You have decided your grocery budget needs an overhaul? Or maybe you never really had a proper grocery budget and you want to get started, but don’t know how?

Creating a grocery budget is a delicate affair. From impulse, hunger buying to under- or overestimating the amount of grocery you will need to last you the week, it can get extremely disheartening and overwhelming.

You want to take charge of one of your greatest monthly expenditures, because there is room for improvement, you just don’t know how or where to start.

You can rest easy. Below I have listed 5 steps to give your grocery budget a spruce up that will help you save money and get organized.

1. Track your Spending

Before you can start creating a grocery budget you need to know what you are dealing with in terms of your weekly and monthly grocery spending.

So, to start off, continue what you are doing regarding the groceries, but make sure you save your receipts and figure out the total amount spent in a month.

Jumping in with both feet first, creating a budget out of thin air can be frustrating. You may miscalculate, go grocery shopping halfway through the week again and end up spending more than you originally would have, if you had stuck to your regular shopping routine.

2. Determine your Budget

Once you have figured out the amount you spend in a month on groceries, you can use that number as your baseline grocery budget amount.

If you feel that this number is way too high for your liking and you could definitely cut some of the items you buy each week, good for you, but do not make any drastic changes to your budget yet, as you are just starting the trial and error period of figuring out your budget.

Let’s say,  you have noticed that you are spending $600 a month on groceries. Make that number your baseline budget and use it to adjust your grocery spending habits gradually.

With time you can work on lowering your budget as you get more comfortable comparing necessities with treats.

3. Make a Meal Plan

This step is essential when you want to take control of your grocery spending and ultimately start saving money.

It is a bit time consuming, but worth every minute, trust me. 

Designate 10 minutes once a week to figure out what you want to eat for the upcoming week (ask your family for any special requests, if you have a spouse and children).

Mark on a calendar what meal is planned for what day.

Then take stock of your pantry and fridge. What hasn’t spoiled yet or is on the verge of expiring? What do you need to buy fresh and what canned goods do you still have that could make a good side dish?

Make a list of every ingredient you need to buy to cook the agreed upon meals for the week ahead.

If you are new to the concept of weekly meal planning, this can be jarring and overwhelming, but fear not. Soon you’ll have a routine figured out that will work for everyone.

After years of making weekly meal plans I have come up with some signature dishes that I like to cook every week. So, it has become very easy to make that meal plan. Every few months I’ll change it up to add some variety.

This type of meal planning adds an element of predictability and stability to your grocery budget.

4. Shop Sales

You know those grocery store flyers you get every week? If you are like me, you probably take them out of their recyclable plastic bag, recycle the bag and use the flyer paper to line your rabbit’s cage floor.

But before you do that check out any deals the grocery store may have. This might not be at your customary grocery store, but sometimes items go on sale of brands and products you buy on a regular basis at other stores. It is certainly worth a look.

And, of course, take a look at sales that are happening at your grocery store while you are shopping. The meal plan may say beef roast for Sunday, but what if the Atlantic wild salmon is on sale? It is an easy swap that may save you some money.

A few other ideas to keep your grocery bill from being too high are having water with your dinner. If your stomach can handle still water, a great way to save on water is by buying a Brita filter (also very good for the environment).

If soft drinks/pop is an absolute must with dinner, consider buying the 2L bottles, they are usually a bit more economically priced.

And decide if wine with every dinner of the week is necessary. One glass of wine with each dinner will add up to seven glasses in a week. A 750-ml bottle of wine, which contains about 25.4 ounces, gives you approximately six glasses of wine with each being a little over 4.2 ounces per glass. 

But let’s be realistic, most of us pour more than 4.2 ounces of wine into our wine glass.

Also, check out the store brands equivalent to your go-to brands, you’ll be surprised by how similar they are and sometimes the store brand’s version has less ingredients than the brand name product.

5. Rewards Programs

Who doesn’t like getting rewarded for shopping at their favorite store or a store they visit weekly?

Find out, if your grocery store has a rewards program in place. Hopefully they do and you can collect points that add up to a certain dollar amount off your next purchase.

I never believed in those rewards programs until I paid attention to how quickly those points add up and before I knew it, I could get $10 off my next grocery bill.

Things To Keep in Mind

I want to mention a few things to keep in mind when managing your grocery budget and meal plan that could save you some headaches and frustrations along the way:

Seasonal Produce

When you try to buy seasonal produce out of season, you may end up spending much more than when it is in season. 

So, account for that when you plan on buying fresh fruits and vegetables in the middle of winter and adjust your budget accordingly.

Type of Grocery Stores

Depending on which grocery store chain you visit, the same items can be more expensive in chains that have a more “prestigious” reputation.

It is best to get all of your groceries at your regular store, where you know the prices than popping into the grocery store near your work downtown that needs to charge more, because of their higher commercial rent.

Dietary Restrictions

It is kind of alarming how many people (including yours truly) have some sort of dietary restrictions, food sensitivities or allergies.

If you are one of them, you understand how difficult it is to go grocery shopping and to save on groceries. We are already so restricted in what we can eat that there is no room for adjustments in dinner choices, even when the price of beef went up by a significant amount.

It is either pay more or don’t eat at all.

Cook in Batches

If there is a great deal on buying something in bulk, it is a good idea to take advantage of buying a bit more to cook a big batch at once.

You can always use the leftovers for lunches and freeze portions for quick and easy dinner options when you run late or have evening plans lined up. It’ll save you the temptation of eating out.

Final Thoughts

I have to admit creating a grocery budget is one, if not the hardest budget, of them all. 

Prices constantly change and when that hunger kicks in and I’m still at the store, all resolutions go out the window.

It’s tough. It takes a lot of planning and willpower to see through, but we are in this together and the end result are more organized meals, potentially healthier meals and more money left in your pockets for savings and debt payments.

It just takes some patience, but you got this.

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