On average, American adults spend an average of $151 (sometimes more) on food each week. If you’re a mom with a family of five mouths to feed, you may be doing the mental calculations and agreeing with that figure. But the truth is: We’re all on a budget. The good news is that there are ways to save money when shopping for food, so you can save cash for later or allocate that money elsewhere. Here are just a few tips.
Maybe you’re not into meal plan calendars or apps, but there are real, cost saving benefits to planning ahead when it comes to grocery shopping. Here’s a real life scenario:
You’ve gone to the grocery store and picked up the staples you know you need every week: Bread, eggs, milk, pasta, a random assortment of veggies that are on sale. Everything is great. Then, two days later when your kids get a hankering for mac and cheese for dinner, you realize you don’t have any cheese and run back to the grocery store. Then, the weekend comes along and you realize you used your pasta that you had planned for a pasta salad for the mac and cheese earlier in the week. Back to the grocery store you go. You’re so stressed out about the pasta situation that you grab a few extra packs to keep on-hand, only to forget they’re in the cupboard until you’re adding even more pasta from another grocery run later.
We’ve all been there.
Not only do the extra trips to the grocery store stress us out, but they leave room for food waste, a cluttered pantry and unnecessary money spent.
A simple way to plan ahead is to take it a week at a time. Think about what you and your family will want to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner throughout the week, assess what ingredients you already have, and make a list for what you don’t have.
Even just working from a week-to-week grocery list will eliminate extra trips and help keep costs down.
Make Healthier Choices
It’s a common theory that healthy food is actually more expensive than food that isn’t as healthy. When you’re comparing a dollar menu fast food option with healthy food from the grocery store, that may be true. But when you’re comparing healthy ingredients versus not-so-healthy ingredients from the supermarket, it may surprise you to see that healthy food is actually more affordable.
A great way to save on healthy food is to shop in bulk when possible. Bulk kale, spinach and other greens are much cheaper than the pre-packaged variety. Plus, bulk items like almonds or cashews are much cheaper than the canned versions. A great rule of thumb is to shop mostly the perimeter, or the outside aisles, of a grocery store as much as possible. When you start shopping the heavily processed or canned foods, prices can tend to creep up.
Buy In Season
Foods that are in season tend to be less expensive as grocery stores can pull from local suppliers, versus having food shipped in that isn’t in season locally. That added expense of shipping food in will inevitably show up in your grocery total.
Plus, if you have SNAP benefits and shop at the Lynchburg Community Market, you’ll be able to double what you bring home. When SNAP shoppers spend $50 or more at the market, the market will give $50 in extra tokens that can be redeemed there.
Pack Your Lunch
This goes back to meal planning, but the fact is that American workers tend to eat out for lunch—a lot. In fact, on average, Americans spend about $20 per week just eating out for lunch. That adds up to $1,043 in one year! If you’re shopping bulk salad greens, for example, you can fix yourself a delicious and healthy salad from home for much less.