Despite being one of the most significant monthly expenses, many people still spend more than they should. You, however, cannot kick food out of your budget; you need it to live. You just need to find ways to cut down on your grocery bills. But before you get there, you need to figure out whether you are on the right track. That is, are you spending too much on food or not?
Here are tell-tale signs your meals cost more than they should….
1. Your Fridge is Always Full of Spoiled Food
Do you open your fridge at the end of the week and throw away rotten food?
It could be because you are buying more than you need.
If you always have rotting produce, unopened jars that are long expired, or produce that is not in its original state, it is a sign that you need to cut down on what you buy. Or, you need to actually consume what you buy.
To resolve this, start by writing an inventory of what you used and what you still have fresh. When going grocery shopping, don’t buy what you still have.
So, yes, always have enough prep time before heading to the store; it will save you a lot of money.
2. You Pantry is Full of “Exotic” Spices
Many people’s pantries contain spices and ingredients they would never use again.
Throwing them away is even more painful, so many people let them expire on the pantry shelves.
You probably just wanted to try out the new Pinterest recipe, we get it.
Moving forward, before buying any ingredient or spice, ask yourself if you could reuse it in cooking something else. If the answer is no, then it means it would likely expire in your pantry, avoid it.
3. You Always Have Nothing To Eat
This is similar to having a closet full of clothes but nothing to wear. It means that you are always buying anything and everything, apart from the things you need and love. It could also mean that you are buying whatever is trendy, or tickling your fancy at the split of the moment.
Start rethinking what you buy if you always have a full fridge but nothing to eat
Often, this is because you must spend more on snacks than ingredients to prepare actual meals. It could also be because you buy ingredients for meals you will never prepare.
Don’t get carried away with recipes you know you won’t fulfill. Be honest with yourself and get what you will eat.
4. Your Social Life and Your Friends’ Revolves in Restaurants
We have repeatedly been told that if you want to save money, eat more at home and less in restaurants.
One way to know that you are spending so much on food is if you are always eating out.
We get it; meeting at a restaurant with friends is so much fun but costs more. Doing it once in a while is okay. The problem is if your life revolves around it, your food budget will always be high.
If this is a problem you are trying to resolve, you should think of creative ways to spend social time with friends. For instance, you can organize in-house cook-outs or movie nights together.
5. You Throw Away Leftovers
I was guilty of this until I found a way to eat my leftovers. Before, I hated bringing myself to repeat a meal; it did not feel right.
I have slowly started embracing it because it pays off in my attempts at frugal living.
And it is not just about leftovers at home. If I am eating at a restaurant and cannot finish what I ordered, I ask them to pack it for me.
From restaurant leftovers, I sometimes have another whole meal, fewer dishes to wash and more money to save.
6. You Reward Yourself Using Food
I am saying this because this is what I have been doing. When I had a bad day at work, I would order pizza to make me feel good. And, when I achieved something I wanted, I would go to eat out to congratulate myself.
If you use food to make yourself feel better, you should take a step back and consider how much you spend on it.
Something bad happened? Food. Something good happened? Food.
There is nothing wrong with rewarding yourself, but if you are trying to embrace frugality and save money, think of other creative and cheaper ways to reward yourself.
7. Your Budget Exceeds The US Average
One sure way to know you spend so much on groceries is to look at the national averages.
If your bill is way higher than the average, you need to get to the root of things.
According to the USDA, an individual aged 19 – 50 will spend $387.10 – $436.70 monthly on the liberal plan. A family of four with two adults and two children between the ages of 6 and 8 will pay about $1,476 monthly.
If your grocery bills are way higher than these averages, look at what makes it go that high.
8. You Never Pack Lunch
We get it; buying lunch or ordering it to your workplace is much easier than going ingredient shopping, preparing and packing it.
However, this convenience comes at a small price, which eventually adds up.
You could save over $1200 a year if you started preparing lunch at home and packing it for work.
9. You Buy Only Organic Produce
Many people pay more for organic produce because they assume the product is healthier and of higher quality.
Buying organic food is good, but is it worth it?
According to the US Department of Agriculture, organic crops are those produced from farms that have not used fabricated herbicides, fertilizer and pesticides for three years before harvesting the food. Regarding animal produce, farm animals strictly consume organic feeds and live on organic land.
Organically produced food costs 50% more than conventionally produced food.
Is it worth it?
First, organic food is not more nutritious than their conventionally produced counterparts. They only lower exposure to synthetic pesticides and chemicals that may appear in conventional food.
If you buy organic food thinking they have more nutritional value, think twice.
10. Your Shop While Hungry
Shopping on an empty stomach is a recipe for overspending your money on temporary cravings. If you go grocery shopping hungry, you are likely to buy things not because they are nutritious but because you crave that sugar rush.
A lot of times, you will end up buying food that will not satisfy your hunger. This means that you will need to get something that will fill you shortly after.
11. You Shop Without a List
Making a list before shopping will save you a lot of money. Going to the grocery store without a list often means forgetting what you cannot do without and buying what tickles your fancy at that moment.
Wandering along the aisles without a list often means you will go back home with lots of things you did not need. To many, this may mean returning to the grocery store to buy what they need. If you are trying to save money, avoid frequent grocery store visits.
12. You Don’t Plan Your Meals Before Shopping
Always plan what you will cook before you hit the grocery store. Follow these steps while planning:
- Have a list of the meals you will prepare and the ingredients you will need,
- Note down the ingredients you already have in your pantry, fridge and freezer,
- Write down the deficits, which is what you will be getting from the store.
If you plan this way, you save yourself from buying what you already have. You also save yourself from forgetting to buy essential ingredients.
Also, having a clear vision of what you will prepare helps you stick to your grocery list.
14. You Buy Out of Season Produce
Always buy food and vegetables that are in season. For starters, they will always be more nutritious as they were likely grown in their ideal location, with lesser artificial boosters.
On top of this, fruits and vegetables will be in abundance during their season. By rules of supply and demand, they will be cheaper if they are in abundance.
On the other hand, buying out-of-season fruits means they travel far to get to your supermarket or farmers’ local market and are sometimes very likely imported from another country. Therefore, whenever you pick up that big watermelon or juicy-looking mango in winter, know that they cost more not only because they are in scarcity but also from how far they came from.
Save money and enjoy more nutritious produce by getting in-season produce.
15. You Don’t Belong to Supermarket Loyalty Programs
Supermarkets’ loyalty programs are designed to encourage repeat purchases, enabling grocery stores to collect data on consumers’ buying behaviors.
These programs, however, have incentives that buyers can benefit from. Yes, you may need to make several purchases to get rewards. You can then redeem your points or rewards to help lower your bills. So, the next time your supermarket attendant asks you to join a loyalty program, do it.
16. You Throw Away Coupons
If you toss coupons given to you in the supermarket or those you find in your mailbox, you are spending more on grocery shopping than you should.
Take a few minutes and go through them before considering them junk; it will help you save some money.
Be sure to redeem the coupons in your grocery shopping. This will undoubtedly lower your grocery bills.
By Rachel Akinyi, of Flawless Horizon