This month I’m participating in the Eat Well, Spend Less series with eight other bloggers. Each week we’ll be sharing tips from our own experiences to help you eat well on a budget.
To kick it off, I’m going to sharing my method for stretching our grocery budget to include lots and lots of fresh produce without using coupons, shopping the sales cycles or stockpiling:
I am neither a foodie nor a frugalista, and admittedly, we’re just starting out on this healthy eating journey. I still buy white flour (although these days I often mix it with whole wheat), and frozen pizza makes an appearance during especially crazy weeks, but we’ve pretty much eliminated high fructose corn syrup and most artificial food dyes, and I’m making more and more from scratch each week. I also don’t use coupons unless I happen to have a free product coupon, and I buy what I need, not what’s on sale.
That said, the first concrete step we took toward improving our diet was simply to increase the amount of fresh produce we eat each week. I did this before I started reading ingredient labels and before I started focusing on any other specific changes.
I’ve been doing most of my grocery shopping at Walmart almost the entire time we’ve been married. Whatever you say about the store (and we’ve always had new, clean stores to shop at), their prices simply can’t be beat if you don’t want to shop with coupons. Because we live in the boonies and I work full-time, time is at a premium, and I don’t want to spend time couponing or shopping the best deals at multiple stores. So for us, Walmart works.
However, over the last six months, I made a decision to buy all of my fresh produce from the nicer grocery store in town (and now that spring is here, I’m trying to find a good local farmer’s market or CSA, and I’m hoping to grow at least some of our veggies in our backyard). Making the second stop takes additional time, and produce now makes up between 35-50% of our weekly grocery budget, but I bring home bags of fresh produce that looks and tastes great, and I know that we’ll have healthy sides, snacks and meals all week.
To make room in our budget for this “luxury” (which is what it feels like when I check out, even though it’s not really), I’ve become even more conscious about what I buy at Walmart. Here are my strategies for spending less:
If you don’t want to do coupons, generic is almost always cheaper. There are a few items that we prefer the taste of the name brand — or where the generic contains one or more ingredient we try to avoid — and in those cases I go with the more expensive option, but for the most part, I buy Great Value.
I plan my weekly menu and print a detailed shopping list of what we need for the week, and I only buy what’s on the list. When I’m buying produce, I’m a lot more flexible about what I buy, but I stay disciplined at Walmart.
Be careful with bulk purchases.
Although buying in bulk can make a lot of sense, if you are absolutely sure you’ll use it all, it can also waste a lot of money if your stockpile goes to waste. I know my own limitations, and I end up wasting more than I end up saving, so I avoid bulk purchases for the most part.
Only walk through the grocery side.
Walmart — and other superstores — are designed to encourage shoppers to spend more money. I avoid the “Walmart effect” by only walking the grocery aisles. Most weeks, I don’t even visit the rest of the store.
How do you eat well on a budget?