We’ve all heard this sage advice: “Don’t ever shop for groceries on an empty stomach.”
It’s doubly true if you’re trying to cut costs in the face of inflation.
Plan-free grocery shopping can lead to mindless or even rushed, frantic purchases that drive up costs and don’t align with your health and fitness goals.
I’m sure you’ve been there: Your fridge is empty and you’re pressed for time, so you rush to the closest store and just start tossing items in the cart. You don’t look for items on sale, you don’t check prices at other stores, and you don’t pay close attention to quantities. You definitely grab a few things you hadn’t planned to buy from prominent displays.
- You spend more than you want to.
- You leave with high-calorie “convenient” items you don’t actually need.
- Your “anything goes” choices aren’t matched to your fitness goals.
- You buy too much food. This will drive up your costs if it spoils before you eat it or it will derail your fitness plan if you overeat to avoid waste.
Perhaps better advice would be this: “Don’t grocery shop without a plan.”
With a solid plan, you can make choices that support your healthy habits and reflect your budget. No mindless shopping, no food waste and no overspending.
The absolute best way to maximize your savings is to plan your meals for the month. This might seem daunting at first, but it’s actually simple: You can just reuse one week four times or you can swap some recipes in and out of a weekly template if you prefer variety. Every planned meal is going to help you with your budget.
With meals on the calendar, you can break down your grocery shopping into two manageable pieces: monthly buying and weekly buying.
Frequently used ingredients should be purchased in bulk at discount stores. These are the items that show up in many meals and won’t not perish if they’re stored properly.
A few examples: oatmeal, pancake mix, condiments, egg whites (keep an eye on these—they don’t last forever), canned food, frozen vegetables and fruit, and so on.
You can also look at buying meat in bulk if you have freezer space. Then package smaller quantities in freezer-safe bags that reflect the meals you’ll make in the month. Just make sure you plan for the week in advance: Get the frozen meat into the fridge ahead of time so it can thaw for cooking!
Some of these “monthly items” might even be purchased every other month if they’ll keep for a long time. And if you have a family member or friend who is on the same nutrition wavelength, you might find opportunities to make even larger purchases that reduce price further. You’ll then split the food—and cost.
Costco and wholesale-club stores are often great places to save money on monthly purchases.
Here’s an example—we’ll use common non-perishable items for simplicity even if we might not advise you to consume these exact foods in bulk:
Ketchup at a premium store might cost $4.49 for 1 L. But the exact same ketchup can be found at a wholesale club in a two-pack of 1.25 L containers. The price breaks down to $4 for 1 L, so you’ll save about $1.22 with the bulk buy.