A student (or a family) on a budget has to find way to earn more money and cut costs. I’ve been focused on paying off my undergraduate loans before I attend medical school (where I’ll end up with thousands of dollars of debt). I am lucky that my fiance and brother-in-law/roommate handle a great majority of the bills. I pay for our horrendously expensive homeowner’s association fee, as well as weekly groceries. To feed my fiance and myself (and occasionally my brother-in-law), I budget $100 per week in groceries. That’s not a lot of money when you think about it, but it is much easier to feed two people on that budget than eating meals out daily for $8 or more per meal. Here’s what $100 of groceries looks like for me.
Tip #1: Make a Grocery List
Planning for meals is what really makes this work. I buy my usual groceries (staples we eat on a regular basis) and account for meals I’m planning to cook that week. If I can buy some things in bulk (like the $5 spinach pictured above) I will try to pick multiple recipes that utilize that ingredient.
Tip #2: Only Buy Extras on Sale
Stick to the list as best as you can. I do, however, recognize that sometimes asparagus is on sale for $1 per bundle. Or that you’d really like to try those new chips. Sometimes I’ll be walking down the aisles and go “oh bread flour! I was going to make those cookies!” and grab it. It’s best to give in to this urge rarely and only if the item is on sale.
Tip #3: Use the Store’s Coupon Apps
I am in love with my Safeway app. If you’re not super freaked out about privacy, download it and digitally coupon before every trip. In the Safeway app there are 2 sections, weekly coupon and “just for you” based on what you regularly purchase (see- privacy). I’m pretty good at remembering the brands with coupons, so I’ll buy, for example, one brand of butter with a coupon over another.
Tip #4: Supplement Store Coupons with Manufacturing Coupons
That annoying spam mail you get in your mailbox every week? Full of coupons! I stand over my recycle bin and toss out the stuff I don’t need, then clip coupons for the items I regularly buy, especially hygeine products like deodorant. As long as they aren’t expired, you can hand them to the grocery store cashier for a little more off.
Tip #5: Buy Bulk Elsewhere
There is no reason for me to buy toilet paper from the grocery store when I can get a larger package for a better price at Costco. Paper products (like paper towels, toilet paper, etc.), batteries, and cleaning supplies I buy in bulk only every once in a while. P.S. If you don’t have a Costco membership, I’ve heard you can get in with a giftcard!
BONUS: Save money on gas with your grocery store reward points.
I had 14 points the other day, mostly due to my coupon app. That’s $1.40 off of gas at the Safeway gas station or Chevron. Fry’s partners with Circle K. A little extra savings never hurt!
I hope these tips help you. Maybe you didn’t know your grocery store had an app! Maybe making a list will help curb your tendency to pile your cart with too many extras. Do you have tips to share?