Staying frugal and within a budget during grocery shopping can be hard depending on where you live, what stores are nearest you, and what product you are buying/need. For me this can be complicated because I include any household items like cleaning supplies, or beauty/body items like lotions, soaps, and vitamins in my grocery budget and my skin requires specific things to stay calm, and doesn’t really care what the price is.
There are a variety of ways to do this but I’m going to give you what I do to stay frugal and keep my spending within my budget.
Have a Reasonable Budget
The biggest thing about being frugal and staying within budget is having a realistic and reasonable budget. If you’re buying groceries for a family of 4 your budget of $200 might be a bit too tight, while $200 for a single person or a couple could be doable.
If you’re anything like me, food is basically the only part of my budget that I can alter, but if you constantly make the budget less than you need, you’re always going to go over budget and feel bad about it.
It may take a little while to figure out what a good budget is for you. Start by taking a look at how much you spend on food per month. Take that number and see if there is any way you can lower it. Eat out a lot? Go to the expensive grocery store due to convenience? Buying a lot of junk food? Whatever it is, try to shave off as much as you feel comfortable with. Then you have your budget.
I personally have $200 budgeted for food, but like I mentioned above I include household purchases, beauty purchase, and basically anything you could buy at a grocery store under the “food” category.
Track Your Spending
This is such a huge thing for me! I always had $200 as a rough budget for myself, and I would usually have a at least one large haul per month, but I never bothered checking what I was actually spending my money on.
I was honestly surprised by how many little purchases added up to be so much! I’d basically be budgeting for my meal plans, which usually went to wards breakfast and lunch (I don’t really eat dinner, if I have anything it’s a snack) but wouldn’t include all those trips to the store to pick up snacks throughout the week.
Actually tracking every cent has been liberating as well as a little frustrating. By the time I started tracking everything regularly and was getting the hang of this budget thing, a lot of financial issues started up (ER visit, $1300+ in car repairs, registration is due, as well as both renter’s and car insurance, etc. You can read more about most of it here) so my budget is going to be out of whack for a while. (If you happen to want to donate to my financial situation, you can do so via my Ko-Fi page!)
Choose Your Stores Wisely
Notice how I said “stores” and not “store”. This is because certain items tend to be cheaper at certain stores. For instance, I tend to get my beauty and household items mostly at either Target or Walmart. Both of those places tend to be cheaper for “things” that fall under the grocery category for me. Some things I might buy at Aldi like sandwich bags, cleaning wipes, and dish soap, because they are even cheaper there.
I know most people tend to have a grocery store they prefer over others, usually based on convenience, but if you’re in an area where you have the choice, you might want to reconsider stores if there is one with better prices.
I get my staples, like meats, frozen veggies, frozen fruits, pasta, and dairy products at Aldi. They have the best prices by far on these things compared to a regular grocery store. I tend to get my fresh fruits and veg at Stop and Shop because it is the closer grocery store, there’s a better variety and better quality of produce, and they have a points system that works towards cents off gas at their gas stations. And I prefer to get my more household/beauty items from either Walmart or Target, depending on the price.
Related: How to Save Money Without Trying
Most grocery stores have a store card where you can qualify for various perks. Most of these stores also have apps for their store/card. Most of these apps have the ability to store virtual coupons so when you scan your card at check out, you can use the coupons.
There are also good old fashion physical coupons! Your Sunday paper and places like Coupons.com have a variety of coupons for various categories. If I’m going to have a big haul, I make sure to check at least online for coupons that could help me out.
Use sale prices and coupons to maximize your savings!
Walgreens has a thing where you accumulate points to get a certain amount of money. Prescription medication can rack up points pretty easy, and since I have a decent amount of medication per day, I can accumulate a points pretty quickly. If I combine, the points for dollars off, sale prices, and coupons, depending on everything can come out to be free or very close to it.
Third Party Apps
Nowadays there are tons of different apps you can download that you can upload a grocery receipt to and get points, or accumulate various amounts of money to then redeem. My favorite has to be Receipt Hog (iTunes | Android) because you can upload most kinds of receipts, and are not just limited to grocery ones.
My second favorite is Shopkick. (iTunes | Android | Referral) This is less receipt related, and more store related. The app works by opening it up in the entryway of various stores. Each store is associated with a number of “kicks” (points). You accumulate them until you have enough to redeem. You can also get kicks by scanning various selected items throughout the store. There are some stores that allow receipts as a way to collect kicks, but it’s not many as of now. You can use my referral link above or enter the code JOY544501.
Do you have any other ways you Stay Frugal and within budget when buying groceries?
Feeling extra generous? Head over to my Ko-Fi page and leave a donation!