One major bill that comes up for everyone trying to reach FIRE is groceries. If you’re single, it’s probably not that high, but if you’re married and have several kids it can really get expensive. I know our bill was really high before we starting tracking our spending with Mint and Personal Capital.
Saving Step #1, Pick the Right Store
The #1 thing you can do to save money is to change where you’re shopping at. If you’re shopping at Whole Foods for everything, it’s going to cost you way more than Walmart. My wife and I figured this out about a decade ago when her trips to Target for groceries would very high but the amount of food we got was low compared to what I thought we should be purchasing.
How can you tell where to shop at? I would recommend just seeing how expensive the top 10 things you buy are at all the local stores and then picking the cheapest of the stores. For instance, frozen pizzas. These should be standard and the same across all different store brands. Milk is another thing that almost everyone buys. Cereal too. In my area, Walmart, Target, and Price Chopper are the major grocery chains, and Walmart is way cheaper than the other two on almost everything (especially pop).
Saving Step #2, Go Generic
Go more generic with your food choices. Instead of buying the name brand stuff, go with the generic cereal in the big bags, it will save you a ton. Same with almost everything else like cheese, juice, chips, etc.
There will be some items where the generic stuff just won’t cut it, usually pop for most people. But there might be some stuff that you like the generic stuff even better that than the ‘real’ stuff, like Honey Nut Cheerios for me. I actually prefer one of the generic brands to the name brand on that particular item.
Saving Step #3, Utilize Grocery Pickup
Utilizing grocery pickup with make a big difference in your budget and your time. Instead of wasting hours every month in the store, you can just have it delivered to your car (or home). The biggest benefit I see on this is that most people when shopping in the store have a tendency to buy too much extra fringe stuff (like junk food). The groceries don’t seem to end up lasting any longer than normal, plus on that of that you’ve probably eaten less healthy as a result too.
We’ve started doing this from Walmart and it’s made a huge difference in our budget and our time. No longer are we shopping on the weekend for groceries, we just pick them up whenever convenient
Saving Step #4, Use a Cash Back Credit Card
If you’re spending $500 to $1500 a month on groceries then getting a really good cashback from your credit card would be a pretty good idea. Depending on where you shop, 1% all the way to 5% might be possible. You might ask, where can I possible get 5%? Well like Target has the red card for 5% off. Target doesn’t have the greatest prices, but if it’s your best option, 5% back it a pretty big chunk of change coming back.
The 4 steps above are the best ways I know to save money without actually changing what you eat that much. If you really want to save money you could totally change the way you eat in order to save. For instance, things like Ramon Noodles are dirt cheap compared to most meals. Sandwiches are also cheap. If you’re a person that can eat about anything and be happy, then it’s quite possible to reduce your expenses a decent amount that way. It’s kind of like the way most people ate in college, basically buying the cheapest stuff all the time because they didn’t have the money to buy anything more expensive.