How many times have you checked out at the grocery and were surprised by the total? It’s easy to let our grocery bill get too big if we’re not careful. Yes, food prices have gone up for certain items lately, and we’re making more meals at home now than eating at restaurants, but there are ways to keep that expense under control.
· Figure out how much you can reasonably spend on food. Financial advisors suggest spending no more than 10% of your income after taxes on food. That includes the supermarket as well as restaurants. If you want actual figures worked out for you, check out the USDA’s website for food plans based on averages for four levels: thrifty, low-cost, moderate, and liberal plans.
· Make a shopping list. There are many grocery shopping apps available. Find one that fits your needs. These help you create digital shopping lists, including some that offer digital coupons. If you prefer going old school, make your list with a pen and paper and post the list on a board in your kitchen. As you run low on items, put them on your list. Then, when it’s time to shop, stick to that list and try to avoid impulse buying.
· Use reward programs. If you use a major retailer, the store will likely have a store reward program. Make sure you sign up for it to get store discounts and coupons. The store may even have its own shopping app.
· Consider ordering online. Not only does it save you a trip inside a store during the pandemic, it also keeps a running total of your expenses before you check out. If you go over your shopping limit, you simply take certain items off your list to bring down your total. Ordering online can also lessen impulse buying.
· Buy only what you need. Avoid buying anything simply because you have a coupon or because the store offers a bulk discount. If you can’t eat 2 bags of salad greens in a week, a “buy one get one 50% off” offer will simply fill your garbage can with wasted food.
Keeping your food expenses under control is easy with a little planning. The digital tools available makes this even easier. The hardest part will be controlling your impulse to reach for a sweet treat before checking out, and for that, you’re on your own.