Save money at the grocery store
How to feed your family on a shoestring budget
Living and serving the Kingdom of God is what you’ve been called to do. At times, it can be stretching — especially on your faith and finances. Supporting and giving to your church, missionaries or other ministries can put a strain on your family’s budget. If you’re on a “beans and rice” budget, here are four strategies to help you feed your family well and stretch those tight grocery dollars.
Stick to your weekly budget
Switch from brand names to store brands.
Resist impulse buys. Stores are designed to tempt you.
A 42 oz. container of oatmeal will serve your family 10.5 times — and is usually about $5.
Make meals that will also last as leftovers.
Clip coupons from your local newspaper or print for free from online coupon sites.
Buy fruits and vegetables that are in season.
Request that your grocer send you electronic discounts — usually offered by registering your loyalty card.
Determine how much of your family’s budget can be spent on food each week. Expert recommendations vary on how much of your monthly budget should be dedicated to food, but most agree that it should be no more than 15%. You may save about 30% on average by switching from your favorite brand-names to generic store brands, according to a Consumer Reports study. While you’re grocery shopping, keep track of the costs in your cart. Total the items in your cart — before you check out — to make sure you’re sticking to your budget.
Did you know that self-checkout lanes cut down on impulse buys by 32%? According to a study from IHL Consulting Group, self-checkouts are not as merchandised — fewer candy, gum, magazine options — as staffed lanes. They tend to have shorter lines, which reduces the length of time for temptation. Plus, you feel less obligated to purchase what you’ve already put in your cart.
Plan meals in advance
Meal planning requires a little work on the front end, but can help save you major money in the long run — minimizing waste, cutting down on impulse buys and reducing the amount of more expensive, pre-packaged food in your cart. Take inventory of the items in your pantry, refrigerator and freezer. Use your inventory as a base to create breakfast, lunch and dinner ideas throughout the week. Make meals that will feed your family more than once to maximize leftovers and allow you to buy in bulk. Also keep an eye out for recipes that freeze well. A few examples:
- Breakfast: oatmeal, casseroles, muffins or individuals frittatas.
- Lunch: fresh or pasta salads, sandwiches or wraps.
- Dinner: spaghetti, chili or casseroles.
Make a shopping list
List the ingredients or items you need, and stick to your list when you grocery shop. Impulse purchases can bust your budget. Be aware of fruits and vegetables in season and make substitutions. Produce that’s in season is cheaper than what’s out of season. For example, if a salad calls for blueberries (a summer fruit), but it’s February, you might opt for a winter fruit, like pear.
Be a savvy shopper
Stick to the perimeter of the grocery store. Fresh — and less expensive — items are along the walls. Prepackaged items are in the middle of the store and are more expensive because you’re paying for convenience. Also, shop high and low; the most expensive items are placed at eye-level, with less expensive alternatives put above and below eye-level.
When comparing prices, be sure to compare unit prices rather than total prices. Most stores have both the total price and the unit price (per package, per ounce, etc.) on the tags. Comparing unit prices will net you the best deal.
Finally, sign up for loyalty programs — most have incentives and will send you digital coupons. Check your grocer’s website for more ways to save and register your loyalty card.
Feeding your family while living on a ministry salary can be a challenge. You’re responding to the Lord’s calling and living by faith. Take comfort that the Lord hears your prayers and will provide for you and your family. “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Ps. 16:11 NKJV)