Even if you are a pro at managing your money and avoiding impulse buys at the mall or clothing store, most of us can still agree that one part of our budget is always a struggle. For some reason, the grocery store is full of temptation and since food is technically a necessity, it seems that it's easier for one to lose control when perusing the aisles.
And if you are reading this post and saying "but I don't even have a grocery budget?!" then let me stop you right there. It's actually quite easy as I described in one of my best posts, my guide to being on a budget. You just take a look at 1 month's worth of grocery receipts and see what you spent. Now, obviously your receipts can be full of impulse buys so even if your amount is say $500 a month, you could still get it down lower with some of the tips I'm about to share. But that's how you get a basic number.
So here are a few ways to stay within budget at the grocery store.
1. Buy only what you need.
I know I know, easier said than done. But if you read my simple guide to meal planning, you'd see that by planning all your meals and making your list based off those meals, you can easily make a list of only the things that you will be eating in a week until your next trip. So decide on meals, make your list, and then stick to it!
2. Arrange your list by aisle.
Sometimes the best way to avoid an unnecessary stroll down an aisle is to have your trip mapped out with your list. If you go to the same grocery store each week, you probably have a good idea of how the store is set up. So set up your list by aisle. I group my list by produce, meat, boxed goods, dairy, frozen, etc. This can also make your trip much quicker since you know exactly where to go and if you despise grocery stores like I do, you'll be in a much better mood when you realize you didn't waste more time there than you had to.
3. Understand coupons and if they are needed.
Coupons are great, but sometimes they make you buy brands that are more expensive anyways. For example, I often see coupons for name brand cereal. But if I choose to buy the generic brand of that cereal, I can often get it for cheaper than buying the name brand WITH a coupon. Plus, if you are buying really wholesome and healthy foods you really won't even need coupons because you can practically avoid the center aisles when you stick to produce and fresh stuff. I mean, when's the last time you saw a coupon for apples?
4. Buy generic.
Like I said in number 3, buy generic whenever you can. It's less expensive AND it's usually the same ingredients, just not by a name brand company.
5. Don't go hungry.
Always eat a meal or have a snack BEFORE you go to the grocery store. Trust me, when you're hungry, you tend to notice all the distractions along the way which end up being impulse buys.
6. Avoid distractions.
When you are standing in line, play on your phone instead of perusing the candy bars and magazines. They are all put there for a reason. Generally, when you're bored you're more likely to put something in your cart while waiting.
7. Stick to your budget.
So after 2 months of using the tips above for grocery shopping, add up your monthly receipts and make that your new grocery budget. And then continue to use the tips above to stick to that budget.
It's not rocket science...really!