Gas prices are soaring, inflation rates have reached record highs, and the amount of money I spend on groceries is seriously insane (when did ground beef get so expensive?!?). Or it was, at least, until I made a few little changes to my shopping habits and saw a big difference in savings. While the following tips aren’t necessarily groundbreaking, they did save me roughly $155 on my grocery bill and that’s not small potatoes. Here’s what I did.
1. I stopped using Instacart
I used to get all my groceries delivered through Instacart, and as a single mom it was easy to justify this as a worthy, time-saving convenience…until I realized I was getting fleeced, that is. Of course, the obvious extra expenses associated with this are a) the delivery fee and b) the tip you pay to the driver. But it’s so much worse than that, friends: I’m talking about major price inflation on individual food items. This is not true of all grocery stores on Instacart—the platform has preferred partner stores with regular prices, but my beloved Wegmans isn’t one of them; I recently compared my in-store and online bill and literally every item I purchased through Instacart was $1 to $2 more expensive. (Case in point: A family pack of sockeye salmon was $26 in-store and $28 online.) That might not seem like a whole lot, but when you’re talking about a 30 to 40 item shopping list, those extra dollars start to add up.
Money saved: $80
2. I started eating vegetarian 3 days a week
I love meat. I love it so much that I previously thought that no dish was complete without it. However, meat is pretty expensive…and it turns out my family can enjoy a meal without it—yes, really! I usually make my picky kids their favorite spaghetti Bolognese once a week, but when I served them pasta with red sauce and cannellini beans instead, the bowls were cleaned. Now I have an arsenal of tasty, protein-rich vegetarian recipes I rely on for three days of the week and the end result is a lot less money spent on meat. (Psst: Cutting back on meat is better for the planet, too.)
Money saved: $25
3. I started doing one big shop instead of many little ones
Doing one big shopping haul every two weeks instead of multiple trips throughout the month has saved me a decent sum of money, probably because the more times I shop, the more likely I am to make impulse buys (more on that below). Another possible explanation? Knowing that I’ve finished shopping for the week means that even if I run out of an ingredient for dinner (say, soy sauce for a veggie stir-fry), I just make do without it. My meal may not taste quite as good, but the money saved sure does. (Tip: Worcestershire sauce makes a decent soy sauce substitute). And as an added bonus, I’ve also saved time by not having to run out for a handful of ingredients every day.
Money saved: $20
4. I made a list and stuck to it
I’ll admit that I am guilty of having Champagne taste on a beer budget—and for me, the grocery store is a den of temptation. Prior to this experiment, I would go to the store without a shopping list—namely because I never really needed a list to help me remember the essential items. The problem is that without the accountability of a shopping list, I was liable to walk away with some pretty pricey gourmet fare. (Hello, truffle butter and triple creme brie.) Now, I make a weekly meal plan—breakfast, lunch and dinner—and draw up a grocery list consisting solely of the ingredients required to make those meals. Yes, it takes a herculean effort to resist all the little luxuries and stick to the list (sorry, halibut, the list says cod), but I’ve saved a ton of money by doing so.
Money saved: $20
5. I shopped alone
Truth be told, I try to avoid grocery shopping with my kids at all costs. Sometimes, however, it just can’t be helped. And despite my best efforts to get in and get out as fast as possible, when I have two hungry/tired/bored kids in tow, I often end up appeasing them with stuff we don’t need (oh hello, yogurt covered raisins). By shopping solo, I’m able to stick to my list and only purchase the essentials.
Money saved: $10