Laker Cents: Shop Smart: Groceries and Your Budget


Happy Friday, Everyone!

Do you know that thing where you stop at the store for “one quick item” and end up walking out with 20 things you didn’t really plan to get? Yes, me too. We’ve all been there, especially when grocery shopping. The best way to go into a grocery store is with a detailed list, on a mission, and never hungry. My mom always laughs at me when I sort my grocery list by department, but if you’re trying to save a few bucks, you need to be smart and efficient in the store.

Before you shop or make a grocery budget, ask yourself these 5 questions:

How much do I actually spend on groceries?
It’s hard to know how much money to budget for groceries if you don’t know how much you regularly spend on them. For one month, save all your grocery receipts. From one-item trips to weekly ones, keep them all together with a running total. At the end of the month, you’ll know how much to realistically budget.

Where can I cut back to save some cash?
Do you have things sitting in your pantry and freezer that you never made? If they’re still sitting around, chances are you can stop buying similar items that will have the same fate. Example: I buy frozen fruit with the intention of making smoothies. A lot of the time, I make one smoothie and then the fruit sits in my freezer for a few months getting icy. This is a waste of money, and you’d be better off buying 1 smoothie for $3.00 versus all the ingredients to make one and never do it again.

Am I buying too much?
The idea of making more than we need for the next day’s lunch or dinner always sounds like a good idea, but a lot of the time that “leftover” food goes to waste. Let’s face it, sometimes leftovers aren’t as appealing as something new. To avoid leftover waste, don’t overdo the portions you cook. Make enough for one night, and save yourself the money of buying extra ingredients to have those leftovers (unless you truly plan to eat them).

Have I planned my meals and made a list?
Ok, we all know it can be #theworst to sit down and have to think about every meal you’ll eat for the upcoming week…and on top of that, think through all the ingredients you’ll need. I hear you, but it’s proven that this tried-and-true method saves you not only money, but time. Buying your food in advance to make throughout the week eliminates all those little lunch-break trips to the store that add up to $15-25 each time. Planning meals for a full week is not realistic all the time, but even going to the store with a list for 2 or 3 meals will make a difference in the amount of money you spend throughout the month.

Did I budget in *some* money for eating out?
Eating at home, cooking from scratch, and avoiding the grocery store except for once a week…well, that works for almost no one. Eating out with friends, enjoying date night, and splurging on takeout or an unnecessary item in the store is what keeps us human. Just plan for it! Add an extra amount into your budget for “fun and eating out” if it’s something you plan to do.

Lastly, keep these little tips in mind:

  • A deal is not always as good as it looks. Some coupons coax you to over-buy or get only specific, expensive brands when you could choose something for cheaper.
  • Store-brand items often contain the same exact ingredients as name-brand ones. It’s a marketing head game, but it all tastes the same.
  • If you want to know exactly how much you have to spend and have no choice but to stay within budget, go to the grocery store with cash only. You’ll remain more conscious to what’s in your cart.

For more smart grocery shopping tips, you can find lots of articles online. Here’s a helpful article on grocery-shopping tips from to power your next trip to the store!

Enjoy your weekend – I’ve got takeout budgeted in for tonight!

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