Saving At the Store Starts At Home

When looking at the family budget, we usually try to trim down on groceries and household goods.  This is all good in theory, but we've all had moments of grief at the checkout line when the cashier gives the total. There is a vast array of articles and advice columns on smart shopping and couponing, most of which can be very insightful.  However, they glaze over some of the more "obvious" ways to reduce grocery spending.  I tried to find a few simple ways to save that often get overlooked. Not only are these tips fairly easy to do, they can make a dramatic difference on how much you spend on food each month.
Clean out your pantry.  Americans waste about 25% of the food they buy. So if you spend $200 on groceries, chances are you'll end up tossing $50 worth of it, by letting things spoil. It's a cruel cycle.  Before you make your next trip, go through your cupboards and see what can be used up. Create a list of meals you can potentially cook with your findings. This can help you trim down your shopping list, as well as help you clear out your cabinets and fridge.  Be sure to make special note of products your family didn't eat and avoid making the same purchases in the future.

Eating healthy may save you money.  Contrary to popular belief, healthier meal options can actually be less expensive in many cases. For example, people that do eat breakfast usually have a sugary, carb-based one.  Although having a big breakfast is good and can give you more energy in the morning, a bowl full of sugar-frosted cereal in a bowl of whole milk may not be the best way to start your day.  Oatmeal is a great alternative to cold cereal; not only is it much better for you, but it's super inexpensive! High-fiber fruits and vegetables are a filling, healthy alternative to typical snack foods.  I promise you that a bag of baby carrots is much cheaper than a pack of potato chips, and it's much better for your family. 
Shop less frequently.  This one is sort of a no brainer, and yet people rarely mention it.  Sit down and plan your meals for 1-2 weeks; this way you'll have an accurate shopping list.  You definitely need to be realistic about your family's eating habits. I'm definitely a grazer, so I try to factor in small snacks when I create my list. Your personal schedule is also a very important factor. If you always have busy Wednesdays, pick up a couple of for those nights.  Meal planning is a great tool help reduce your grocery trips, just be sure to stick to the list!
Limit your takeout intake.  Ordering out can be super convenient when you're tired, or have guests (extra people at the dining table). But whether you're getting pizza for the kids or Chinese for yourself, avoid it at all costs.  Takeout adds up quickly, so avoid making it a habit.  If you already find that you eat out frequently, try slowly reducing the number of meals you purchase and cooking instead.  I've actually done this, and it makes all the difference.  Not just in your wallet, but your health.  People tend to eat a little healthier when they prepare the foods themselves.  And trust me, a homemade lunch can be just as delicious as a $7 sandwich.
Only buy in bulk when it makes sense! Ten pounds of potatoes for 4 bucks is a sweet deal, but you probably won't get through that bag before the potatoes start sprouting.  Remember, just because something is on sale, doesn't mean that you should purchase it.  Evaluate the need and practicality of bulk purchases.  Is the item even on your grocery list? If so, what's the shelf life? Stocking up is a great way to save money, but you may end up throwing money away if you aren't smart about it.
Author Bio: Brittany writes about frugal living, , and on behalf of Marie Callender's.  For more fun tips and dinner ideas.
 

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