How to Slash Your Grocery Budget by Changing Your Mindset

How to Slash Your Grocery Budget by Changing Your Mindset

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Tips for saving money on groceries by changing your mentality about grocery shoppingDo you ever leave the grocery store feeling deflated and defeated because the trip has left a larger hole in your wallet than you would have liked?

A few months ago, that was happening to me nearly every week.

I knew I needed to cut my grocery bill, but for some reason I just couldn’t make it happen. I was so attached to the way I did my shopping—in terms of the types of products I’d buy and the way I went about the trip—that change was tough. Really tough.

Eventually I realized that I couldn’t just show up at the grocery store and hope this time would be different. That wouldn’t work because the problem had more to do with my overall mentality about grocery shopping than it did with my wallet-related willpower.

Once I changed my way of thinking, I was finally able to exit the grocery store feeling victorious—and holding a significantly smaller receipt in my hand.

Cutting Your Grocery Bill: Old Thinking Versus New Thinking Tweet this!

Old thinking: I need to eat the same foods week after week.

New thinking: I can be flexible in my dietary habits in order to buy whatever is on sale this week.

On my old blog I used to visually document some of my meals, until I realized how incredibly boring it was for readers. Why? Because I ate the same thing every day, over and over again!

Doing so wasn’t just monotonous, it was also expensive. Buying the same foods without regard to sales can be rough on your budget. Keeping an open mind—and altering your meals based on the weekly circular—will please your taste buds while also helping your bottom line.

Old thinking: Convenience foods are fun!

New thinking: Convenience foods are too expensive.

Baby carrots are cute, but regular carrots are cheaper. Individual snack packs are handy, but larger quantities are way more economical.

For those of us who are time-strapped (and honestly, who isn’t?), the lure of convenience foods can be almost too tempting to resist. But if you really want to save some dough, know that you can do so by investing your time to chop those carrots or divide those pretzels into baggies yourself.

Old thinking: I must have these staple foods, even though I know they’re pricey.

New thinking: What used to be staples are now special treats.

I used to eat a Larabar every single day of the week. It was my staple afternoon snack. But even though Larabars are super healthy and beyond delicious, they’re also upwards of $1.50 each. That can add up really fast!

So I changed my mindset and started considering Larabars to be a special treat I could enjoy once or twice each week instead of daily. Making that mental switch with a few pricier foods can make a real difference in your grocery budget.

Old thinking: Buy it.

New thinking: Make it.

I know this isn’t always possible for those of us trying to juggle a million obligations and responsibilities at once, but it really is a great way to keep your food healthy and natural without paying through-the-roof prices. My beloved Larabars are a perfect example, as there are tons of homemade Larabar recipes out there.

Old thinking: I must go grocery shopping every week.

New thinking: I can go grocery shopping every other week.

A few months ago I switched to bi-weekly grocery trips because I was just too busy to make it to the store more often than that. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise for my grocery budget, because suddenly I was actually using all the stuff buried in my pantry instead of buying new items over and over again! There were cans of beans and bags of rice hidden back there and I had no idea.

Grocery shopping less often is a great encouragement to actually use the items you already have.

I realize this doesn’t work well with fresh fruits and veggies, which are an important part of my family’s diet. We try to visit a local farmer’s market or produce stand to stock up during the off weeks (and we still save money because we’re not buying nearly as much as we would during a regular grocery store trip). We’re also big fans of frozen fruits and veggies.

What’s your best tip or strategy for saving money on groceries? Have you made any of the mindset shifts I have? 

image via Sodanie Chea

38 Comments

  1. Tara Newman
    Jun 25, 2014 @ 07:18:34

    Katie – great perspective. I love how you approached this from a change in mindset and not about finding cheap product. I shop at Farmer’s Markets and Trader Joe’s to save money.

    Reply

    • Katie
      Jun 25, 2014 @ 09:00:47

      I used to live close to a Trader Joe’s, and I miss it so much!

      Reply

  2. Wendy
    Jun 25, 2014 @ 09:44:38

    Our food budget is $200 a month for 2 adults, 1 toddler, and 1 in utero kid. I’m adding $50-75 to it this month, as the teen son will be here for almost all of August.

    We live in the ocean boonies. Beautiful, serene, inspiring, and… pricey (at least 25-30% more, often 50) at the lone grocery store.

    To make it work….

    1. Understanding what each person likes and needs to eat, plus comfort items.

    1a. We buy whole chickens when they are 99 or 79 cents a pound and scavenger the sale meat area.

    1b. Coffee is a must for my hub, so we stock up. Wine is from IT’s and used sparingly or with clam linguine.

    2. We have a food storage base, choose from that, and purchase weekly fill in foods (e.g. vegs not from our greenhouse).

    3. Amazon Prime. Sometimes food is cheaper on Amazon and it beats driving to a grocery store. (Especially in winter winds and rain!)

    4. Trader Joe’s. Our nearest is 1 hour away. We stock up each time we drive through. We also use TJ’s for a lunch stop, as it’s cheaper.

    5. On Lara bars, you can make your own. Dates are about $4 at TJ’s. I’ve been using these as a substitute…
    http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2010/07/17/recipe-chocolate-torte-with-whipped-cream-and-chocolate-sauce/

    6. Bake and cook in bulk. I make 2-4 meals a month that are eaten twice and frozen. The meals cost little and the leftovers = future lunch and dinners. We’ll add on bought biscuits, etc for soups.

    Reply

    • Katie
      Jun 25, 2014 @ 15:30:14

      Awesome tips, Wendy! Thanks so much for sharing! We have Amazon Prime but haven’t used it too much for food items. I’ll definitely be looking into it more.

      Reply

    • Lindsie
      Aug 01, 2014 @ 16:35:28

      That’s so much money! I feed our family all organic meals for $85 or less – 2 adults and 1 kid that eats for two!

      Reply

  3. Sarah @ beauty school dropout
    Jun 25, 2014 @ 10:00:52

    I once made the mistake of letting my son eat a Larabar… now EVERY MORNING he begs me for a bar. As a pre-breakfast snack! No way can I afford that. I usually keep the freezer stocked with muffins and homemade granola bars that he can eat, but my supply has dwindled due to a busier schedule and a baking fail. Hopefully I can find some time soon to restock!

    Reply

    • Katie
      Jun 25, 2014 @ 15:28:52

      Stocked freezers make life so much easier!

      Reply

  4. lisacng @ expandng.com
    Jun 25, 2014 @ 14:21:39

    I meal-plan around what’s on-sale, and try to use coupons when I find the time to find and print them. I try to buy store-brand but my husband doesn’t like it. Oh well, I just hide it in cooked foods :).

    Reply

    • Katie
      Jun 25, 2014 @ 15:09:43

      Whenever I come across a good coupon I am never near a printer. And I always forget to do it later!

      Reply

  5. tamaralikecamera
    Jun 25, 2014 @ 15:44:14

    I think we go every other week! Our problem is we go when we’re desperate and not when we’re comfortable but needing food. This is bad and we do wind up spending too much.

    Reply

    • Katie
      Jun 25, 2014 @ 16:00:45

      I hadn’t thought of it that way, but it makes sense that if you’re too desperate for food you’ll end up reaching for EVERYTHING!

      Reply

  6. Shila
    Jun 25, 2014 @ 16:15:11

    I have found a few bent & dent stores that help me to save tons of money! I also check the food selection at Ollie’s (I found organic Heinz ketchup there last week for .89 before hubby’s employee discount!). The only downfall to this route is you can’t count on specific products, but it’s a treasure hunt if you have the time!

    Reply

    • Katie
      Jun 25, 2014 @ 16:29:43

      Thanks for sharing, Shila! That goes back to the whole flexibility thing. Love seeing pics of your sweet boy on FB!

      Reply

  7. Jodi
    Jun 25, 2014 @ 22:58:53

    This is a great post, Katie. We are spending more, but buying BETTER quality (no high fructose…etc) and instead we are trying to stretch portions…etc. I am buying WAY less processed foods and unfortunately that is mostly what you will find coupons for. I follow our regular brands on FB for savings. I do an “Ad Compare” each week because they match local competitor pricing! And we planted a small garden!

    Reply

    • Katie
      Jun 26, 2014 @ 08:08:21

      These are wonderful tips, Jodi! Thanks for sharing! We also use coupons very sparingly because we don’t buy a lot of processed foods.

      Reply

  8. Jill Beckwith
    Jun 26, 2014 @ 08:45:14

    I have been trying to change my grocery shopping mindset to using FEWER coupons. For years I would go to the store with a stack of coupons for things that were great deals with the intention of stocking up. But the last time I cleaned out my pantry I was appalled at the amount of stuff we had and were wasting. (Turns out we use very small amounts of condiments and they do, in fact, expire.) Now I have given up on the whole idea of stocking my pantry and I mostly only use coupons for things we use regularly that I would be buying whether or not I had that coupon.

    Reply

    • Katie
      Jun 26, 2014 @ 16:42:53

      I like that approach a lot. I’m embarrassed to admit how much stuff I’ve had to throw away because we didn’t use it before the expiration date! It’s sad.

      Reply

  9. Chelsea
    Jun 26, 2014 @ 15:11:01

    Great post! I try so hard every month to stretch our grocery dollars… The biggest things that help me with that are meal planning, using cash, and just staying out of the store! We budget a certain amount each month for groceries, but I try to challenge myself towards the end of the month and see how much I can save! It turns into a fun game that way! 🙂

    Reply

    • Katie
      Jun 26, 2014 @ 16:41:19

      I love that! I enjoy a good competition with myself, so that strategy would probably work well for me.

      Reply

  10. Rabia Lieber
    Jun 27, 2014 @ 08:28:39

    This sounds backwards, but I shop without a list. We buy 3-4 fresh fruits and veggies based on whatever is on sale that week. I stock up on staples that are on sale and then I go through the meat department and buy what’s on markdown. Then when we get home, I make a menu based on what I found. The key is that I don’t particularly care what we eat, as long as it’s food.

    Reply

    • Katie
      Jun 27, 2014 @ 12:22:20

      That’s pretty awesome, Rabia. I think I might go crazy without a list, but I can see how it really helps you stick to whatever’s on sale. You must be a clever cook, too!

      Reply

  11. Rachel G
    Jun 28, 2014 @ 07:15:58

    We’ve started pushing our grocery shopping to every two weeks (right now it’s been 15 days since last grocery trip) and that has really saved us money! We also like the fresh produce but now I’m more strategic–I make meals involving all of the fresh produce during the first week, and then during the second week we rely on foods that have a longer shelf life–rice and beans and frozen veggies. It saves us a lot!

    Reply

    • Katie
      Jun 30, 2014 @ 09:09:49

      Ohhhhh that’s a great idea! Thanks for sharing!

      Reply

  12. Bev
    Jun 28, 2014 @ 08:05:14

    I definitely like the idea of grocery shopping every other week! I’ve been doing more meal planning, which I think has helped a little bit. I think my biggest problem is buying everything at Whole Foods. The produce there is so good and it’s so much more convenient to just go to one grocery store, but it really adds up there. I need to get back into the habit of going to Trader Joe’s more for staples and going to Whole Foods or the Farmer’s Market for produce. Stopping by from Sharefest!

    Reply

    • Katie
      Jun 30, 2014 @ 09:08:48

      I used to have a serious Whole Foods obsession. I had to force myself to cut back and only buy things there that I truly couldn’t find anywhere else. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply

  13. Nicole @ uglygreencouch.net
    Jun 28, 2014 @ 08:43:30

    I used to operate under the false assumption that name brand is better. Now I buy mostly off brand or store brand products. I also shop at stores like Aldi that are short on frills and pass savings on to the customer.

    Reply

    • Katie
      Jun 30, 2014 @ 09:07:55

      In many cases I honestly can’t tell the difference between big brand and store brand.

      Reply

  14. Rebecca Reid
    Jun 28, 2014 @ 09:34:22

    These are great tips. I’ve really been struggling with grocery budgets, so I know this will come in handy.

    Reply

  15. Jennifer Johnson
    Jun 28, 2014 @ 10:39:13

    I am terrible about stopping by the grocery store all of the time!

    Reply

  16. Topaz @ The Art of a Beautiful Life
    Jun 28, 2014 @ 15:58:41

    Love the every other week idea. I think it might force you to look a little closer at what you do have in your pantry or freezer. Great tips and enjoyed reading the comments, too. It’s nice to meet you! Glad I found you on SITS today! Have a beautiful day!

    Reply

    • Katie
      Jun 30, 2014 @ 09:07:18

      Glad we found each other virtually! Looking forward to connecting more.

      Reply

  17. Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom
    Jun 29, 2014 @ 16:55:34

    What great tips and such a fabulous post!

    I agree with a lot of your tips.

    We menu plan and I “shop” the cupboards, fridge, and freezer first before I make my menu. This really helps me keep my grocery bill low.

    I also changed my mindset. I used to shop at Save-On-Foods on the first Tuesday of every month because they offer 15% to members but our grocery bill would always be over $200. I decided to skip the discount Tuesday the last couple of months and my monthly grocery expenses have been almost $200 less!

    I have a fabulous clean eating granola bar recipe on my blog if you ever want to replace those larabars!

    Thanks for sharing (and for linking up to the SHINE Blog Hop).

    Wishing you a lovely evening.
    xoxo

    Reply

    • Katie
      Jun 30, 2014 @ 09:05:12

      Love the concept of “shopping” your own kitchen first. And I will definitely check out that recipe!

      Reply

  18. Christine Carter
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 08:58:49

    These are absolutely spot on! I honestly only shop the sales!! And my kids know that ‘if it’s not on sale, we don’t buy it”- unless we are totally desperate for a staple. (eggs, milk etc)

    I refuse to waste our money on something that will be cheaper in a few days or weeks- then I stock up when it’s on sale! I would guess you can save hundreds of dollars a year doing this.

    Reply

    • Katie
      Jul 01, 2014 @ 09:28:55

      “If it’s not on sale, we don’t buy it.” That’s a great philosophy I am going to start teaching my little guy right now!

      Reply

  19. Maureen
    Jul 09, 2014 @ 08:30:46

    The arrival of grocery flyers used to paralyze me. Too many choices, too hard to search out the best bargain. We just started the once a month grocery shopping experiment! Our first monthly shopping trip was yesterday. It took only 2 hours and we are $140 under budget!! (That includes putting away $100 for weekly trips to farmers market for fresh fruit and veggies!)

    Reply

    • Katie
      Jul 09, 2014 @ 08:36:01

      That’s amazing! Very impressive and inspiring!

      Reply

  20. Lindsie
    Aug 01, 2014 @ 16:36:42

    This is awesome! I love saving money on groceries! E-mail me, we seem to have the same mindset – lets see what we can do to make our blogs grow!

    Reply

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