Create a Grocery Budget and Plan

Guide to Save on Groceries       Create a Grocery Budget and Plan

The best way to maximize the span of your grocery dollars is to have two things: a budget and game plan – and stick to them. This form of self management helps you overcome the urge to buy things you want, but don’t need, in times when money is tight.

Step #1: Evaluate How Much You Currently Spend on Groceries

For many shoppers, evaluating current spend is an eye-opening exercise in self-discovery. Considering how it’s impractical to buy a month’s groceries all at once, it’s also hard to determine how much we actually spend on food per month. Naturally, with cash spending on the decline and credit/debit/digital wallet spending on the rise, it’s easier than ever to track your spending by category like food and grocery purchases.

  • Start with groceries – Add up how much you spend at all of your visited grocery stores, warehouse clubs, and big box stores like Target and Walmart. Many credit cards offer category reports that’ll do this math for you, but we recommend trying one of the top home budgeting apps.
  • Then add in restaurants – Include workplace lunches and snacks, and carry out dinners closer to home into this spend count.
  • Don’t count social events – Now here’s where it gets a bit tricky – for many people, especially pre-pandemic, restaurants also count as entertainment, But this is a separate budget that also includes movie and concert tickets, parking, babysitting, travel and lodging, etc. For food-related activities like date night and social outings, leave those out of your grocery spend budget.

Step #2: Separate Wants and Needs, Staples and Indulgences When Creating a Grocery Budget

The choices you make have a big impact on your grocery budget, but also your quality of life. Balance is key – and the proper balance will differ for people based on their finances, goals, and needs. If you cut back on one area of your total budget – less dining out, keeping an older car operational, taking fewer vacations, cutting back on subscriptions, etc. – you free up money for your food budget. Evaluate what expenses you’ve already paid for, and consider which of these expenses you can put on-hold to make room for any grocery budgeting adjustments you may need to make.

A few other tips:

  1. Watch where you shop – Shoppers are getting more price-savvy, especially during times of inflation. You may get more miles out of your budget buying canned foods and non perishables at the outlet store or warehouse club, while still buying higher priced favorites like fresh meats, produce, and prepared foods at premium grocery stores.
  2. Consider product alternatives – With major brands, new brands, and private label products unique to each retailer competing for your attention, this means many product options are available at different price points. Check Ibotta for available cash back rewards that lower the risk of trying something new at higher prices.
  3. Balance prepared foods with fresh and frozen – Time is money, so there are factors to weigh beyond price when it comes to buying a ready-to-eat meal from the deli section, versus a meal you must prepare from scratch. In between, you can find fast recipes online, and many gourmet-flavored fresh and frozen entrees and sides can be quickly heated to make a delicious meal.
  4. Plan many meals from a few ingredients – Make the most out of a bag of potatoes, a bowl of avocados, or a whole rotisserie chicken by planning as many meals as possible combining a few core ingredients you have plenty of. For example, Taco Tuesday ingredients can easily lead to fiesta salads, zesty soups, and breakfast burritos for the rest of the week.

Step #3: Look for Deals

Before you set off for the store, always take a few minutes to scan for deals.

  1. Ibotta posts new deals daily on a wide variety of groceries, prepared foods, non-perishables, baking ingredients, and so more.
    1. Take advantage of “purchase limits” to stock up on items you can use or freeze before the expiration date, plus non-perishables you can stock in the pantry.
    2. Retailer websites and apps will also point you to specials you can find online and in-store.
  2. You can sometimes use these deals together so the savings add up quickly!