According to the USDA, the average monthly grocery budget in the United States range from 12.4 to 33 percent of a household’s total income. That’s almost half of your earnings going to food and household needs. But the problem is, that budget is sometimes still not enough to cover everything, and you probably wish you could stretch those dollars without putting more of your income towards groceries. Here are some smart and easy hacks to help you do just that:
Always take stock of what you have.
Grocery stores and supermarkets are designed to entice customers to buy more, and if you go there without a clear plan, you could end up with a cart full of products that you don’t really need or want. If you want to stretch your grocery dollars, always take stock of what you have in the pantry and fridge before grocery shopping. If you have items that will expire soon, plan meals that use these ingredients so you don’t waste them. From there, work your way towards creating a grocery shopping list composed of ingredients that you will need to cook for the rest of the month’s meals.
Find value in bulk buying.
Buying in bulk is one of the best ways to cut down food costs, but only if you do it right. Stock up on items that don’t spoil easily like canned goods, spices and other non-perishables. The trick here is to only buy those that you use often to avoid wasting money. Here are five picks from food experts:
- Cinnamon: This spice lasts up to two years and can be used for a wide variety of dishes including batters, soups, stews, oatmeal and baked goods.
- Olive Oil: If you use olive oil or other types of oil frequently, it’s smarter to buy a huge bottle to save money. Just make sure to store it in a cool, dry place to keep the oil from going rancid.
- Rolled Oats: This is breakfast staple and can also be used for desserts and even savory dishes, and if stored properly, it can last for one to two years.
- Lean Ground Beef: Meat is one of the most expensive grocery items, but you can buy lean ground beef in bulk because it can be used for a lot of preparations. Just divide the meat into portions and freeze to make it last longer.
- Canned Crushed Tomatoes: You can use canned tomato products in a lot of dishes including meat sauce, chutney, chili and lasagna, so it’s smart to stock up on them.
Learn the wonders of online grocery shopping.
If you haven’t tried it yet, you should start buying groceries online, especially if you’re trying to stretch your budget. For one, online grocery shopping lets you shop from a wide range of stores in your area so you can easily compare prices. You can also cut down on gas and parking fees because your groceries will be delivered right at your doorstep. Of course, you can take advantage of exclusive discounts for online shoppers. Visit mercato.com to see how online grocery shopping works.
Cut down on those empty calories.
If you look closely, the least nutritious foods are some of the most expensive. This includes snack items like candies, ice cream, chips and soda. Yes, you’d like to have them in the pantry for those movie nights and late night cravings, but if you’re trying to save money, it’s best to find healthier alternatives that still do the job of taming your hunger.
Eat breakfast for dinner every once in a while.
Breakfast items are some of the cheapest on your list, but they’re packed with nutrients and tasty, of course. So, why don’t you try eating breakfast for dinner every once in a while? You can make pancakes, eggs and fries or bacon and oats once a week at just a few dollars, and your family will surely love it.
Stretching your grocery dollars isn’t really that hard. With these handy hacks in your arsenal and with a few more smart tricks to learn along the way, it won’t be long until you find the right formula to making your grocery budget work best for you.