How to Lower Your Grocery Bills (Without Eating Ramen Every Night)

As the price of groceries continues to steadily climb, many are finding it a weekly challenge to stick to their budget without sacrificing nutrition or variety in their meals. The good news is, there are some simple ways you can ease the strain of grocery costs – and NOT eat ramen every night for supper. (unless you really like Ramen, of course).

With a bit of strategic planning and creativity, you can navigate the aisles and checkout lines with confidence, knowing you’re getting the best value for your money. So if you’ve been wondering how to reduce your grocery bills, try adding these eight strategies to your shopping routine.

To see us talk about these tips and show examples, watch this video.

1. Prioritize your purchases

We would all love to go to the store and buy whatever we want. But, that’s just not realistic.  That’s why your grocery list should be prioritized. That means the most important things you really need to buy that week should always be at the top. That bag of chips or bottle of sugary drink should be at the bottom of the list.

If you buy that really great balsamic vinegar, but you’re out of onions, garlic, carrots, and celery – it’s hard to feed your family all week with just that vinegar.

Make sure you are buying the basics first and use a calculator to add up the cost of items as you put them in your basket.

A prioritized list will mean that if you have to edit your list as you shop, those “optional” items at the bottom of the list are the ones you know can stay at the store.

2. Dedicate a portion of your monthly grocery budget to stocking up.

We use a strategy we call “the one-fifth method” to free up money for stocking up when we find great deals – without blowing our grocery budget.

Here’s how it works. Divide your monthly grocery budget into fifths and reserve one-fifth (or 20 percent) as “stock up” money.

The remaining eighty percent is divided four ways and provides all the necessary funds to spend on your weekly grocery shopping trips.

For example, if your monthly budget is $500, you’ll have $100 a month set aside for stocking up.

By using this simple hack, if you walk in the store and find some really great unexpected manager specials or grocery markdowns, you can buy them without blowing out your budget.

3. Create a regular rotation of low-cost meals

When it comes to favorite meals, monotony is not really a problem. We like the same things over and over again. So, put inexpensive sure-fire winning meals on “repeat” once a week.

In fact, you can have a “family poll” every three months to add different favorites to the rotation.

Here’s are some examples:

  • A Baked Potato Bar
  • Tacos
  • Sub Sandwiches
  • Homemade Pizza Pockets
  • Soup and Salad
  • Burgers and Fries

The bottom line is: Don’t waste a lot of time and money trying the new recipes (made with expensive ingredients) only to be FRUSTRATED when you find out that no-one will eat it. Instead, put their favorites into your recipe rotation more often.

4. Avoid prepped food.

This is food which has been pre-cut and packaged for you. Remember, in general, the more work someone does for you, the most expensive the price.

For instance, the price of cut watermelon is astronomically higher per pound than buying the entire melon. The same holds true for cut veggies like onions, peppers, or stir fry packs.

Those little snack packs for lunch? Super expensive. Meat and cheese trays may be convenient, but you can make them MUCH less expensively when you buy the individual ingredients.

When it comes to prepped food, it’s worth it to buy the ingredients whole and prep them yourself.

DIY definitely wins out in this area of buying groceries.

5. Don’t Buy Prepared Frozen Foods.

There are entire aisles at the grocery store dedicated to “heat and eat” versions of traditional breakfast, lunch, and dinner favorites. These snacks, sides, and entrees are super expensive – especially when compared with the made-from-scratch versions.This category also includes items like pre-packaged granola and pre-packed nuts or candy.

Buy the bigger bags of snacks and divide them up into smaller bags to take to lunch throughout the week. It’s like the vending machine – without the quarters and for about 75% less.

Google DIY versions of all your favorite frozen foods. Make them from scratch and you’ll save hundreds of dollars a year.

6. Buy Low-Cost “Base” Ingredients.

Before you leave to head to the grocery store, you can begin the process of saving money. Plan your meals around starches like: oats, rice, beans, pasta, quinoa, or even bread (although we don’t often think of bread as an ingredient).

Layer a mixture of lower-starch vegetables like: broccoli, carrots, sugar snap peas, onions, celery, cabbage, or squash OVER the main starch.

One of the secrets to saving money on food is to make meatless meals several times a week. If you eat meat or cheese, add a smaller amount to your dishes. If you cut your meat into small pieces before adding it to recipes. You won’t need to use as much, but your family will still feel satisfied that they got meat to eat.

To save even more money, never place the tub of sour cream or the bag of cheese on the dinner table. Instead, add a small dollop of sour cream or a sprinkle of cheese just before serving. You’ll get the satisfaction you crave for less cost, because you’ll use less of it if you PORTION out these items, rather than adding them to the casserole or recipe OR putting them out on the table for people to use “as much as they want”.

7. Buy Loss Leaders.

Loss Leaders are special low-cost items generally featured on the front of the store flyer each week. Use this ingredient as a BASE for several recipes throughout the week.

Don’t just buy them, buy a LOT of them. A lot of people get intimidated by these offers and hesitate to buy them in bulk quantities. But, let me show you my “no waste method” for using them.

Create a menu plan for the week, featuring that ingredient in several different recipes. For instance, if you got a great deal on broccoli, the goal is to use it in several different ways, so your family doesn’t feel like all they are eating is broccoli.

In this example, you’ll see broccoli can be used in soup, salads, main dishes, side dishes and frozen for later use.

By following this single tip, you can cut hundreds of dollars off your food bill every year, because you’ll be eating mainly recipes created using the least expensive food in the grocery store flyer.

8. Inventory Perishables.

By knowing what you have on hand, you’ll avoid throwing out rotted food. In fact, this is one of the most important steps you can take to not only reduce food waste, but also to ensure that you spend less at the grocery store.

Once a week, write a list of the contents of your fridge (and countertop, because some fresh food belongs there and not in the fridge). This list should be prioritized, that means items with the shortest shelf life go at the top of the list – and you use them up first.

Challenge Yourself to use your perishable list to create a meal plan for the next three days – without setting foot in the grocery store. You’ll be surprised how well this will work in keeping you out of the store, especially at the end of a long week, when the lure of fast food is enticing because you are tired and ready to relax.

4 thoughts on “How to Lower Your Grocery Bills (Without Eating Ramen Every Night)”

  1. My husband and I know the imporance of being good stewards of what God provides to us. We maintain a frugal lifestyle and are blessed because of it. I enjoy your podcast and come away with something new to apply in our own journey. I listen to others who promote a frugal lifestyle, but Under the Median is the first where the hosts state they are Christiaans, and tithed 10% of their income. Thank you for sharing that because we know how important tithing is. God enables us to spread the remaining 90% to cover all our needs with money left over to give away.

    May God greatly bless Under the Median so others will learn that frugal living doesn’t mean we are cheap, just wise stewards of what God entrusted in our care.
    Blessings,
    Anne-Marie Madore
    New Brunswick, Canada

    Reply

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