Many people feel the dread at the till when the total pops up from the grocery bill.
Or when the debit or credit card statement comes back and the number is larger than expected.
Liz Nguyen had that feeling when she discovered she and her husband were spending upwards of $700 a month on groceries for just the two of them.
Nguyen said she often watches the television series Til Debt Do Us Part, where personal finance expert Gail Vaz-Oxlade would give families of four a monthly grocery budget of $500.
“Why is it $700 for me and my husband? What am I doing wrong?” Nguyen asked herself. “Obviously I’m overspending.”
When Nguyen discovered she was pregnant and would be taking maternity leave, she got serious about savings.
She now blogs about her tips and tricks in the grocery aisles and in the kitchen and shared some with 980 CJME as part of a series looking at increasing food prices.
1. Use flyers
Nguyen checks out the flyers for the stores she shops at to plan her meals for the week around what’s on sale.
“Once you start paying attention to the flyers, you start to know what’s a good deal and what’s not a good deal.”
There’s even an app for that! Nguyen uses Flipp to get a sneak peek at flyers the day before they come out in the store to better plan her shopping list and her meals.
2. Make meal plans
Nguyen plans out her meals for the week, but also goes a step further and plans what to do with the leftovers. For example, on a recent shopping trip, she picked up a roast, which she refashioned later into beef sliders.
“Start planning to use all parts of the meat, taking advantage of buying in bulk, and making sure there’s no food waste.”
3. Use cash, not plastic
Every two weeks, Nguyen takes out $250 in cash to be used exclusively for groceries. She sticks to it, meaning she’s not afraid to leave behind an inessential item at the till.
“I noticed if I used debit or credit, I’d just buy whatever I was feeling like and not stick to a budget.”
4. Take advantage of loyalty programs
Nguyen shops at one brand of grocery stores to maximize her savings. Not only does the chain give her coupons for things she buys often, the staff at the store she does most of her shopping at will point her towards good deals.
5. Shop seasonal
In the winter months, Nguyen skips the aisle with out of season fruit, like strawberries.
Nguyen said she spends about one hour a week perusing flyers, price matching and planning meals for her family. But what it comes down to, she explained, is paying close attention.
“Once I started using cash budgets, looking at flyers and stuff, I’m sticking pretty closely or very closely to my $500 a month and sometimes we’re even under with money to roll forward to the next month,” she said. “Our food and our meals haven’t been compromised at all. It’s just paying attention.”