There are plenty things you can cut out of your life in order to create a budget, but food is not one of them. You need to eat and you need to eat right in order to live a healthy and productive lifestyle. The situation is only compounded by the fact that as you get older, a proper diet becomes more of an imperative. Binging on Ramen and Arizona Iced Tea is easy when you’re 19, but not so much when you’re closer to 28, so when you go to the store you’re going to need to keep your eye out on the right fuel and plenty of it.
Your goal is to get as much food as you can. How can you accomplish this without breaking your bank?
- Buy in bulk. Why spend more money on several trips to the store when you can get your necessities for several weeks with one trip? A 25 lb bag of rice at Costco may cost you $19.99, but you’ll not be starving anytime soon with that much rice in your pantry. Consider the amount of money it costs to eat out or buy junk food and you’re looking at a huge bargain.
- End your snack food life. Never walk down the snack aisle again. It’s dirty filthy territory filled with junk your body does not want, and your budget cringes every time you spend $4.50 on a box of sweets instead of $2.50 for a pound of fruit. If you have a diehard sweet tooth, then learn how to bake cookies and cupcakes. Not only is it cheaper in the long run, but you’ll be picking up a craft.
- Create a food budget. At the start of each month, put an envelope somewhere you will remember it and write ‘food budget’ on it. A good place to put it might be somewhere next to your usual shopping list. Remind yourself to put all of your grocery receipts inside the envelope. At the end of the month, you can track how much you’ve spent and see where any accommodations can be made to your budget.
- Create a grocery list. It bears repeating, research typically shows that those who avoid impulse buying typically save over 20 percent when they go shopping. If your grocery receipts are upwards of $120, then that’s a lot of money you can set aside for something else.
- Subscribe to your local markets for exclusive deals! When a grocer asks if you’d like to become a card carrying member, go with it. Every time you pass by an advertised sale exclusive to card members, you’re passing by savings. It gets better; when you become a member of a mailing list, you’re opening yourself up to coupons that may never reach the local paper. Ask your clerk if there is an email listing with exclusive deals to get in on the savings.
- Save on fruit and veggies. Although you’re definitely taking steps in the right direction by buying fruits and veggies, you may find that you’re spending more than you need to on fruit packs when you can just go for whole fresh fruits. A pound of apples may not cost more than $1.25, whereas a fruit pack might go over $3.50. Secondly, shop seasonally when it comes to buying fruits and vegetables. You’ll pay more for food when the period for its growth spike has passed its peaks. You can find a detailed list of fruit and veggie seasons here.
- At the grocery store, it’s acceptable to always look down. Why is that? Because merchandisers have taken careful planning to ensure that you are always looking at the expensive products in the top and middle shelves. Name brands and popular products are stocked at eye level. Cheaper goods are stored below where you’re not likely to see them unless you take this advice! Keep your head down out there, your bank account will thank you.
- Don’t pay for someone else’s mistake! We all know that retail shelves can be a bit inaccurate. Price tags are put in the wrong place. Items are thrown into the wrong area. People come and go across those aisles all day and they mess up whole rows. When you get to the cash register make sure you’re paying attention when your cashier rings an item up. If an item does not ring up at the expected price, then inform the cashier. Usually, they will let you get away with the item at the price advertised on the sign.
- Feel for your meal by the deal. Do you usually buy food by whatever you’re in the mood for? Most people do, but you’re doing it all wrong if you’re trying to save. Plan your meal based on the advertised sales at your local grocery store. You can afford the luxury of eating whatever you want whenever you want some time in your later years, but for now, you’re trying to stay afloat and need to curb your appetite.
- Debate the weight. Get into a dialogue with yourself over the weight of your purchases. An item for $7.25 might cost more than an item for $6.99, but are you buying more ounces with that purchase? Take a chance on a slightly more expensive item if it bears more weight.