Autumn: the season of the harvest moon, Halloween haunts, and best of all… Thanksgiving. Whether preparing a holiday dinner or everyday meal, you want to keep your family well-fed and your grocery bills manageable.
With U.S. households spending thousands of dollars per year on groceries, and food prices steadily rising, finding ways to trim your grocery budget is more important than ever.
You don’t need to be a food-shopping expert to find the best deals. But it does take some planning to stay within budget. Check out these easy tips to help you start saving:
- Reimagine Your Thanksgiving Feast
Enjoying time with friends and family is a highlight of the holidays, and it often happens around a table. Here are some ways to eliminate the extra stress and expenses that come with hosting your Thanksgiving get-together:
- Have a potluck and invite guests to bring their favorite dish.
- Look for lower-cost recipes that feed a crowd.
- Shop your freezer and pantry, then build a meal around ingredients you already have (and already paid for).
- Set Your Budget
Determine a realistic food budget based on your monthly income and expenses. Knowing your monthly grocery budget makes it easier to set your weekly spending limit, so you can plan your shopping list accordingly.
Tip: If you need help staying within your budget, monitor your costs by using the calculator on your phone to add up each item, rounding up prices to the next dollar. By slightly overestimating costs, it’s easier to stay well below what you’ve budgeted.
- Make Time for Meal Planning
Before your big weekly grocery run, decide what you’ll be cooking each night of the week. This helps you avoid running back to the store for missing items, and you’ll be less likely to buy pricey prepared foods or get take-out. Check your grocery store’s circular or website for weekly sales to simplify on-budget meal planning.
- Shop for Off-Brand & Bulk Items
Most off-brand products are just as good as the name-brand variety. While paying more for certain brand name products might be worth the cost, choosing generic for other products can save you 20% to 30% or more.
Also, look for savings opportunities by buying in bulk online or at a wholesale club, particularly for items your family uses a lot of, nonperishable items, and paper products you can store in the basement.
- Stick to Your List
Impulse buys can inflate your grocery bill fast, especially when you’re hungry. Flashy displays on endcaps and in the middle of the aisle can also make deals more tempting. If you find you frequently buy too much at the store, consider ordering your groceries online. Online order pickup and delivery are available at many grocery chains and can be a great way to save time, stick to your shopping list, compare prices, and avoid overspending.
- Buy In-Season Produce Strawberries in November? Sounds great – until you see their price. Stick to fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season to keep costs down. Canned and frozen produce are also a low-cost option, and they help minimize food waste due to spoilage.
- Shop With Cash or a Low-Interest Card
Shopping with cash provides automatic budget protection, since you can’t buy more than your cash will pay for.
During the holidays, a low-interest credit card can also be a convenient way to pay. This helps you make fast, secure purchases that won’t leave you stuck with a sky-high APR if you have to carry a balance for a few months.
See What Works for You
Of course, your food-buying needs and monthly grocery budget will depend on your family, your finances, and whether you’re hosting your extended family for Thanksgiving. But with a bit of planning and some of these shopping tricks, you and your family can eat well while keeping your grocery bills lower.