Every Grownup has to eat, but you don’t have to pay a lot for groceries. Blogger Lindsey Boycott shows how to put together an affordable grocery spending plan.
One of my biggest expenses besides rent is food. Whether it’s groceries, a daily latte, or a weekly night out with friends—it all adds up.
Food will always be that necessary expense you pay every month.
But there are many ways to cut down on your food bill every month: clipping coupons, batch cooking, or brown bagging your lunch during the workweek.
To get started, here are three steps I have used to build a better food budget:
- Organize Your Kitchen
I’ve found when I don’t know what I have on hand, I waste food. It will sit at the back of my fridge, the expiration date will come and go, and then it must be tossed out—the same goes with the food in my cupboards and pantry.
The first step is cleaning out and organizing your food spaces so you know where to find everything.
- Go through all your cupboards and fridge and clean everything out. Take everything out and wipe it all down. This includes all surfaces, food containers, canned foods, and any other nonperishables you keep on hand.
- Catalogue all your food to find out what’s fresh and toss anything that’s on the dodgier side. In addition, if you have canned goods that you’re never going to use, donate them to your local food bank.
- Organize everything! This is my favorite step—I love creating order out of chaos. This can be a quick update or a day-long project, depending on your personality: The gist is you want to find the things you need, right when you need them.
- Get the Right Equipment
Whenever you’re trying to change the way you do something, it’s really easy to start the process before you’re fully prepared. You don’t need to spend thousands to reorganize, but it helps to have a few of the right tools.
Get yourself some freezer-friendly storage bags or reusable containers for fresh meat and vegetables. Have a permanent marker available to write down the date and food item you’re storing on the containers. There’s nothing worse than finding a mystery meat dish in the back of your freezer.
If you want your perishables to last for the longest possible time, you could get a food saver vacuum sealer from a big box store for about $100. They are great for many things: vegetables, deli meats, cheeses, sauces, soups, and instant meals. If you like to save food for extraordinarily long periods of time, it’ll be the best money you ever spent.
- Shop Your Pantry and Start Meal Planning
Ostensibly, saving money on groceries seems cut-and-dry—if you buy cheaper foods, you’ll save money. A better way to look at your food budget is how to buy the best food you can with the money you’ve allotted for your groceries. Meat and produce are good places to spend a little more because most proteins and essential vitamins come from these two categories.
Meal planning is a key element of any successful grocery budget. If you’re on a strict budget, you might have to spend more time combing through flyers and clipping coupons to make it work, but it’s doable. Make yourself a weekly or monthly calendar and find recipes that fit with your schedule and lifestyle.
Once you have some planned recipes for the week (or month, if you’re feeling ambitious), buy only the groceries you need to make the food you have planned.
I think you’ll find that organizing your cupboards, storing your food in easily identifiable containers, and planning your meals will take a significant bite out of your grocery bill.
Lindsey Boycott is a Canadian-based personal finance writer and blogger at Cents, Sense & Sensibility. Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.
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While Society of Grownups hopes the information is useful, it’s only intended to provide general education. It’s not legal, tax, or investment advice, and may not apply or be useful to your specific financial situation. If you need recommendations geared to your personal financial situation, schedule time with a financial planner.