Are you feeling a little intimidated every time you go to the grocery store? How often do you walk in and spend way more than you anticipated? Do you keep asking yourself why does grocery shopping have to be such a chore? Well, the truth is, it doesn’t have to be. The separation is in the preparation when learning how to grocery shop on a budget. The single biggest piece of advice we have to offer is to start with meal prepping, or at the very least, meal planning. By doing this, you can easily eliminate those spur-of-the-moment, middle-of-the-day snack runs, overpriced trips to Starbucks, or expensive lunches out. Over time, little changes start to become a habit and, ultimately, healthy habits are the foundation of long-term financial success and stability.
Meal Plan with a Shopping List
If you’re not sure where to start with meal planning/prepping, there are tons of free resources out there to help you get started. One of the free tools we like to use ourselves here at Millennial Wealth is FitMenCook. Although this website is geared towards men who like to workout, it has recipes that anyone can adopt and include in their weekly routines. We love this site because it has healthy, delicious recipes that are geared towards a variety of different diets such as paleo, keto, low carb, budget-friendly, etc. and it has a built-in shopping list to top it all off, so there’s something for everyone here. Please note, we have no affiliation with this site, financial or otherwise, in any way. We just really love it and what it has to offer!
Meal planning and/or prepping is simple – pick one breakfast, one lunch, one dinner, and one or two snack recipes, create your list for your trip to the store, then make enough for your entire work week and split into individual portions to store in the fridge. Try to pick recipes that have all around common and lower cost ingredients, will keep well for a few days in the fridge, and can be purchased at the cheaper grocery stores like Trader Joe’s, WinCo, or Grocery Outlet.
Flexibility is Key
Grocery stores often run sales or promotions on various different products so don’t be stubborn with your recipes. Mixing up the vegetables or proteins you use for your recipes can make all the difference in saving money you otherwise wouldn’t every time you make a trip to the store. Most of the time, switching up broccoli for cauliflower is not going to make a big difference. Unless it’s the main ingredient and flavor, don’t be shy to adventure outside the box for the sake of saving a few bucks.
Don’t be Shy of the Frozen Section
Fresh and natural ingredients are always ideal but not necessary. If you’re making fruit smoothies on a regular basis, you don’t need to choose the $7 pack of fresh organic blueberries when you can buy just as much, if not more in the frozen section for half the price. Trader Joe’s, for example, even carries frozen fruits and veggies that are still organic but at a fraction of the cost of their fresh versions. We recommend checking the fresh fruit and veggie aisles first, but if you can’t find what you are looking for for a reasonable price, hop on over to the frozen aisles and see if you can find the cheaper prices without sacrificing the quality.
Buy Bulk Where You Can
Certain staples such as paper towels, toilet paper, dish soap, laundry detergent, or basically any item with an indefinite or long shelf life that you use on a daily basis should be bought in bulk. Costco, Sam’s Club, WinCo, Amazon, etc. are all great places to do your bulk shopping. Our favorite at Millennial Wealth is Costco – why? Because Costco was started right here in Kirkland, WA!
Kirkland Signature brand maintains the same quality as their more expensive counterparts. Costco allows access to their low-priced goods through a very affordable membership of only $55/year. They’re also an employee friendly company and pay relatively high wages to their employees which actually helps their bottom line by minimizing turnover and improving productivity.
Buying in bulk results in cost savings and time since you don’t have to visit the grocery store nearly as often. And time is money!
Take Advantage of Your Freezer
If you like to shop at Costco, you know you can buy huge quantities of frozen meats, vegetables, and other goods that will keep for long periods of time in the freezer. This is a great way to not only shop in bulk but to extend the lifetime of the products you buy. If you meal prep too, you can use the freezer to your advantage to make large quantities of food at home and use the leftovers to then keep in the freezer for later consumption. Food waste is a huge money suck on the average household. Just think about how often you throw out leftovers or unused food from the fridge because it spoiled. That’s the same as flushing money down the toilet! Don’t be shy of the freezer, it’s there for a reason!
Obviously, not every single one of these tips is going to work for everyone. We all have different lifestyles, schedules, and budgets we adhere to so it’s important to find something that works well for you and stick to it. Remember, it’s all about making small changes that eventually lead to habits. Learning how to grocery shop on a budget is a great place to start.
Need help putting together a budget or automating your finances? Schedule a free consultation with us today.
Chad Rixse grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, but has lived in the Seattle area since 2007. He majored in Spanish at the University of Washington where he honed his fluency in the language and discovered his passion for travel and connecting with other cultures. He’s a self-professed golf addict who can never seem to get his fill despite still struggling to break 100.