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5 Ways to Buy Groceries on a Budget

Karen Cordaway

Have you ever felt as if your grocery spending was out of your control? As though you were rolling the dice each time you checked out? Having a plan before you grab the shopping cart can put you back in control and on budget. Here are five ideas to help:

1. Have a set amount of what you can spend per week.

For example, if you know you have $400 to spend per month on your food budget, that's roughly $100 a week. Whether you shop once or twice per week doesn't matter, as long as you stay within your spending limits. Just be sure to only spend the amount you allotted per week. Do what works for you to stay on budget. Some people swear by making purchases in cash while others use credit cards to track their spending.

Ideally, I like to shop twice a week and divide my weekly amount in half. I can buy fresh fruit that won't end up in the garbage can by the end of the week. I like to meal plan for two to three days in advance. If I know I'm going to have a busy week, I'll just shop one time and meal plan according to how much time I have to make or just prepare dinner. This way I can eat what I'm in the mood to have.

2. Make sure you are eating what you think you are eating.

Shop armed with good nutritional information. It takes all of the guess work and confusion out of the many options available. You can better navigate the shopping aisles and deceptive advertising. Be sure to find good sources for what to buy and get what you pay for while shopping.

3. Write your list once.

After researching, jot down the trusted name brands along with the regular items you need to buy weekly like milk, bread, eggs, and whatever else is a frequently purchased item in your home. Put them all on a checklist. You can print the checklist out and put it in a page protector or type it on your phone. This way you're not reinventing the wheel or list every week. We all have certain items we buy every week, so why keep writing the same list over and over? A checklist saves you time and energy, too.

4. Make an approximation station.

A checklist can also save you money. Keep it in a set location so all members of the household can access it. Write estimated prices of the items you are going to buy next to each item on the checklist. It can serve a dual purpose as a "price book," too. Use this as an informal price book to guess how much you will spend. You won't have to pull numbers out of thin air. This way you will have an estimate of what you will spend before you even enter the store. Keeping the information on the checklist will make it available to you week after week, as well.

5. Set up a simple inventory control.

Once you're out of food, write it down. Keep inventory control to a minimum by writing down items you run out of as soon as they are finished. So if you are running low on cereal or finished the whole box, be sure to write it down right away or make note of it on your phone. You can also stay on top of needed items with apps like Ziplist, Meal Board, Food on the Table, Love Food Hate Waste and many others.

How do you control your grocery spending?

Karen Cordaway is a teacher, website owner and writer who currently teaches personal finance to children.

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