Monday, December 11, 2023

Ways to Lower Your Grocery Bill

We’re all feeling the effects of inflation right now and it’s certainly noticeable when we take a look at our grocery bill. Before I became mindful of my grocery budget, I used to spend too much per month for groceries to feed my household.

As I became more financially savvy and learned how to be more frugal, I decided my grocery shopping every month needed to be rebudgetted, especially with the rising prices. After a lot of trial and tweaking to find the perfect compromise, I personally believe my budget is plentiful. It’s worked well for us, even as we live in a city which is notorious for its high cost of living.

Don’t let your grocery shopping cost more than it should!

Become an expert shopper at the grocery store.

Here are a few tricks I’ve used to reduce my grocery bill and save much every month —

Make a plan ahead of time and stick to your shopping list —

Planning ahead helps you save money. Go through your pantry and make a list of what you need to buy. Take stock of all what you have at home first, so you don’t end up buying something that you already have. This will help you avoid impulse purchases and things that might seem enticing in the grocery store only to find it four months later sitting at the back of your kitchen cabinet covered in mold. A grocery list is essential.

Eat healthier —

You can save a lot of money by simply being healthier. Cut out the cost of snacking on junk food and portioning your meals (smaller portions equal less food consumed). Once you get used to smaller portion sizes, you’ll then know how much you need to buy at the grocery store. Don’t buy calorie-packed food that has little nutritional value- all it does is fill you up with empty calories and doesn’t keep you full for long. Fruits, vegetables and legumes  are full of fiber and water, which will keep you full, and won’t add many calories.

Buy locally grown produce and in season —

Fruits and vegetables tend to be cheaper and fresher when bought locally from your streets ‘bhajiwala’ or the market. Keep in mind that wherever you shop, in-season produce will be a better deal than off season produce. Fruits and veggies are cheaper when they’re in season, not to mention it’s better for the environment. Buying produce out of season is more expensive because of the added cost and effort in production. Figure out what produce is in season and buy accordingly.

Here’s a tip- Frozen fruits and veggies also have a lot of nutrition, and they last longer than fresh produce. Determine what produce is in season and buy accordingly.

Search for sales and know when to shop —

When it comes to getting a good deal, timing is key. Midweek shopping is the cheapest because that is when they mark down what didn’t sell from the week before just in time to restock the shelves. The time of day also plays a big role in getting the best deal. Bakeries and fresh produce stores tend to mark down their products at the end of the day to sell their produce and not have it go to waste. One of my favourite tricks is to first look at what’s on sale,  then add some of those foods into my meal plan for the week.

Pay with cash —

Cash is king! The best way to be sure you’ll end up with a lower bill is to pay with cash. Go to the grocery store with a fixed budget. You know exactly how much you can spend because once the cash runs out, that’s it- game over. Paying with cash helps you keep yourself in check.

Plant a garden —

Growing your own produce can also help you save money at the grocery store. Herbs, curry leaves, microgreens or even a few fruits and veggies. This way you grow your own organic produce and cut out these items from your grocery list. Healthy and frugal.

Buy staples and non perishables in bulk —

Buying staples and non perishables in bulk can often translate into substantial savings. Test it out for yourself next time you’re shopping. Keep in mind not to buy perishables in bulk unless you’re planning on freezing it.

Shop your pantry and freezer —

We often find ourselves staring at our pantry and refrigerators looking for something to eat. While it might seem like there isn’t anything to eat in the house, there often always is. You just have to put in that added effort and I’m sure you’ll find a delicious meal somewhere in your kitchen.

Plan out your meals and revamp your leftovers —

Meal planning and using what you currently have helps you avoid buying unnecessary groceries. Revamping your leftovers from the previous night is another way to cut down on food and money wastage. A chicken curry for dinner can be a chicken salad for lunch the next day. Planning out your meals is a great way to save some extra dough (and I don’t just mean roti)

Try different grocery stores —

Many people prefer to buy groceries from a nearby shop and fresh produce from the local market. But sometimes you might get better deals at stores slightly further away from your house. Many of us are loyal to our grocery store, but switching it up can help you save on your grocery bill. Depending on sales and even quality of produce, you may want to mix up where you shop. Who knows you might find that shopping at the store down the street is costing extra money in the long run. There’s no need to compromise on quality but a little saving here and there is always a bonus.

BYOB- bring your own bag —

Nowadays, grocery stores charge a small fee for the bags you use.  To save that little extra. In the long run it will add up and it’s good for the environment. You could keep some reusable bags in your car so you never find yourself in a position without them.

Don’t shop when you’re hungry —

This is a lesson I learnt the hard way. When you shop when you’re hungry, everything tends to look appetising and you end up buying a lot more than you need to. Eat a meal and then go to the grocery store. You’ll find that you stick to your list and can think with your head instead of your rumbling stomach.

If you buy it, use it —

Nothing’s worse than discovering mouldy fruits or rotten veggies. Remember what you buy so you can use it and not see it go bad. Whatever you do, don’t let food go to waste.

Watch the register —

Prices are constantly changing so while checking out make sure you watch the register to avoid any discrepancies and pricing errors or offers which may not show up on the register.

Eat less meat or go vegetarian —

Going vegetarian just a couple times a week could save you a lot of money. Poultry and fish is expensive to say the least. We practise meatless mondays in my house (we save money and eat healthier!)

Leave the overspenders at home — 

A word to the wise, do not take the overspenders to the grocery store. If they keep adding things to the cart, it might be time to leave them out of grocery shopping.

Summary —

Food is a required expense but it can vary. A few new habits can help you lower your monthly grocery bill. Make sure you stick to your budget. Follow some of these tips and you will be surprised at how much you save.  Who knows, this might give you a chance to get creative in the kitchen as well.

Vinita Alvares Fernandes
Vinita Alvares Fernandes is an Economics graduate, a writer and a Trinity College certified public speaker and communicator

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