Best Tips for Shopping at the Grocery Store on a Budget

It’s no secret that you can be healthy on a budget, but the real secret lies in how you can stay healthy and on budget.  Just like adapting to a new diet, staying on budget is all about behavior change.  In my previous article, I shared tips on eating healthy on a budget, and this time around, I’m digging a little deeper into how to stay on budget on a shopping trip.  Since I get groceries at least once per week, both for work projects and for my personal family shopping, I consider myself an expert in saving money at the grocery store.  Here are my top 10 tips for shopping at the grocery store on a budget, and don’t be surprised- some of these tips start even BEFORE you hit the store!

1. Check mail for coupons and ads

Cutting coupons may seem like a blast from the past, but if cutting out little pieces of paper can save $5 for my future, then I’ll be clipping away!  Each week, your mail includes ads from local grocery stores and coupons from major brands, so tossing that mail out is like throwing away money. Instead, look through that mail to find deals on your frequently used items, and anything special coming up.  Shopping ads especially help me to plan food for holidays, like for this budget-friendly spread for Fourth of July.

2. Make a grocery list.

I suggest planning out weekly meals and making a grocery list for it. This not only saves a lot of money, but will also save time in the grocery store and help reduce food waste (which is basically wasted money).  Going into the store with a list makes me feel more prepared and in control of what I spend. It’s pretty easy to say no to those extra treats in the cart if they’re not on my list.

3. Shop where you bag your own groceries.

If you have a grocery store in town where you bag your own groceries, chances are that store has the best prices since the savings on staff can be reflected on your receipt.  Plus, I like to bag my own groceries, as it gives me a final run-through of my purchase to make sure I didn’t forget anything, and I get to bag them exactly how I want.

4. Eat before to avoid impulse and unhealthy buys.

The biggest mistake in overspending at the grocery store is going shopping when your stomach’s growling.  That extra bag of chips gets half-way eaten before check-out at the register, and guess what?!?! It wasn’t on your grocery list, in your budget, OR on your meal plan.  Prevent that mistake by eating before a trip to the grocery store and it will be easier to stick to your plan.

5. Buy seasonal fruit and vegetables.

There are so many reasons why eating seasonally is better- less impact on the environment, more nutrients, and better taste- but buying produce in season is actually a great way to save money and eat healthy.  You don’t have to spend extra on foods that are imported from different regions when it’s growing in season in your area.  When produce is in season, it’s in abundance so farmers are able to give a better deal.

6. Buy frozen veggies.

While I stress that fresh is best, there are some times when it just makes sense to buy frozen veggies.  One reason would be because of cost. If there is a good sale on organic frozen peas, I’ll go ahead and purchase some ahead of time since I can store it in my freezer.  Another reason to buy frozen is because of seasonality. There is plenty of fresh and juicy corn available in the summer, but when it comes to winter months, I like to pull corn straight from my freezer.

7. Buy deli meat and cheese at the deli.

There is so much emphasis on how pre-packaged foods are more convenient, but these foods are not convenient on my wallet or my diet. When you buy foods that are already packaged, you’re paying for that extra packaging and all the costs that go along with that (from advertising, to transportation, to even stocking it on the shelves).  On top of that, buying food already packaged up can mean you end up wasting some of that food if you don’t use it.

That being said, I am all for soliciting the various departments of the grocery store and getting exactly how much I need, which means I pay for only that.  I get my sandwich meat and cheese from the deli and what I love is that I can tell them how much to slice, how many slices, and even how thick to make my slices.  Gone are the days of moldy cheese because I ran out of bread- now I know to shop for exactly what I need.

8. Buy bread and baked goods in the bakery. 

Speaking of bread, I also buy baked goods at the bakery.  Not only are these items usually made fresh in stores, they also skip all the fancy packaging and trickle all those savings to you.  If you’re seriously on a budget, some bakeries even sell day-old goods for a fraction of the cost.

9. Buy meat in bulk, cut and freeze.

While you’re visiting the different departments of the grocery store, don’t forget to make a stop to the butcher.  I like to buy meat in bulk and cut it to freeze for later. It’s so much cheaper to buy meat like this, and I love the convenience of having options to use in my freezer.  My biggest tip is if you’re going to make chicken, get the whole chicken because that’s considerably cheaper than one that’s cut. Aside from using just the meat, you can also make a delicious chicken broth with the carcass, which is a great way to use the whole animal and also save money even more!

10. Buy Bulk Bin items.

You know those bulk bins at the grocery store?  That section is like gold to me since every time I visit it, I’m saving money!  Since I’m usually developing recipes, it’s just easier to purchase the exact quantity of something, that way I know exactly how much something costs.  What’s even better is that I only have the amount needed for the recipe, and that leaves me with less food to waste each month. I absolutely dread throwing away food, because it’s like throwing away money, so by buying some ingredients in bulk, I know I’m using up what I need.

Using ingredients from bulk bins, I’m going to make aebleskiver, or Danish Pancakes.  Ever since I got a special pan, I’ve been obsessed with making these fun-size pancakes.  I usually don’t purchase separate pans for specialty foods, but I really got my money’s worth for this pan since I use it a few times each month.  Yes, I could buy these ingredients packaged up ahead of time, but it’s happened where I think I have enough flour for a recipe (usually after I already mixed up the other ingredients), but I don’t have enough so I have to waste my time with an emergency trip to the store.  But ever since I started using bulk bins, I know I have enough for my recipes every time, and when it comes to eating healthy on a budget, everything adds up!

 

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Source: mint.intuit.com

Pros and Cons of Renting a House

When searching for your perfect home, there are plenty of big decisions to make – and one of those is deciding the kind of space you want. Renting a house isn’t the same as renting an apartment! Leasing a home does have its benefits, but it also has several drawbacks you should consider. Get the […]

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Source: blog.apartmentsearch.com

How to Budget Groceries: 11 Easy Tips

Have you ever sat down to go over your budget only to find out that you’ve outrageously overspent on food? Local, organic, artisan goods and trendy new restaurant outings with friends make it easy to do. With food being the second highest household expense behind mortgage or rent, our food choices have a huge impact on our budget. Using this monthly budget calculator can also help guide how to budget for food. 

You may be surprised to find out that the most nutrient-dense foods are often the most budget-friendly. It’s not only possible, but fun and easy to eat nourishing, delicious food while still sticking to your budget. Here are 11 ways to help you learn how to budget groceries.

1. Track Current Spending

Before you figure out what you should be spending on food, it’s important to figure out what you are spending on food. Keep grocery store receipts to get a realistic picture of your current spending habits. If you feel inclined, create a spreadsheet to break down your spending by category, including beverages, produce, etc. Once you’ve done this, you can get an idea of where to trim down spending.

2. Allocate a Percentage of Your Income

How much each household spends on food varies based on income level and how many people need to be fed. Consider using a grocery calculator if you’re not sure where to start. While people spent about 30 percent of their income on food in 1950, this percentage has dropped to 9–12 today. Consider allocating 10 percent of your income to food as a starting point, and increase from there if necessary.

3. Avoid Eating Out

This is the least fun tip, we promise. Eating out is a quick and easy way to ruin your food budget. If you’re actively dating or enjoy going out to eat with friends, be sure to factor restaurants into your food budget — and strictly adhere to your limit. Coffee drinkers, consider making your favorite concoctions at home.

4. Plan Your Meals

It’s much easier to stick to a budget when you have a plan. Plus, having a purpose for each grocery item you buy will ensure nothing goes to waste or just sits in your pantry unused. Don’t be afraid of simple salads or meatless Mondays. Not every meal has to be a gourmet, grandiose experience.

5. Keep a Fridge Grocery List

Keep a magnetized grocery list on your fridge so that you can replace items as needed. This ensures you’re buying food you know you’ll eat because you’re already used to buying it. Sticking to a list in the grocery store is an effective way to keep yourself accountable and not spend money on processed or pricey items — there’s no need to take a stroll down the candy aisle if it’s not on the list.

6. Eat Before You Go to the Store

If your mother gave you this advice growing up, she was onto something: according to a survey, shoppers spend an average of 64 percent more when hungry. Sticking to a budget is all about eliminating temptations, so plan to eat beforehand to eliminate tantalizing foods that will cause you to go over-budget.

7. Be Careful with Coupons

50 percent off ketchup is a great deal — unless you don’t need ketchup. Beware of coupons that claim you’ll “save” money. If the item isn’t on your list, you’re not saving at all, but rather spending on something you don’t truly need. This discretion is key to saving money at the grocery store.

8. Embrace the Bulk Section

Not only is the bulk section of your grocery store great for cheap, filling staples, but it’s also the perfect way to discover new foods and bring variety into your diet. Take the time to compare the price of buying pre-packaged goods versus bulk — it’s almost always cheaper to buy in bulk, plus eliminating unnecessary packaging is good for the planet.

Bonus: a diet rich in unprocessed, whole plant foods provides virtually every nutrient, ensuring optimal health and keeping you from spending an excess amount on healthcare costs.

9. Bring Lunch to Work

Picture this: you’re trying to stick to a strict food budget, and one day at work you realize it’s lunchtime and you’re hungry. But alas, you forgot to pack a lunch. All the meal planning and smart shopping in the world won’t solve the work-lunch-dilemma. Brown-bagging your lunch is key to ensuring your food budget is successful. Plus, it can be fun! Think mason jar salads and Thai curry bowls.

10. Love Your Leftovers

Would you ever consider throwing $640 cash into the trash? This is what the average American household does every year — only instead of cash, it’s $640 worth of food that’s wasted. With millions of undernourished people around the globe, throwing away food not only hurts our budget but is a waste of the world’s resources. Tossing food is no joke. Eat your leftovers.

11. Freeze Foods That Are Going Bad

To avoid wasting food, freeze things that look like they’re about to go bad. Fruit that’s past its prime can be frozen and used in smoothies. Make double batches of soups, sauces, and baked goods so you’ll always have an alternative to ordering takeout when you don’t feel like cooking.

Sticking to a food budget takes planning and discipline. While it may not seem fun at first, you’ll likely find that you enjoy cooking and trying a variety of new foods you wouldn’t have thought to use before. Being resourceful and cooking healthfully is a skill that will benefit your wallet and waistline for years to come.

 

Sources: Turbo | Fool | Forbes | Medical Daily | GO Banking Rates | Value Penguin

The post How to Budget Groceries: 11 Easy Tips appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

Touring Remotely? Questions to Ask During Virtual Apartment Tour

Whether you’re apartment shopping in a different city or doing your own remote research at home, virtual tours can come in handy. These allow possible renters to scope out living spaces with more comfort and convenience than ever. But with all the perks that this virtual advantage brings, it can still present some drawbacks compared […]

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Source: blog.apartmentsearch.com

How to Host Friendsgiving on a Budget

Thanksgiving is about spending time with family – both the family you were born with and the family you’ve chosen. That’s why Friendsgiving celebrations have become more popular in recent years. They give adults a chance to sit down and share a meal with friends they may not get to see much throughout the year.

But these gatherings aren’t always such a blessing for the host. The holidays are already an expensive time, and putting together a feast for a large group isn’t exactly cheap. So how can you throw a Friendsgiving celebration without breaking the bank?

Ask for Help

When you start planning your Friendsgiving, the key is to pitch the idea as a potluck. If you can get your friends to each bring a side or dessert, your costs will be reduced significantly.

Asking for help will also make the experience more enjoyable for you since you won’t have to cook five dishes for 15 people. Plus, your friends may have their own Thanksgiving specialties. One may have an old family recipe for pecan pie, while someone else may be a mac and cheese expert.

You can use a free site like SignUpGenius to decide who’s going to bring what. Insert the dishes you’d like people to bring, including appetizers, sides, and desserts. Friends who are a disaster in the kitchen can sign up to bring alcohol, plates, silverware, cups and other beverages.

Have the Event After Thanksgiving

To really save money on Friendsgiving, host the event a couple days after Thanksgiving. Many grocery stores will have major sales to push their pies, sides, and turkeys. Instead of shopping for TVs or clothes on Black Friday, you can hit up the grocery store.

Before you decide on this idea, make sure your friends will be around after Thanksgiving. This may work better if you go home for Thanksgiving and want to host a Friendsgiving for all your hometown friends.

Opt for Chicken

Turkey is the standard on Thanksgiving, but many of your guests will be fine with chicken. Ask your guests beforehand if they care if you serve chicken instead of turkey this year.

Chicken is usually cheaper than turkey, especially because turkey prices often spike right before Thanksgiving. You can also save time by buying a rotisserie chicken instead of roasting one yourself. Costco has a daily $4.99 rotisserie chicken deal, for example.

Ask about Dietary Restrictions

Dietary restrictions and special diets are more common these days, and it’s wise to ask your guests beforehand if they can’t have a particular kind of food. Not only is it thoughtful, but it could also keep you from having too many leftovers or wasting money making something only a couple people will eat.

Dietary restrictions can also change your budget, so it’s important to plan ahead if this will be the case. For example, if you have a friend who eats gluten-free items, let her bring the gluten-free rolls.

Freeze Food Correctly

Depending on how many friends come to your event, you may end up with a bunch of leftovers. Instead of throwing them away or putting everything in the fridge, you can freeze dishes to save for later.

Before freezing items, divide them into individual serving sizes. For example, instead of putting all the turkey into a gallon bag, divide it into several sandwich bags. That will make defrosting easier and faster, and will make it more likely that you’ll actually go through your leftovers.

Make sure to label the food with the date so you know how long it’s been in the fridge. Every couple weeks, defrost a new small batch of Thanksgiving leftovers.

Compare Fresh, Frozen and Canned

Brussel sprouts are priced differently, depending on whether you’re buying a fresh stalk or a frozen bag. The same goes for most types of food.

Before you buy what you need for Thanksgiving, make sure to compare the cost. Are frozen cranberries cheaper than fresh ones? Look at the price per ounce to compare things correctly.

Use Grocery-Saving Apps

Apps like Ibotta, Checkout 51 and BerryCart give money back when you scan the receipts from a shopping trip. You can also save money beforehand by checking the available offers before shopping.

Make sure to check for coupons and read the weekly ads before you go shopping. The differences may seem minimal, but they can add up quickly – especially if you’re the one buying most of the food.

Shop in Bulk

Some grocery stores have a bulk section where you can pick out spices, nuts, and grains from containers and jugs. You can measure out only as much as you need.

This is an easy way to make a recipe without wasting money. Here’s an example: You need to make the stuffing, and you have to buy sage and thyme. You never cook with sage and thyme, so buying a couple bottles of dried sage and thyme would be overkill.

Instead of buying a full bottle that will go stale by the time next Friendsgiving rolls around, you can buy it in bulk and measure out exactly how much you need.

Bring the right measuring spoon with you to the grocery store. For example, if you need a teaspoon of nutmeg, bring a teaspoon along so you can measure out exactly how much is required for the recipe.

Shop at Different Stores

Start hunting for deals a few weeks before Thanksgiving so you can get the best discounts possible. Many items will be fine in the fridge, the pantry or the freezer. For example, butter, pie crust, a frozen turkey and cans of green beans will all keep until the day of the event.

You can also save even more by shopping at discount chains like Aldi or at a scratch-and-dent store. Make sure to compare prices before you buy. Sometimes it’s easy to assume that one store has better prices, but it’s always best to actually compare costs.

Compare Ingredients vs. Prepared Foods

It’s almost always more frugal to make a dish from scratch, but there are exceptions. For example, making homemade stuffing means you need to buy a couple loaves of bread, celery, butter, onions and more. If you buy a box mix, you’ll spend a lot less and won’t waste any food.

A box mix may not taste as good, but it’s better than a Friendsgiving with no stuffing at all.

 

 

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