How to Make a Small Grocery Budget Stretch

How To Make A Small Grocery Budget Stretch

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Are you looking for ways to help keep money in your wallet even after the dreaded trip to the grocery store? You’re not alone. Most families are living with a small grocery budget these days, making it challenging to get the groceries needed to get through the whole week.

However, there are a few tricks that can help you still purchase what’s absolutely necessary and save you money at the same time. Here’s a closer look at how you can stretch your money every week while grocery shopping. I’m updating this post due to the significant increases I’m seeing in food prices, and the need to find ways to save wherever possible.  

How to Make a Small Grocery Budget Stretch

How To Make A Small Grocery Budget Stretch

Take Inventory of Your Pantry

Taking inventory of your pantry gives you a better idea of what food you actually still have on hand. You might even be surprised by how many meals you can still scrape together.

Doing so also helps you realize what you’re out of and what needs to be replenished. It might even give you a good idea of simply grabbing one extra ingredient from the store to help make a complete meal. What you don’t want to do is get to the store and buy things on impulse.

Be sure to make a list and stick to it, unless you’re reminded of an item or two that you’ve overlooked when putting your shopping list together. 

Diligently Search the Ad Flyers

While Aldi is typically the cheapest grocery store to shop at if you have one in your area, you can still catch even better deals if you search the ad flyers.

Yes, this might mean you are now considered a cherry-picker customer that has to shop at more than one grocery store during the week, but hey, that’s what it takes when you have a small grocery budget. Just don’t end up spending more on gas than what you’ll save on the cost using that ad. Use common sense when visiting multiple stores in your efforts to save money.

Shopping the ads could save you hundreds of dollars during the course of the year, depending on the size of your family, the types of foods you usually buy, and how efficient you are when using the ads.

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Go After Mark-downs

Are you a bargain shopper? Going after the manager’s specials in the meat department, or other perishable food departments can help you get some great deals for a fraction of the original retail.

Have in mind that these foods need to be eaten fairly quickly to ensure freshness and the best quality. 

Buy the Generic Brands

Do you usually settle with the name brand potato chips and national brand for a gallon of milk? The generic or store name brands are usually just as good, in most cases.

Here’s a little secret. A gallon of milk sold under the store name is in most cases the same milk sold under the national label because of a contract they have with the national milk producer. This secret can apply to many generic brands and can save you a chunk of money each week. 

Don’t Buy Regular Retail Goods

Try to stick to items that are discounted or you receive in your weekly mailbox grocery sales flyers. Try to avoid purchasing regular retail items that you are sure to find on sale at another retail store for much cheaper. 

Shop Alone

Shopping alone can be crucial to help you stretch out your budget. You don’t have all the distractions from kids fighting or begging for that candy bar or costly brand of cereal. Also, you’ll be less likely to accidentally grab hot salsa instead of the mild version you want as an example of mismanaging the various items purchased during your shopping trip.

We’ve all had children who have a tendency to beg for their favorite sweets and sugary cereals and other food items that can increase the bill quickly. 

Don’t Shop Hungry

Everyone has heard this line before, and it’s true. Don’t shop when you’re hungry. Everything tends to look good when you are hungry, and before you know it you’ll have a grocery cart full of junk well outside your budget. 

Make Meal Plans

Making meal plans is one of the best ways to help with your budget shopping. It helps you find common ingredients in meal plans so that you can use them when making a number of different meals.

It also helps you from tossing meaningless items into your cart that can be skipped. Most of us are tempted to buy things we want but really don’t need. If you shop based on what is needed to complete the weekly menu plans you’ll be surprised how much can be saved and how the family will eat more healthy meals.

Stick to the List

Now that you have the meal plan on your list, stick to it. Don’t pick up those impulse buys that are so tempting. 

Look for the Value (Cost per Ounce)

Be a smarter shopper by reviewing what the cost of the item really is. Most retail stores have a cost per ounce on the price tag to help you compare brands and package sizes of similar foods. Pick up the one with a lower cost per ounce to save extra pennies. 

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Buy More Lower Priced Proteins

Buying low-priced fatty proteins such as eggs, beans, and rice, are a great way for making meals go further. They are not only a cheap way to go, but more filling at the same time. 

Drink More Water

Choose to drink more water out of a Brita or water filter. This can keep you from purchasing not only cases of water, but drinking more water each day instead of soda pop and juice that you really don’t need to be drinking.

Drinking more water also fills you up faster and keeps you from eating more food than you should.

Buy In Bulk

Do you have a large family? Buying in bulk on certain non-perishable items can save you a lot of money too.

Buying big bags of rice and beans will save you far more in the long run, than buying smaller amounts at the regular retail stores. There are a number of other bulk items that are great for stretching out your budget.

Properly Store Leftovers

Make sure that you store your leftovers in sealed containers and bags to help food last longer and help keep their flavor and nutrients intact. 

Freeze Meat Immediately

If you buy meat that you know you won’t be eating over the next day or two, freeze it immediately so you don’t end up tossing it out. You can always de-thaw meat and other frozen foods when you need them for that planned meal. 

Buy From Local Farmers’ Markets

Do you have a local farmers’ market? Make that extra stop and take advantage of some great prices on super fresh produce, meats, and milk.

If you head there towards the end of the day, you can usually bargain with vendors for better prices. It’s also great for the environment and the local economy to support these food suppliers.   

Grow a Garden

You don’t have to get all your vegetables at the grocery store. How about growing a little garden for some of your basic vegetable needs? Not only will it save you money, but it will be fresher than what you would find at the retail store. We love the fact that we seldom buy any tomatoes during the summer, they come right out of our garden!

Know Appropriate Portions

Setting the same portion of food in front of your kids that you’re eating is going to waste a lot of food. There’s such a thing as getting seconds if they’re still hungry.

The same goes for yourself. Most Americans will admit that they overeat. Stretch your food into leftovers for another meal. It not only can save you money, but can help maintain that slim waistline.

Free Printable Grocery List

Grocery List from Food Storage Moms

Final Word

These are a number of ways to make a small grocery budget stretch further. If you’re living on a tight budget yourself, what other ways do you use to stretch your money when grocery shopping? I’d love to hear from you and share your ideas with my loyal readers. May God Bless this world, Linda

How To Live On A Minimalistic Budget

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    1. Hi Janet, this is the best tip ever! If we can teach others how to cut their grocery bill and cook from scratch we have done a good a deed for the day. Then hopefully they will teach others. Happy Friday, Linda

  1. Linda,
    Like you mentioned marked down meat is a great bargain. I have been able to buy bulk
    hamburger for 99 cents a pound just by buying marked down meat. So hamburger that was 8 or 9
    dollars is very cheap. I grab them bring them home and break down and put in freezer.
    I also look at the weekly ad’s, I went to Walmart to buy Toilet Paper and the prices were
    out of sight. I needed some so I bought 4 roll pack for almost $4.00 then in this weeks ad for our local
    grocery store they had a sale for Buy 5 items get $5.00 off. A package of Toilet paper for 12 rolls was
    6.99 so I bought 3 packages. Another item I got was 2 big bottles of dish soap for 1.99. After I was
    done they took a dollar off each item. So Toilet paper was 5.99 and soap was 99 cents. I was happy
    and I got items I needed, saved money AND have stock ahead.

  2. The biggest things that saves me money are: 1) knowing what is in the pantry and fridge/freezer and 2) making a meal plan based on what I have first then based on the weekly ads.

    That being said, since I don’t have a garden nor a place to grow my own veggies, I shop the farmer’s market and a local fruit/veggie market. Sometimes the prices are more than I want to pay, but at least I know I am getting fresh.

    1. Hi Leanne, you are so right on this! If we make a meal plan after assessing the pantry, freezer and the ads, life is so good! I wish we had a decent farmers market here. Great comment, Linda

      1. Linda ~ At least you have a space at your home to grow some veggies! My patio garden here at my apartment did not do so well! You know I purchased grow boxes and they did pretty well for herbs but my tomato, cucumber and lettuce did not do well at all! Would have loved to have a salad garden at least!

          1. Thanks, Linda ~
            I really need to figure out how to grow what I want in the boxes I already have. I put too much money into these 3 boxes and they do great for the herbs. I am thinking that the fertilizer that they sent with the boxes was not the right fertilizer, though. I did not use that fertilizer on the herb plants as the “ground” covers have the fertilizer built in. So, next growing season, I plan to purchase my own fertilizer and try again. Will see if I can get some lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and of course, herbs growing well enough to sustain me and make these boxes cost effective.

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