How to Stretch Food Budget at the Grocery Store

Figuring out your food budget is one thing, but what is next? Stretching it, that is what. Here you are going to learn expert tips I have learned over the years that apply to how to stretch your food budget at the grocery store.

Fitting for the times, right? While grocery prices are on the rise, I feel like most of us are trying to figure out how to limit food waste and make the most of the grocery budget.

Well, I got you!

Keep reading for practical ways to stretch your food budget including how to come up with your food budget, how to get into waste-reducing meal planning, and how to use last night’s dinner leftovers for next day meals.

grocery bags with groceries

Feel like you’ve already tried it all? Trust me, I have been there. 10 years ago stretching my food budget was one of my many ways for figuring out how to make ends meet. 

Over the last ten years I have, for the most part, figured it out. From what works to what doesn’t, I have tried it all and this post will surely save you a lot of time when it comes to figuring out different ways to save money at the grocery store.

Feeling a bit lost as a whole when it comes to budgeting? Feel like it’s a nightmare? You might just love what I have come up with to help people just like you.

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Other posts you might like…

How to Figure Out Your Food Budget

So, you’re in the groove of figuring out your food budget – awesome! First things first, take a peek at your monthly cash flow. 

Subtract those fixed bills like rent and utilities to unveil what’s left for the flexible stuff, including your food budget. 

Once you’ve got that number, focus on the must-haves in your food budget, like groceries. 

Toss in a pinch of your lifestyle and food preferences, making sure to set aside a bit for those unexpected surprises. 

Having a small buffer gives your budget some wiggle room for anything unexpected that might pop up.

What is a Reasonable Amount to Spend on Food Per Week?

Now, let’s chat about breaking down that food budget per person. Each member of your crew has their own unique needs, right? 

Kids, adults, and those with particular tastes may need a different budget slice. 

Decide if you’re a weekly planner or more of a monthly shopper, depending on when the cash hits your pocket. 

Don’t forget to sprinkle in some extra for special occasions or events that might shake up your spending. 

Make sure to be open to tweaking that budget over time. Life changes, and so should your budget to keep things real and effective. 

How to Stretch Your Food Budget

1. Buy Cheap Foods

One of the key strategies to stretch your food budget is opting for cheaper yet wholesome food options. Learn how to be frugal!

For instance, consider buying a whole chicken instead of pricier chicken breasts. 

Not only does it save you money, but you can use various parts for different meals. 

Cheaper cuts of meat are always a good option!

Look out for store brand products – a store brand can of beans is just as nutritious as its fancier counterpart but comes at a lower cost. 

Embrace frozen fruits and vegetables, which are often more affordable than fresh ones and have a longer shelf life. 

Don’t shy away from exploring discount sections in your grocery store for deals on items nearing their expiration date. These are usually at the back of the store and you can find some great things. 

For example, if you are needing some bread for pasta night, check it out because usually the bakery over bakes and there are some cheap loaves back there!

These small shifts in your shopping habits can significantly lighten your grocery bill without compromising on the quality of your meals.

2. Keep Your Pantry Stocked with Low Cost Foods

In the long run, cheaper foods are always the best option and it is a great idea to keep your pantry (and fridge) stocked up with affordable options.

Here is a list of the best cheap food that you should keep rotating on your grocery list:

  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Canned Tomatoes
  • Eggs
  • Potatoes
  • Oats
  • Flour
  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Cabbage
  • Lentils (Dried)
  • Quinoa
  • Canned Corn
  • Peanut Butter (Jarred)
  • Dried Pasta Sauce Mix
  • Shelf-Stable Broth (Boxed or Canned)
  • Instant Rice
  • Canned Chickpeas
  • Shelf-Stable Tofu (Vacuum-Packed)
  • Instant Oatmeal Packets
  • Bell Peppers
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Zucchini
  • Spinach
  • Bananas
  • Oranges
  • Cucumbers
  • In Season Produce (Varies by Season)
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Ground Turkey
  • Edamame
  • Canned Tuna
  • Canned Salmon
  • Popcorn (Air-Popped)
  • Rice Cakes
  • Nuts (Assorted)

3. Educate Yourself on Successful Meal Planning

Once you have your pantry staples down it is essential to get familiar (and good at) meal planning for the sake of your wallet. This is one of my stay at home mom tips that really works.

Begin by looking at the list above of cheaper food prices. From there, put together a list of a variety of nutritious meals using different combinations. 

One of my favorite affordable dinner is a whole roasted chicken with a side of seasoned rice and baked frozen vegetables. 

It is SO affordable and the best part is that you can use the leftover chicken and rice for lunch or another dinner the next day!

Here are some tips for making a rock solid meal plan:

  • Masterful the Art of Grocery Shopping: Start your meal plan with a savvy trip to the grocery store. Be strategic and grab those store brand gems – they’re just as good and won’t break the bank. Look out for sales and discounts, and consider buying in bulk for staples that won’t go bad anytime soon.
  • Get Creative with Your Own Food: Now, let’s talk about using what you already have. Check your pantry and fridge – that half-used bag of rice or those canned veggies can be meal MVPs. Incorporate them into your plan to minimize waste and maximize taste.
  • Leftover Meats Magic: Turn last night’s dinner into tomorrow’s star. Get inventive with those leftover meats – they make killer additions to sandwiches, salads, or a revamped stir-fry. It’s not just economical; it’s a flavor upgrade.
  • Weekly Meal Plan Wisdom: Planning is the secret sauce. Devote some time each week to sketch out your meals. Think about different ways to use common ingredients throughout the week. It not only saves you time but also ensures nothing goes to waste.
  • Good Idea Alert – Batch Cooking: Consider batch cooking when time allows. Whip up larger quantities and freeze portions for later. It’s a time-saver and guarantees you always have a homemade meal at your fingertips.
  • Diverse Ways to Enjoy Veggies: Veggies don’t have to be boring or expensive. Explore different ways to prepare them – roasting, stir-frying, or turning them into soups. It adds variety to your meals without burning a hole in your wallet.
  • Cheap Meal Ideas in the Mix: Embrace budget-friendly meal options. Think lentil soups, pasta dishes, or rice bowls with assorted veggies. These cheap meal ideas are not just easy on your wallet but also delicious and satisfying.

Crafting a rock-solid meal plan is all about balancing creativity and practicality. With these tips, you’ll not only ace your weekly meals but also keep the costs in check.

4. Grocery Shop Smarter

When it comes to shopping at your local grocery store, there are a few food shopping tips to keep in mind when trying to stretch your grocery budget:

  • Pay attention to unit prices to get the best value for your money.
  • Be wary of higher prices on eye-level shelves; sometimes the bargains are on the top or bottom. Look for sale tags.
  • Limit extra trips to the store to avoid impulse purchases.
  • Keep an eye out for sale items and discounts to maximize savings. Remember to check the sale racks in the back!
  • Consider shopping at warehouse stores for bulk purchases and potential cost savings.

5. Utilize Leftovers

Stretching your grocery budget becomes a breeze when you embrace the magic of leftovers. 

Take a shot at batch cooking – prepare larger quantities of your favorite meals and freeze them for future use. That way, you’ll always have a homemade, budget-friendly option on standby. 

Also, don’t underestimate the power of last night’s dinner; repurpose those extra servings into a whole new dish. 

Got some expiring fresh vegetables? No problem! Whip up a delicious vegetable soup to prevent waste and elevate your next meal. 

And let’s not forget the classic roast chicken – cook it once and enjoy it in various forms throughout the week. 

Consider declaring a “Leftover Night” where you bring together all those odds and ends for a tasty and economical feast. It’s not just about saving money; it’s about savoring every last bit and minimizing food waste.

6. Keep a List of Your “Stock” on the Fridge/Pantry

This is one of my favorite ways to save money on food easily. When you make up your pantry and fridge must-haves lists, print out a list for both your fridge and pantry. 

Keep them at eye level and cross off what you use. That way it is easy to make your grocery list and you will always be able to make your inexpensive meals!

7. Snack Smarter

Remember that list from earlier? Use it in order to snack smarter. 

By smarter, I mean snack on less expensive items. Forget all of the store-bought snacks (or some of them as we all need some treats, too) and opt for making most of your snacks yourself.

Easily make up your own dips with Greek Yogurt, snack packs with assorted nuts, dried fruits, and popcorn, and so on!

8. Buy In Season Produce

Fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season will really save your pocketbook. When possible, make sure to shop in season for those fresh items in order to save a chunk of money. 

Click here for a helpful list of seasonal produce. 

9. Buy in Bulk Where it Makes Sense

As I mentioned earlier, shopping from warehouse stores can save you money, but not always!

Be sure to shop around in order to make sure you are actually getting a good deal. It is typically a whole lot cheaper to buy dried goods in bulk as opposed to smaller options from a regular grocery store but sometimes things aren’t actually any cheaper in larger quantities. 

I suggest taking an afternoon to browse around your local warehouse store and your favorite grocery store and note down the prices and quantities of your favorite products. From there, you can decide where you will shop for what.

10. Spend Less Time Grocery Shopping

The best way to save money on groceries? Stretch the time between trips. 

If you are anything like me, you are probably buying a little something extra with each trip to the store. Cut down on those random impulse buys by only going to the store once a week!

Starting with any of the tips on this list would be a great way to get started stretching your grocery budget. 

Remember 3 key things to stretch your food dollars: stick to your shopping list, make meal planning a regular thing, limit food waste by utilizing leftovers the next day.

One big way to begin frugal living is to gain control of your finances. I cover everything you need to know about tackling your finances in my Money Fit Moms course. It is FREE and you can read more about it here.