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How to save money on groceries and stop eating up your budget

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save money on groceries

“Your diet is a bank account. Good food choices are good investments.” In this quote, entrepreneur Bethenny Frankel reminds us that our food choices are important to both our physical and financial well-being. If you follow a handy spending plan like the 50-30-20 budget, you’ve probably realized that it’s not always easy to save money on groceries. 

Food-related spending eats up a significant slice of our disposable income. Millenials spend more on food than previous generations and it’s estimated that we shell out about 44% of our food budget on eating out.

However, it’s not just eating out that inflates our food budget. In part, this is related to inflation, evolving culinary preferences, greater food-related social consciousness, and healthier choices at the grocery store. 

Whatever the reason, the average millennial spends around $800 a month on groceries—a pretty penny for someone who’s just starting out. To quit eating your budget, consider some of our practical tips to save money on groceries. 

Eat greener and healthier

Many millennials often seek out products produced by health-conscious food companies that align with their ethical principles, and prefer to vote with their wallets. Prioritizing your health and honoring your principles are important, but so, too, is personal sustainability.

Although eating ‘healthfully’ can be more expensive, you can still incorporate nutritious, ethically-produced food while on a budget. As it turns out, eating greener can actually save you some green, too. 

  • Swap out meat for vegetarian options a few times a week. Eating less meat can be beneficial to your health and can help you save money on groceries. 
  • Eat foods grown and prepared locally. Eating local can have lots of benefits for the environment and your community. It can also encourage you to eat fresher, healthier options found at local markets and steer clear of unnecessary (though tasty) processed snacks and luxury items. 
  • Limit your intake of luxury foods. Avocados, dragon fruit, and quinoa are delicious and good for you. However, they are also costly and often produced in ethically-questionable conditions. Limiting your intake of exotic and luxury foods and swapping them out for local options can translate into big savings and reduce your carbon footprint. 
  • Limit non-essentials. Alcohol, frozen meals, packaged snacks, and even your beloved chocolate are not essentials (although it might feel like it). Slowly swapping out these expensive snack options for fruits and veggies and incorporating meal prep habits into your life can help you save money on groceries.

Plan

When it comes to saving money on groceries, it all boils down to solid planning. Common wisdom is true—shopping on an empty stomach can lead you to spend more. To avoid this and other pitfalls, consider some of our money-saving strategies. 

Your list is your best friend

Writing a list will require you to begin thinking about meal planning for the week, which is an excellent money-saving strategy in and of itself. Consider organizing your list according to where you can get the best deals on your groceries. Buy non-food items (and maybe even some food) at dollar and discount stores and figure out where produce and other necessities are the cheapest. 

Strategize realistically

Our best selves may be willing to wake at the crack of dawn to bake fresh cinnamon brioche bread with organic strawberry jam made from tender fruits that we harvested that very morning in the countryside. But, our real selves may require a latte and a twinkie from the office coffee cart to survive the 3pm energy crash.

If you end up consistently splurging on an afternoon coffee, plan to bring an extra coffee thermos from now on. If baking a whole chicken isn’t in the cards one week, pay a little extra for a rotisserie chicken to salvage the rest of your meal prep efforts.

Meal plan

Eating out can cost more than five times as much as cooking for yourself. While it might sound intimidating for less experienced cooks, meal planning can be easy with a bit of forethought.

Strategize and call in your technological reinforcements

Once you arrive at the grocery store, following a few simple strategies can help you save money on groceries without putting too much thought into it.

If you can, try to shop just along the perimeter of the grocery store. This strategy is not only healthy, but it can also help you refrain from falling victim to the siren call of mini muffins and their tasty (non-essential and heart disease-inducing) brethren. While sticking to a grocery budget doesn’t require you to relinquish all of your forbidden loves (like Nutella, Ben & Jerry’s, and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos), it does mean that you might want to forgo capricious temptations. 

Take advantage of technology to save money on groceries. Meal planning, grocery coupon, grocery list, and price comparing apps can help streamline the journey from checkout to cupboard and save you money along the way. Additionally, many experts recommend buying food in bulk online to avoid in-person temptations and to cut down on costs.

If Julia Childs and the other great foodies of the world have taught us anything, it is that food is about nourishment, joy, and connection. Adopting healthy food-related spending habits does not require you to adopt an extreme diet or begin sowing literal oats in the quad on your campus.

Integrating these tips into your existing routine can help you begin to shave off unnecessary spending and maybe even eat healthier. In turn, saving money on groceries and other essentials can help you set aside money for savings and investing in your future.

Bon appétit! 

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