According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the average cost of Thanksgiving dinner for a party of 10 is near $50. If you are not shopping mindfully, that can be a big chunk of your holiday budget. Below are some ideas to make the most of your grocery money:
Inventory of what you already have.
Make a checklist of everything you need for your holiday meals and see what you already have on hand. This will keep you from making purchases you don’t need, even if it is a deal.
Plan your meals and make a purchase list.
Not only does sticking to a list help avoid impulse buying and ensure you get everything you need, but planning your holiday meals around specials, your pantry inventory, and your grocer’s weekly sale fliers can help you save time and cash.
Take advantage of holiday sales which often feature traditional items used for holiday meals! Purchase the Sunday newspaper, go online to compare best deals and get printable coupons, and sign up for your grocer’s rewards program if they have one.
Freeze foods when possible.
When there is a sale, stock up! Frozen vegetables are the next best thing to fresh and keep much longer. If you find a bargain on veggies, freeze them ahead for your holiday meal. You can also freeze breads, sauces, meat, and casseroles, which can save you money and time during the busy holiday season. The trick is to make sure all items are wrapped airtight to avoid freezer burn.
Cut back on one-item trips.
If you find yourself needing to go back to the store for a forgotten item, problem-solve to figure out why. Are you making a good list? If not, the time you spend running to the store for one item is longer than the time it would have taken to make a good list. Also, don’t forget that many times you can search online and use a substitute so you don’t waste gas driving to the store for a single item, leading to unnecessary purchases.
Be selective about your aisle.
Items like cheese can vary dramatically from various areas of the grocery store. If you go to the exotic cheese section, you will find higher prices compared to a mainstream brand in the dairy case.
Determine if prepackaged items are worth the cost increase.
Sure, pre-packaged and prepared foods are convenient, but determine if the cost is worth it. If you buy produce that is ready to eat, how much time are you saving? Even if it’s only $1.00 more for the pre-packaged items, you are paying someone else for the convenience of preparing your food, which adds up over the course of the holidays. Slice your own vegetables starting today, and you might save enough over the course of the year to buy yourself a nice little holiday gift.
There’s an app for that.
Your smartphone may have grocery shopping apps that make it easier to spot sales. Many apps let you make grocery lists, scan barcodes to compare prices, and put loyalty, reward, and club cards onto your phone to help free up space in your wallet.
Keep receipts and create a spreadsheet.
Just like you track your yearly budget, keep receipts from your holiday shopping and store them on a spreadsheet. It’s important to have a baseline for prices so you know what a “good price” is.
It’s easy to get caught up in the holiday spirit and overspend on seasonal goodies that are available only during this time of year. With a little planning, your budget will thank you for not over-stuffing on your grocery bills.
What’s been your most effective way to save on your holiday grocery budget? We’d love to hear it in the comments below!