I stared at the number in disbelief. How could anyone spend so much money on groceries just for two people? Yet that’s exactly what my husband and I spent back in August 2015.
I knew that we had to figure out a way to lower our grocery budget. Since then, I’ve experimented with a lot of tactics and methods. I tried everything from driving around to 10 different stores to baking my own bread in order to save every dime.
I weeded out the techniques that didn’t work and kept the ones that were quick and simple, but still saved a lot of money. Now I’ve got a pretty good system down, and it’s second-nature to me.
My system only takes 15 minutes each week to plan out, but it has big rewards.
We went from spending $895.90 all the way down to $374.03. We’ve more than cut our grocery bill in half after getting my system in place.
Here’s how my system works:
Create a Recipe Bank
You can’t cook things if you don’t know what to cook. When I started developing this system, I spent about an hour looking around Pinterest for cheap, quick recipes. Damn Delicious, 5 Dollar Dinners, and Pinch of Yum are three of my favorite recipe bloggers on the site.
I ONLY SAVE RECIPES THAT ARE QUICK, EASY, AND HAVE AN INGREDIENT LIST THAT ISN’T A MILE LONG OR OVERLY EXPENSIVE.
I collect all of my recipes into an Evernote notebook. They have a browser extension and a cell phone app, so no matter where I am, I can save a recipe. You can also use Pinterest itself to collect recipes, binders, or even old-school recipe boxes.
What’s On Sale?
Now that I’ve got a list of dishes that I can prepare, it’s time to see how much I can save. I head over to my local grocery store’s website to view the weekly circular.
I don’t waste time with checking multiple circulars. You can probably save even more money by doing that, but I don’t have all day to drive around shopping, so I just stick to one store.
If you need help making a meal plan, consider purchasing one from $5 Meal Plans.
The goal is to match up your recipes with what’s on sale, what you have coupons for, and what you can save money with if you use any grocery-saving apps like Ibotta.
The more sales, coupons, and Ibotta rebates I have for a particular recipe, the more likely it will be to go on our menu.
Make a Meal Plan
I don’t have time to go to the grocery store more than once a week, so I use the list of potential recipes from the first two steps to plan out my meals for the week. That way, I can get everything I need in one stop at the grocery store.
Perishable items like fish and beef get eaten in the first half of the week. More shelf-stable foods like pasta and pre-frozen meals are served later in the week.
I always make sure to cook enough to feed four people, even though it’s just me and my husband.
That way, we have enough leftovers to have for lunch the next day, eliminating the need for costly takeout.
Follow Your Shopping List
Making a shopping list helps out in many, many ways. You save time because you’re not aimlessly wandering the aisles. You save money because you’re not guessing what you’ll need and buying random things that you think you might need, or grabbing expensive frozen meals.
It’s also less stressful because you spend less time fighting crowds, and you don’t have to go back to the store midweek because you forgot a teaspoon of an important ingredient.
To make my shopping list, I just pull up all the recipes that I’ve selected and quickly go through them. After you get in the habit of cooking at home, you usually have a pretty good idea of what you have lying around.
This is just our system that works for us. Experiment with different techniques to see what works best for you. By cutting our grocery budget in half, we have hundreds of extra dollars per month that we can use to pay off debt and add to our savings. Try it for a month, and the taste will stay with you for a long time.