Ever since I originally posted about my "grocery game," I've been trying to find even more ways to cheap out on foodstuffs without resorting to ramen noodles and canned beans. (I am not one of those people who is okay with living on canned goods. I once planned to make chili one night, and then cried in front of my crock pot because every single ingredient was canned.) I want to eat cheaply, while still preparing tasty food that is somewhat decently healthy.
We both like to have snacks around during the day, so we've been buying crackers and fruit cups in bulk to save money long-term. Unfortunately, those one-big-purchase expenditures cut into our monthly food budget, which is why I find myself having to cut back even more on some weeks to stay under budget. But never fear. I make it work. Here are my new! improved! tips!
Cut out meat.
I know it sucks. Matt and I both like meat, a lot. But you know how it costs like $9 for a package of chicken breasts, or $4.98 for lean ground beef, or $12 for a pork tenderloin? Sometimes you can't have meat hacking away at your total. So some weeks we have meat once or twice a week instead of every day.
If you don't have a preference, buy sale items.
Most of the time my grocery list has things like "bread" and "fruit for lunches" on it. While I admit to being a little picky about bread, occasionally I will buy cheaper types if it's a really good deal. (Like, $1 or less.) But fruit? We really don't care what type of fruit we're eating, I just want to make sure we get some. So I look in the circulars to see what's on sale, and only buy the sale stuff.
Take couponing a step further.
I signed up for the Ibotta app on my phone. Ibotta gives you a list of products they currently have coupons for, and then you take little polls or answer trivia questions to "earn" your coupons. Once you've earned a coupon, and you've purchased the item, you scan in your receipt and the product, and it sends the "saved" money to your Paypal account. It's more like saving money on the backend, like rebates, sort of. I like it because you can double up coupons really easily — the other day I bought lunch meat that was on sale for $2, down from originally $2.48, and then I used a $0.35 coupon at the store, then Ibotta got me another dollar off once I scanned my receipt in. So yeah, I got sliced turkey for sixty-five cents. (You can sign up here. Disclosure: Ibotta will credit me $1 if you click and register.)
Compare between aisles.
I've noticed this on SEVERAL different shopping trips, but my grocery store has the same items (of different brands) on multiple aisles, and the items have different prices on different aisles! I can find canned black beans in the International aisle, but they're cheaper in the Rice/Beans aisle. Alternatively, the other day I was looking for rice vinegar, and it was $3 in the Condiments aisle but only $1.50 in the International aisle. Never accept a first offer! :)
Shop your pantry.
I don't usually make the same meals week after week (I like trying new things and mixing it up!), but a lot of times that means going to the store and buying every ingredient I need for a new recipe, regardless of whether I already have ingredients for another meal already in the pantry. So when I do the meal planning, I've started taking an inventory of what needs to be used up and what we have in the pantry, and base my meal plan off those things. That way I only have to buy three or four items max for a given meal, which has dramatically reduced how much I spend on actual meals. (Yes, at some point I'll probably have to re-stock the pantry, but a lot of coupons for canned stuff involve buying like four cans or something, so I always have a rotating stock of stuff to use.)
How do you stick to your grocery budget? Have you discovered any cool new ways to save?