Food is my biggest spending category, by far. Eating is essential to staying alive, and as a lifestyle blogger, food is one of my primary content categories. Meaning: I spend a lot of money on groceries. Over time I’ve learned a few ways to save on my grocery budget while maintaining decent eating habits. Here are some tips for healthy grocery shopping on a budget:
1. Create a meal plan for the week
Jot down what you want to eat in the upcoming week. No need to be formal, but be detailed. Note what you will eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Include any beverages (coffee, tea, wine, etc). Also, consider if you’ll need extra items for hosting and entertaining.
2. Do a kitchen inventory
Start your list with what needs to be replenished. Do a sweep of the fridge and your cabinets. What’s already in the pantry? Note what needs to be restocked, including quantities.
3. Check your local store ads
Most grocery chains update weekly circulars on Wednesdays. Check the local ads for specials on meat, vegetables, and pantry items. I plan the week’s meals around what’s on sale as much as I can.
4. Shop what’s in season
Seasonal produce is usually the cheapest, because of its abundance. For example, in Southern California strawberry prices are currently less than $2.00/lb in, because they peak in spring (and lately, we’ve gotten more rain than usual).
5. Shop IRL (instead of delivery)
As much as I love the convenience of Instacart, I save more when I shop in person. The weekly specials are only available in-store, and I can’t redeem store rewards in my virtual cart. I save online grocery shopping for those moments when I want home-cooked food, but refuse to leave my apartment for fear of losing my parking space.
6. Stick to your list
Don’t buy anything not on the list! This will help you save money, calories, and get you in and out of the store fast. Organizing your grocery list by category makes the process even easier.
7. Use grocery rewards
Load up on digital coupons connected to reward card. My local Ralph’s (Kroger) offers their best prices to reward members. I’ve seen deals like free Silk Almond Milk, $3.00 off Tide detergent, and dollar amount savings on produce purchases.
8. Take your own bags
In LA the stores charge $0.10 each for plastic bags. I prefer to save that change for parking meters, so I make sure to take my own bags with me on grocery shopping trips.
9. Shop multiple stores
I shop mostly at Ralph’s because I’m in their customer rewards program, and the closest store is less than a mile from my place. But once a month I shop at a big box store for bulk items, and Trader Joe’s for affordable specialties that my local Ralph’s doesn’t carry.