When the economy’s in a slump, or when you desperately need to cut back on grocery shopping expenses, you need self-discipline and some practical tips that will keep you focused on buying the essentials on a tight budget.
- Keep a grocery list and stick to it. Provide a sheet of paper and stick it to your fridge so that you can list down all the items you need to buy every time you run out of them. Add other items as you remember them. Check your kitchen, pantry, bathroom, etc. for things that need replacing and replenishing. Also include in the list the quantity of items, and specific brand or product name. When you’re in the grocery store, stick only to the items you have on your list. As the saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.” You won’t be tempted to add something else if you don’t see it on your list.
- Plan your menu. Planning the next week’s menu before grocery shopping is a very convenient way of finding out the items and products you need to buy. Think of meals that are healthy, satisfying, and use minimal ingredients like pasta, wraps, sandwiches, and salads. Opt also for dishes that you can cook in bulk, keep in the fridge for a long time, and just reheat like curry dishes and stews.
- Use coupons that you need. Coupons are a godsend during desperate times. Discounts and shopping deals do come in handy. Anyone can get coupons easily—from the daily paper, magazines, grocery stores, the mail, and even the Internet. But one important thing to always remember when using coupons is to only use them for items and products that you regularly use and need like basic food items, toiletries, and household cleaning products. Even though you don’t get to use all the coupons from your bunch, don’t be tempted to use one that you don’t immediately need just to avail the discount or deal.
- Skip microwave dinners and pre-packaged food items. You might not notice it, but pre-packaged food items like salads and microwave dinners actually cost you more than buying fresh ingredients one by one and preparing them yourself. Pre-packaged foods and microwave-ready food may save you time and food preparation effort, but you get little nutritional value from them. You get more of preservatives and sodium. By choosing only the ingredients you want and preparing the food yourself, you get to control what goes into your food and do some wise spending as well.
- Choose generic over brand names. Brand name products are ridiculously overpriced when you come to think of it. The bulk of your money goes to the packaging or shelving of these brand name products. Most of the time, the quality is comparable to generic ones. Switch to generic and you can still get value for your money.
- Try split shopping. Some grocery items like health and beauty products, and household cleaning items are cheaper at stores like Walmart, for example. Don’t be afraid to make excursions and compare prices from one store to another. Find out which one dishes out the cheapest prices and best deals. You can buy your toiletries and other dry goods from Walmart, and then buy food items, meat, seafood, and produce at another.
- Do not shop on an empty stomach. You might think this an unusual idea, but there is a bit if wisdom here. You’re more likely to be tempted to pick comfort food and add other food items that you think you really want to eat because you’re hungry. Grocery shopping when you’re content and well-fed won’t make you think of getting comfort food.
- Shop without distractions. As much as you love your kids, they can be a distraction to your budget shopping. You might spoil your goal and buy something to appease them, something they want but can live without. Shop alone or with someone you know can keep you focused on your goal and not allow you to indulge.
Grocery shopping when you have money to spare is easy, but you have to discipline yourself and sacrifice some things when you have to do it in a tight budget. It might seem tempting to revert to your old grocery shopping habits, but shopping on a tight budget is practical and doable, especially with an economy that’s in a slump.