Saturday, June 18, 2016

Groceries on a Budget

I've been there: you have $10 to last you until payday, nothing in your fridge but an expired half-gallon of milk and a few Cup O' Noodle in your pantry. Between gas, utilities, rent and fun, groceries aren't really a priority to a twenty-something. But living the "good life" has taught me a few valuable lessons when it comes to budgeting for a grocery haul.

Eating out regularly actually IS more expensive.
Think about it this way: if you're getting food off of the dollar menu twice/thrice a day, you're probably spending AT LEAST $3 a trip. So, technically that is about $9-10 a DAY ( depending on if you're actually eating three meals a day ) You're looking at $40-50+ a week...which is a lot of money. It's the same with drinking. I know you wanna go out and have fun with your friends at the bar, but you're spending at least $3.50/each on beer ( and even more per drink for mixers ) And if you have to pay a cover? least $10 right there. Saving some of that money to actually invest in groceries or even a 12-pack will save you money in the end. 

Coupons can help.
Now I'm no "Extreme Couponer" or anything like that, but you can actually find some really good coupons if you look in your Sunday paper every now and then. Even online they have websites where you can clip coupons for products. I've found excellent coupons on hair color before, so now any time I need to touch it up, I immediately look for the brand's coupons. Once I went to Target for hair color, had a $2 off coupon AND Target was running a special that if you bought that certain hair color you'd get a $5 Target GC. I pretty much got that box of dye fo' FREE. You don't have to snip the entire coupon section, but if you write a list of what you need you can easy take a glimpse at offers available to you.

Download the ibotta app: trust.
Visit ibotta on your mobile phone and download. this. app. My sister told me about it a few weeks ago and I wish I would have downloaded it sooner. This app is not about coupons, but about rebates on items you may already buy. These rebates are not only for groceries but also clothing, beer, dining and pharmacy. When you first sign up, ibotta gives you $10 for joining and then you actually earn money when you go shopping. You click the rebates you want to unlock and then once you're all done shopping, all you have to do is scan the products barcode and snap a pic of your receipt. BAM! in your account. This money can then be sent to your PayPal account or can be used to cash in on gift cards for various places. It's a nice way to make money back from your shopping. There is one disadvantage, though: not all stores participate. So if you're going to a local grocery like Karn's or Darrenkamp's, they will not be valid.

Just because it's generic does NOT mean it's bad.
A lot of generic food items are actually produced by name brand companies. I was living on my own for a few years before I discovered all that is Aldi. I love this store. They have all the essentials AND they also carry pretty decent produce. I'm not a huge fan of their meat selection, but, we can't win them all. I feel like I have saved a good amount of money by purchasing my groceries at Aldi. And I was told that their brand is actually packaged by Trader Joe's, which is a fairly high-end grocery store. Now, I will admit, there's some things that generic just can't cut. Nothing beats Kraft Mac & Cheese or name-brand soda. But if you're looking to cut the cost at the register, check out your local Aldi Food Store.

Buy meat in bulk/learn how to cook.
Look, cooking really isn't that hard. You can find awesome recipes on Pinterest and tutorials on YouTube. Eating fast food all the time WILL make you fat eventually, so you may as well learn a valuable trade and cook your own damn food. That being said, meat can be hella expensive. I've found that places like Giant and Karns run really awesome meat specials that you should keep an eye out for. Giant seems to mark down a lot of their meat on Sundays ( if there's a better day that anyone else knows of, hit a sister UP! ) and Karns has weekly meat specials. Buy larger sizes when the price-per-pound is low and then freeze that -ish! I usually only eat a 4 oz. portion of meat so I can eat a regularly sized chicken breast in a few sittings, which also helps cut cost. 

If you have any other great tips on saving money on the necessities, please share with the class. Until next time!