If you Google “saving money on groceries” you’ll find page after page of advice about setting your budget, clipping coupons, and shopping sales. And it’s all great advice! But like the last five stubborn pounds that won’t come off when you diet, I found I was hitting a grocery-savings plateau.
The trouble for me was I couldn’t pass up a good deal. Despite walking in with a list, I was walking out of the store with a basketful of “great deals” I snagged while grabbing the items on my list. My pantry and freezer were overflowing. I needed to short-circuit my weakness.
My grocery savings secret: soy milk.
But soy milk is more expensive than cow’s milk, right?
Unlike Bargain Babe’s mom, who saved money switching to powdered milk, I started spending more on milk when I switched to soy.
When I purchase soy milk along with my regular groceries, it costs $2.00-2.50 per quart, or $8-$10 per gallon, which is much higher than a gallon of organic cow’s milk (about $6). But I found lower prices. Costco brand organic soy milk costs $16.79 for 12 quarts ($5.59 per gallon). I can also frequently purchase overstocked soy milk by the quart at my local dollar store ($4 per gallon).
But the real reason switching to soy milk drastically reduced my grocery spending is because soy milk doesn’t expire for months. I could stock up and avoid the grocery store.
Once I no longer had to “run into the store” for one gallon of very perishable milk, I cut out four trips to the grocery store per month, at a savings of about $60. Eliminating my constant need for cow’s milk shaved those “last five pounds” off my grocery bill.
What if you don’t know your spending trigger?
For many of you, perhaps it’s not the milk that brings you innocently into a situation where you’re likely to blow your budget. Maybe it’s produce, and joining a CSA will help your bottom line. Maybe it’s walking into a department store to purchase socks and walking out with two pair of jeans.
If you’re not sure what types of “necessary” things may be dragging you into places you often overspend, I suggest keeping a detailed budget or journal one month to see what recurring purchases may be bringing their own baggage.
Once you find that item, see if you can purchase it in a different way: perhaps on Amazon, at Costco, or at a local market (where the other goods are expensive enough you’re unlikely to impulse buy). I’ve realized for me, it’s worth spending more money on one or two items if it results in a smaller overall bill.
You could even ask someone else to make a quick grocery run. Trading off purchases of kitchen or household staples may even be a great way to meet your neighbors!
What tips do you have for managing your budget-busting weaknesses?