas, muffins and bagels cost substantially less to make yourself and the taste is so much better. Making your own stew with fresh vegetables costs less than the equivalent of canned stew on sale and you don't have the preservatives.
  5. Use what you have. Unless you are celebrating a special occasion, use the food you have before running to the store. If you don't have exactly what you need, substitute something else in its place. If you don't have an acceptable substitute, make a different meal from what you have on hand. You will save yourself time by avoiding a last minute trip to the grocery store. Limit your trips to the grocery store to once a week or twice a month.
  6. Make a menu and grocery list before shopping. It is easier to avoid unnecessary purchases when you have an idea of what you want to buy before you enter the grocery store. This will also help to avoid last minute trips for forgotten items.
  7. Buy things your family will eat. My kids love macaroni and cheese. If I buy the cheap brand on sale, they will not eat it. They can taste a difference. It will just sit on the shelf. If your family doesn't like something, why buy it even if it is on sale?

Grocery shopping doesn't need to be a burden. Set a budget for food each month and/or week. Make a menu and grocery list and buy what you need first. Use any leftover money to buy staples and things you regularly use when they go on sale. Enjoy the food you make and don't feel obligated to make a meal that doesn't taste good just to save a dollar. The taste and health benefits are worth the extra dollar in my opinion. Ten years ago, I tried a recipe from a book about feeding your family for less. The recipe was for peanut butter stir fry and even though it has been ten years, my whole family remembers that meal as the worst meal we have ever had in our lives. You can stay in your budget without having to give up quality and health. All of the money you spend on unnecessary sale items like candy bars, fruit snacks and soda could add up to buy good, healthy food instead. Just because something is on sale and a good price doesn't mean that it is the best choice in the long run. Be wise about your spending and realize that by not spending, you save.

updated: February, 2014

Take the Next Step

  • Get cash back on the groceries you buy. Checkout 51 can show you how!
  • Continue to trim food costs by visiting our food & groceries section to get tips and tools for keeping more of your hard-earned dollars in your pocket.
  • How much per month could you save by no longer buying junk food or at least limiting it to an occasional snack? Collect receipts and figure it out. Sure, that sugary snack is on sale, but what are you really paying for? Excess sugar? Artificial colors and flavors? How about trans fat? And what other benefits besides monetary would you see by cutting the junk? Think about it.

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