Can You Really Stick to a $200 Monthly Grocery Budget?

It’s pretty much common sense that buying groceries and making your own food at home is a way less expensive alternative to ordering delivery or take-out or grabbing a bite at your local bar, cafe, or restaurant. Yet monthly grocery costs can still add up quickly, with many households reporting that they spend several hundreds of dollars per month on groceries.

When you’re paying solid amounts every month for rent, utilities, internet access, your phone plan, and streaming service access (and student loans, if you’re one of nearly 45 million Americans who have them), you’ll naturally want to save money in any way you can. Reducing your grocery budget provides an especially easy way to cut costs, as you have far more control over which foods you buy than, say, the amount of gas or electricity you use in your apartment (although these tips on AC use can help with your electric bill). But can you really stick to a $200 monthly grocery budget?

The answer, for almost everyone, is yes – and here’s how.

Buy store-brand

Next time you go to the grocery store or supermarket, compare the price of a store-brand, generic item with a name-brand alternative. You should notice that the store-brand items are considerably cheaper. Supermarkets and grocery stores mark up name-brand items since they have to pay these brands to purchase them before selling them, meaning that their cost in obtaining them for sale is higher than the items they produce in-house. To save money, always buy store-brand items. Doing so is easier at more niche grocers that sell mostly their own products – think common, non-supermarket brands known for unusual, signature items.

Buy fruits and veggies in season

Did you know that the price of fruits and veggies can fluctuate depending on the time of year? A simple web search can tell you which fruits and veggies are currently in season. Opting for these foods over out of season ones when you next visit the supermarket can save you money, as in-season produce is more abundant and, therefore, cheaper to sell. Plus, in opting for in-season fruits and veggies, you’re not sacrificing the nutritional quality of your foods by changing which items you buy.

Learn to love your freezer

No, loving your freezer doesn’t mean buying all sorts of processed frozen items filled with preservatives. Instead, use your freezer to store proteins, fruits, veggies, and bread loaves that you’re not quite ready to eat yet but might go bad soon. This way, instead of encountering spoiled food and spending more money at a sooner date to replenish your stock, you can thaw your frozen items for immediate use in the microwave or overnight in your fridge. With proper freezer use, you’ll save money and ensure that your foods are of consistently high quality.

Eat your leftovers!

It sounds simple, but it just might not be. Research has shown that Americans are not eating their leftovers nearly as frequently as they used to. It’s understandable to balk at leftovers because they’re not always as fresh or flavorful as when they were first prepared, but tossing them straight into the trash or forgetting about them for so long that they spoil is bad for your wallet. Leftovers are especially good as office lunches so that you don’t have to spend money on eating out.

If possible, avoid ground meat and junk food

Per pound, ground meat is generally more expensive than fruits and vegetables. Surprisingly, junk food tends to be a more expensive snack than sliced fruits or veggies because most snacks are name-brand, whereas produce is almost brand-free (those little labels on apples, bananas, and other fruits keep the branding subtle). 

How do you save money on groceries? Share your tips in the comments!

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