Aside from housing, groceries can be one of your biggest monthly expenses. After the pandemic, we saw increased production costs for food producers, supply chain delays, severe droughts in some parts of the world, and even a significant increase in grocery prices due to the war in Ukraine.
The rising cost of food makes it more important than ever to know how much you’re spending on groceries each month and decide whether adjustments should be made. Once you know where you stand, there are some practical ways to save money that you can take advantage of the next time you go to the grocery store.
Here’s what will be covered in this article:
- suggested grocery costs per month
- Tips for Designing Your Grocery Budget
- How to spend less on food and groceries
- How to be strategic with rewards credit cards
suggested grocery costs per month
food plan from USDA (July 2022) Provides guidelines on how much households should spend on groceries. The recommendations consider the cost of a nutritious diet for many families. It considers income, gender, age and family size. You may find that you spend more or less depending on your location or dietary preferences. These numbers provide a good starting point for a grocery budget:
For a family of four in 2022, your spending on groceries should fall between $875 – $1,287 per month.
You can also view your recommended grocery spending based on a percentage of your income. Try and aim to spend no more than 15% of your take home pay on food and groceries.
Tips for Designing a Grocery Budget
As many of us have experienced, being disciplined at the grocery store can be tough. One way to tackle the challenge is to create a grocery budget. Budgets help you stick to spending limits, be more disciplined with your shopping list, and use your dollars wisely. If you go into the store knowing you can only spend a certain amount, it sets the tone for a more disciplined shopping trip.
Here are some tips for preparing a grocery budget:
- Know what you buy in a typical month. During an average month, take note of what you’re buying each week. What are your requirements? what are your indulgences? Does any food go to waste at the end of the week? Write everything down and note how much you spend each week.
- Eliminate non-essential items from your list. After you have a good understanding of what you currently buy, decide what can be removed. Maybe it’s alcohol, snacks or some perishable food item that you never get enough of.
- Set a limit on your monthly spending. Once you have a better idea of what you are currently spending and what you can end up with, you can set a reasonable spending limit. Instead of buying whatever you want, choose a dollar amount based on your income, your location, the number of people in your household, and your overall savings goal.
- Practice Makes Perfect. If you don’t stick to your budget perfectly the first time you go to the store, that’s okay! Over time, you’ll find ways to refine your list. You may also find it easier to let go of things you used to splurge on.
Ultimately, how much you spend on food is up to you. But if you want to save in this category, set a dollar amount and stick to it.
How to spend less on food and groceries
Here are some easy ways to save when you shop.
For many of us, when we’re hungry, the best-laid plans go out the window. It’s easy to find yourself eating out at lunch again, making impulse buys in the grocery cart full or taking out spoiled food that you didn’t get to eat. One way to avoid running out of grocery bills is to plan meals in advance.
Do this by deciding which meals you want to prepare for the week, then make a shopping list. This list will keep you focused and less likely to buy a duplicate of something.
Get creative with what you define as dinner two or three times a week. Make scrambled eggs and pancakes one night, choose a vegetarian meal and skip the expensive meat, or whip up a simple BLT sandwich. Dinner doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. It’s a fun challenge to see what you can make with only a few inexpensive materials.
pack your lunch
There’s no doubt that packing your own lunch is less expensive than eating out every day. This requires extra planning and preparation, but once you get used to it, it can lead to significant savings. Not only do you spend less at restaurants, but the groceries you buy yourself may be less wasted.
Use store loyalty programs
Most grocery stores have a free store rewards program that offers bonuses, discounts, and even gas points as an incentive for your loyalty to their store. These members-only discounts are automatically deducted at checkout which means you don’t need to clip coupons.
When you’re shopping, pay attention to store discount items and choose them over regularly priced items. You can use these discounts when you order groceries online or through the store’s app.
Save time and money by cooking bulk meals and freezing them. Write down all of your family’s favorite foods and spend a day making several batches of them at once. Not only do you maximize ingredients in multiple dishes (therefore maximizing your dollars), you spend less time thinking about what to make for each dinner.
View Price Per Unit
The item that costs the lowest isn’t always the best value when you calculate the price per unit. Paying attention to unit pricing is a great way to determine the best deal. This allows you to compare two similar foods packaged in different sizes.
This helps you understand what you’re getting for your money and which size or variant of the item is the best deal.
How to be strategic with rewards credit cards
One popular way to maximize the dollars you spend at the grocery store is to use a rewards credit card, These cards offer cash back, points or miles on every purchase you make. This means that in a high-spending category like groceries, your dollar is working hard and smart for you all year long.
Some credit cards offer a welcome bonus and low annual fees. Let’s say your family spends about $5,000 on groceries each year. If your card also earns 5% cash back on grocery store purchases, that would total up to $250! However, remember to consider other costs associated with your credit card, such as annual fees.
Rewards Card Types
There are many types of rewards cards and you will want to choose one that maximizes the categories you use most, as well as your preferred method of redemption. There are several major types of rewards cards:
Earn a percentage cash back on every purchase you make with the card.
Earn a set amount of points per dollar spent. Redemption options vary by card issuer so be sure to read the terms and conditions.
Earn miles for every dollar spent on a select airline. Additional rewards are typically awarded on travel-related purchases.
No matter which rewards card you use, you’ll get more value on your purchases than if you use a cash or non-rewards credit card. Be strategic in deciding which card you swipe at the grocery store.
Adopting a few new habits is enough to see some savings at the grocery store. Knowing your spending, creating a budget and using rewards credit cards to your advantage will all help you reach your savings goals. When you spend less at the grocery store, you free up dollars to pay down debt, invest in the future or even give up cooking and going out to eat occasionally.