Shopping for Food on a Tight Budget

Annette Bromley By Annette Bromley, 14th Mar 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Money>Shopping

Shopping and staying within our budget is not always easy but it can be done. Here are a few suggestions that may help you.

Shopping for Food on a Tight Budget

We all have to eat but it doesn’t have to break the bank to enjoy good meals that everyone likes; still and all, going to the grocery market lately with the prices soaring almost daily up and up can make you cringe and almost lose your appetite.
It can be frustrating and stress you out.

You have the rent or mortgage to pay, utilities, taxes, insurance payments, maybe other bills as well; fuel for your vehicle and that is another nightmare. You have medical expenses, educational expenses and maybe pets to care for; you still need to try and put at least a little aside for the unexpected like the water pipe that breaks or the window that gets broken, and Johnny needs a new pair of shoes: And you still have to buy groceries, not only the food you will eat but personal care and home care items. You want the meals to be healthy and appealing so your family will eat them and you want them to have enough. It is a problem. It is becoming a major problem that is probably going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better. How can you handle and solve this ever growing problem?

We all need to tighten up our food budget but it is probably one of the most difficult areas in our budget to keep under control. Even as a single household I find buying good food becoming more and more of a challenge in today’s economy but I still need to eat healthy and I still want to enjoy the foods I really like. It is still possible but it does take some doing and a bit of a change in habit.

I have to work a little harder to manage my budget and it takes more planning. I have had to learn to sort out my need from my wants and fill the need first. I have had to learn to think ahead and plan ahead. We need to learn to think before we shop and avoid impulse buying. Impulse buying is the biggest budget breaker we will ever face or have to contend with. Here are a few hints that may help.

Avoid impulse buying. Don’t go shopping when you are hungry. Before you go shopping have a little something to eat or go right after you have just eaten a meal. You will put less in your shopping cart. All those things that have been arranged on the shelves to be eye catching, tempting and ever so appealing won’t be as appealing or tempt you as much if you aren’t hungry. You won’t be so quick to toss them in your shopping cart. Avoid temptation. When you go shopping, go in, buy what you need to buy and get out. The longer you wander the isles and hang around the store the more tempted you will be to buy things you don’t need and didn’t come shopping for. Avoid impulse buying. It will cost you.

Stay within your budget. Take a calculator or a small notepad with you and keep a running total. Buy on sale when possible but only those items you need and the brands that you like best. If you don’t like the taste you aren’t going to eat it and it is a waste; and you have to pay someone to haul the rubbish away. And remember, a sale is not a sale unless you are profiting by the purchase, unless it is something you really need, like and will use within a reasonable amount of time. The same item will be on sale again in approximately two weeks. That is how the market works. They are out to get your money and they do; so if you don’t need it and you aren’t going to need to use it within a two week time frame, leave it on the shelf.

Use cents off coupons where you can but only use coupons on items that you would normally buy and use. Saving ten cents or even a dollar off a box or bottle of laundry soap just because it saves you a few cents is foolish if that brand doesn’t do the job or leaves you feeling itchy. Stick with the coupons for the brands that work best for you. And be careful of those tow for one, buy one get one free sales. Check the label. You may not really be saving ounce for ounce or pound for pound. Check the weight and check the ingredients. Be sure it is what you really need and want. If it is not, leave it on the shelf. It is not a good deal. Don’t buy it.

Shop in more than one store, if the stores are within a reasonable proximity to each other, and buy where you can get the best deal but it is only a good deal if you aren’t spending all you might save in gas money to get there. If you have to travel 20 or 30 miles to go shopping for a good deal you will probably save more by shopping close to home. No matter how fine tuned your vehicle may be it is chomping a whole lot of bucks out of your budget unless you need to go the distance for other reasons as well.

Make a list and discipline yourself to stick to that list. You can do it. Plan your meals ahead for the week or the month, however you shop and buy only that which will fill the needs for that planned venue. Remember you will still have to have enough left over after your major shopping to buy more of the real perishables like milk, fresh produce and bread; foods that get used up quickly and spoil quickly if bought in large quantities. You aren’t saving anything if it spoils before you use it.

Try to buy in bulk when possible but only if you have enough and the right storage space to prevent spoilage. It is not a good deal if you have to throw out half of what you purchased because it spoiled before you could use it up. Shop wisely. Buying in bulk will usually save you a few cents or even a few dollars but only if you have proper storage. Quality over quantity is still a good rule of thumb in most cases.

When you have finished shopping take a minute to check your receipt before you leave the store. Be sure you haven’t been charged twice for an item, scanners and people make mistakes. Check that you were really credited for the cents off coupons you used and that items purchased on sale really rang up on sale. If there is a mistake fix it right then. It only takes a few minutes but it could save your food budget and a lot of stress later.

When you get home take proper care of your food. Don’t freeze in bulk and re-wrap. Don’t freeze in the wrappers you purchased your food in. Your food will keep longer and those wrappers weren’t meant for food to be frozen in. Once you thaw that ten pounds of ground beef or chicken, fish or hot dogs, you need to use it all then. You can’t refreeze it and it will spoil overnight even in the refrigerator once it has been thawed. You need to cook it, all of it. So, when you get home divide your bulk purchase into portions you will use at one time before you freeze it.

Plan a cooking day. You can make it a family project and it can be fun. Today so many of us end up eating in shifts because of our work schedules or other schedules that have to be met. Instead of buying the pre-packaged meals in the grocery store that are very expensive per serving and loaded with all kinds of preservatives including lots of salt and sugar and will in time make you sick, make your own and package them up into individual meals and then freeze them. Be creative and make it a fun day. Your meals will be healthier for you and gee-whiz; it is a home cooked meal even if you thaw and reheat it or zap it a week from now. And, you will actually be saving money and time and be eating healthier. Learn to cook.

There are a lot of ways you can save. Cook only what you are going to eat so there is not a lot of food left over to be shoved back into the refrigerator and then tossed out because no one bothered to finish it up and it spoiled. You can even make your own snacks and a lot cheaper than you can buy them pre-packaged.

And one final hint; cut down on the portions. We all eat more than we need. Learn what a portion is and cut back on those in-between meal munchies. Most of the time when we think we are hungry what we really are is thirsty and bored from doing the same thing for too long a period of time. Take a break, get a drink of water and move around for a few minutes, get some fresh air. You will eat less so you will spend less and you will be healthier for it.

Shopping for food on a tight budget isn’t easy but it can be done. No one likes to have to give up quick and easy or pass up those special fun foods we all toss in our shopping cart and pay way too much for. We are living in tight times, face it. Tight times means we need to take tight measures. We can do it. It is all a matter of making a few adjustments, changing some not so good habits for better ones and learning to use some good old common sense. You know what you have that you can spend. You know what you need to buy. Plan ahead and plan wisely and then stick with the plan. You can do it once you set your mind to it.


Coupons, Food Budget, Groceries, Impulse Buying, Sales, Shopping

Meet the author

author avatar Annette Bromley
I'm Annette Bromley, also known as GreenMtnWriter at Twitter and I love to write, share my thoughts, my hopes, my faith and my nearly 70 years of learning and living with others. I live in Vermont

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author avatar jvaughan
16th Mar 2011 (#)

Very good advice Annie! After reading this article I was reminded of many things my wife has been talking about for some years now. I have only one thing to add. If you are responsible for planning the grocery budget and have someone who is anything like me in the house, keep them out of the store!!! :)
All kidding aside, this is sound advice and very important to follow.

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author avatar Rose*
25th Nov 2013 (#)

You can save a lot if you cook from scratch and eat cheap but filing foods like lentils

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