Thrifty Living: Six Steps to Thrifty Groceries

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The average American household spends about an eighth of its annual budget on groceries.

That’s a lot of money, and with the economy still sputtering, a lot of military families are trying to cut down the size of their monthly food bill.

So here are six simple ways for you to cut down on how much you spend at the grocery store:

Set a monthly grocery budget

Use your budget as a guide, and don’t exceed it. Set regular shopping trips and figure out a limit for each trip so you can avoid those pricey impulse buys.

At the end of every month, sit down and go over your budget and how much you spent. Pay attention to what’s pushing you past your limits. There’s also no shame in coupons. Over time, they can save families a significant chunk of change.

Write out a weekly menu

Planning ahead what you’ll cook through the week can save you money and help you eat healthier. It can also help focus the money you’re spending on groceries so you’re only buying what you need and wasting less food and money. Make sure you’re planning meals that fit within your budget.

Make a shopping list every time you go to the store

Having your list firmly set down on paper before you walk down aisles of tempting, pricey foods will help you cut costs by keeping you on track. Try to make your lists store-specific. Some stores may carry certain items at a cheaper price than where you might usually shop. Buying generic items in bulk is also a great way to maximize that list.

Buy seasonal produce

Saving money and buying fresh fruits and vegetables may seem mutually exclusive, but that’s not really true. Seasonal produce can be very cheap, especially the staples like corn, beans and greens.

Cook enough to make several meals, and don’t waste anything

Cooking less often but in larger quantities will save you a lot of time. Cooking blog Casual Kitchen estimates that it only takes 1.2 times the work to create 2 times the food. Time is money, and that’s definitely some big savings.

Maximize the leftovers by making sure you eat every last serving. If you get tired of a particular dish, try reinventing it.

Give yourself a break now and then

Nothing can kill a plan like leaving no leeway or room for error. Splurge on a dinner out with the family or buy a tub of ice cream that’s not in the budget a couple times a month. Don’t lose discipline, just let yourself breathe once in a while.

Photo courtesy Janine