Last post we went through 10 conventional ways to save money on your grocery bill every month. If you are already trying those, or are just looking for some different ways to save, then it’s time to think outside the box.
Here are some unconventional ways to save money on groceries:
1. Meal Plan, but don’t lock it down
Now this one definitely looks like the first tip on our conventional list, but it’s a little bit different. What I’ve found is that some people don’t like to meal plan because they feel sort of stuck to the plan.
What if something changes? What if you have to work late and don’t feel like cooking? Many people who meal plan will simply look at the meal and say “Let’s go out to eat, I don’t feel like cooking that.” Or maybe you turn to those leftovers you were saving for lunch.
Instead of spending even more money on food, or wasting your out to eat budget when you have plans to eat at home, simply switch out a meal. Be sure to plan some meals that are easily prepared, and then when things inevitably change, you can change plans without spending a dime extra.
2. Don’t Use Coupons
This may seem very counter productive, but hear me out. How many times have you bought something simply because you had a coupon for it? This has happened to me many times. I have a coupon that is about to expire for an item I absolutely don’t need and I feel like I have to buy it. You may be saving $2 on that $5 item, but that’s still $3 you didn’t need to spend. A few more items like that and it robs the cost of an entire meal or two.
Secondly, coupons aren’t worth the savings for the same reason as above. Rarely do you get good deal coupons like “Buy One, Get One Free” anymore. Now you have to buy 2 or 3 of an item just to get one free. These can be a great deal if you regularly use an item and will pull that extra money from the budget for the next month. However, most of the time, you are buying more than you need just to get the savings when in reality, you would have spent less only buying the 1 item you needed.
Why not try a coupon app like Cartwheel for Target! As I’ve mentioned, my family do a lot of shopping at Target. The Cartwheel App has saved us a bunch of money throughout the past couple of years. And it works much better than conventional coupons.
What it allows you to do is go to the store with just your list in hand. Then as you are putting the items in your grocery cart, you simply use the Cartwheel app to scan the item and see if there are any additional savings. A lot of times it’ll be an extra 5% off (hey, every little bit helps!), but sometimes you can get upwards of 25% off items! I have also never seen a Cartwheel discount where you had to buy a certain number to get a discount. It works out really well and prevents you from buying food you don’t need to get the discount!
One way you can save money on food is to not eat at all! Now this will definitely not be for some people, but fasting can save you a lot of money.
The fast that I recommend is to skip breakfast and lunch and just eat larger dinner and snack at night. Some may argue that by eating the amount of calories you need to consume in an entire day all during the evening you are not really saving money. I humbly disagree and this comes from experience. What I did was have a little more than usual for dinner and then eat a healthy snack or two at night. Most of the time, snacks are much cheaper than entire meals.
This also has the added benefit of helping you get your eating habits under control. If you struggle with dieting or just not overeating in general like I have before, fasting can help you get that under control. Similar to how giving yourself a pay cut can help change your mindset on money, fasting can help change your mindset on food. I have done this personally and it works wonders. I started fasting for a while at the beginning of January, and it has specifically helped me to curb sugar cravings. Now I can have a little bit of sugar every once in a while and it doesn’t affect me. It is much easier to keep my eating under control now. It has also helped me lose, and keep off weight because it completely rewires your brain.
There are other benefits as well. The obvious one is a spiritual benefit. Many religions incorporate fasting into things like prayer and worship. For Christianity, fasting can provide clarity and allows you to spend time with God in an otherwise busy day by praying instead of eating.
4. Cut Out Expensive Meats
So in the past few years, beef prices have skyrocketed. It used to be that you could get a pound of ground beef from the grocery store for under $4 a pound, most of the time about $3.50, at regular price. Now it’s not even that cheap when it’s on sale! This also reflects on other meats that come from a cow such as steak.
One way you can cut back on your grocery budget is to cut back, or completely cut out, the more expensive meats. Buying chicken from a membership store like Sam’s Club or Costco will cost about $2 a pound. We also sometimes get chicken on sale for between $2 and $3 a pound at Target as well. With beef prices for normal 80/20 beef to fat ratio running at around $5 a pound at regular price, you are saving $3 a pound on meat!
You can extend this to other items if you don’t mind the little bit of adjustment in taste. You can replace ground beef with ground turkey, or make a chicken stroganoff in your slow cooker instead of a beef stroganoff.
Aldi also has Turkey Hot Dogs for $1.50 rather than the $4 to $5 you would pay for beef hot dogs. You will barely be able to tell the difference with all the trimmings on it!
Cutting out beef and switching to leaner meats also has obvious health benefits. While some amounts of saturated fat are perfectly fine as a part of your diet, if you are someone who loves and craves beef, then you may be eating more than your fair share. Switching to turkey or chicken will help cut down on the amount of saturated fat you intake (as long as you don’t replace it with other foods high in saturated fat!) and allow you to feel better as well.
My family and I are at the point where we enjoy beef occasionally but not often and it has saved us a lot of money.
5. Keep Only As Much Food As You Need in the House
This is something I’ve really tried to do a lot lately, especially with sweets. The idea is similar to only spending money on things that you value. For food and groceries, it’s not worth it to spend on sugary items that are not good for you anyway and that will keep you craving them. What I’ve found is it is a lot easier to meet your grocery budget if you are watching what you purchases and only buying what you need.
Now I am totally not knocking having some dessert and snacks. However, only keep what you absolutely need in the house. This not only saves on cost but also saves your health! It’s a lot easier to keep overeating under control when you don’t have extra food you can just reach. Overeating can no only eat away at your health but also your pocket book because you are needing to replace that food in your home. My pantry is pretty sparse at times and I only purchase extra food when I know we’ll have company over.
6. Grow Your Own Produce
This coming spring and summer I am looking into building my own garden in our backyard. The reason? Seeds are cheaper than full grown produce!
Imagine having fresh produce every day just by walking outside. You can grow things like tomatoes and lettuce for sandwiches and salads, kale for smoothies, zucchini to make some delicious zucchini pasta or bread, and a number of other things. My wife would love it if we were able to grow some avocado, but I hear they are incredibly hard to grow yourself. Let me know in the comments if you have a garden and what you grow!
7. Use Up the Food You Already Have
Something I do toward the end of the month especially is do a special type of meal plan. We are a little bit stricter on how exactly we meal plan. While we tend to meal plan for what we have a taste for even if we have to buy ingredients, the last week of the month we try really hard to use up the food we already have. This goes a long way in stretching your budget by cutting out potentially a lot of your purchases.
This is especially helpful if food items you have purchases are going to expire or go bad soon. We had some turkey hot dogs a few weeks ago that were going to go bad during the week we were planning for. We made sure to use those up first.
Sites like AllRecipes or even Pinterest can help you plan meals using your already existing purchases. AllRecipes.com has a neat search bar where you can search by ingredient and it will give you a bunch of recipes that require that ingredient. Pretty neat!
8. Buy Frozen Vegetables
Much of the food waste I’ve come across, both in my house and others, is from produce items. While it helps to buy cheaper fruits and veggies and buy fruits in season, this doesn’t always get rid of the waste.
A solution is to only buy frozen vegetables. We do this for all of our main meals. They are a buck at Target for most of the veggies we get! Some favorites are cauliflower, broccoli, and the white and gold corn (tastes like it came right off the cob!). They also place these in bags that you literally just pop in the microwave. You don’t even have to dirty a dish anymore to cook them!
There isn’t a lot of nutrition that you lose by eating frozen either so you are getting almost all of the nutrients. At the same time you are getting the ability to keep the veggies long term! No more waste!
Now I should mention that this doesn’t work as well for frozen fruit, which is why the suggestion is to just buy frozen veggies. In my experience, frozen fruit is mushy and unappetizing most of the time. Frozen fruit is great for smoothies but not for eating as a snack, in my opinion. Maybe I’m just eating the wrong fruit. I’ve tried blueberries and strawberries frozen. I’m curious to try pineapple, but for now, I stick with frozen veggies.
So there is 8 sort of unconventional tips for saving money on groceries. Neither this list of tips, nor the previous list with the more conventional tips is exhaustive. What are some ways that you save money on groceries? Better yet, what is the craziest thing you’ve done to save money on groceries?