Lower your food costs with these helpful tips.
If supermarket bills constitute a large chunk of your budget, you're in good company. The average American spends $372 a month on groceries, according to research compiled by The Ascent. And while that may not sound unreasonable at first glance, many consumers spend far more. If you're tired of going overboard at supermarkets or racking up loads of charges on your credit cards in an effort to feed your family, then give these tips a look. Chances are, they'll help you lower your spending to some degree.
1. Make lists before you shop
How many times have you wandered into a supermarket and roamed the aisles waiting for products to call your name? It may be a more leisurely way to grocery shop, but it's not cost-effective. A better bet is to make lists of the specific items you need before hitting the stores, and stick to them. Of course, there's a good chance you'll be tempted to stray while shopping, particularly when you see tasty items on sale. But if you have a list, you'll have a harder time giving in to those impulse food buys.
2. Meal plan
The more you map out your meals in advance, the less likely you'll be to waste food and overspend because of it. At the start of each week, figure out what you'll be cooking, how many meals' worth each recipe will yield, and what ingredients you need to buy to pull each meal off.
3. Take regular inventory at home
Have you ever gone to the store, purchased a perishable item like cheese, and then come home to discover a block of the same kind wedged in the back of your fridge? Buying items you already have is a good way to waste money, so rather than running that risk, take stock of the things in your fridge and pantry before leaving the house. At the same time, figure out how much storage space you have available so you don't buy items you don't have room for.
4. Buy only trusted products in bulk
Bulk items can, at times, offer huge amounts of savings. But if you're going to capitalize on a lower per-pound or per-unit cost, be sure to stick to those products you already use and trust. It's not worth taking a chance on a new brand only to then throw 42 servings of it away.
5. Don't pay a premium for pre-cut fruits and veggies
Most supermarkets offer pre-cut items in their produce section, and buying them can make your life easier by saving you time in the kitchen. But unless you're self-employed, get paid by the hour or project, and would otherwise spend that time working and earning money, you're better off lowering your grocery tab and cutting your fruits and vegetables yourself. Doing so is a huge money-saver, and as a bonus, whole fruits and veggies you chop up yourself generally last longer than pre-cut items.
6. Pay attention to expiration dates
It's not uncommon to grab a meat or dairy product out of the refrigerator section at the supermarket, only to come home and realize it's set to go bad in two days rather than 10. Grocery stores don't always do the best job of clearing soon-to-be-expired products, so be more vigilant to avoid having to throw purchases away due to spoilage.
Supermarket bills are unavoidable, and when you have a larger family to feed, they can quickly get uncomfortably expensive. If you make an effort to reduce your grocery spending, you'll have more wiggle room in your budget to save money or set funds aside for other important purposes.
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