Some of the easiest ways to save money on groceries don’t even require going to the store! Use these tips to reduce your grocery budget and save money!
15 Easy Ways To Save Money On Groceries
by Jill Cooper
We need to pay more attention to the food we feed our family. Oh, I know… you may think you are careful about what you buy. You might worry if it’s organic and has been grown a certain way. That’s fine, but something is wrong. While people are worrying more about what kind of food to buy, we are becoming a nation of obese people and our children – even those eating organic – are becoming obese and diabetic. Maybe worrying only about how organic something is isn’t the answer to it all.
Add to that the fact that personal debt is out of control. A good portion of that debt is incurred going out to eat and choosing to spend more on food. To me, that equals a big mess and one we need to start dealing with soon. Wake up and really look at what you are feeding you family. This article includes some examples and ideas about where to start.
I love my Pepsi (sorry Coke and Dr. Pepper drinkers), but in order to save money on groceries I don’t buy it often. It is a treat for me when I do get it so, for my birthday, my daughter Tawra bought me a bottle of the special edition Pepsi. After a week of just enjoying looking at it, I couldn’t stand the anticipation anymore, so I sat with my feet up and guzzled my icy cold Pepsi.
When I was done (and feeling quite bloated), I was studying the label and noticed it said that this 20 oz. bottle contained 3 servings. I was shocked– not because I had guzzled so much, but because this bottle size is a common one that most people grab and drink as one serving. I wonder how many of those people have ever noticed or even bothered to look and see how many servings they were drinking.
When I was young, my mom would take a 16 oz. bottle of Pepsi and divide it into four different glasses with ice for four kids. This is the same as dividing today’s 12 oz. can of pop into three glasses for three kids. How often do you do that or even see it done? Not often. Most people, kids included, just grab their own cans of pop. Then they either drink it all, which is more than they should have, or leave most of it to toss out.
Some of you are saying “Well I don’t drink pop so I don’t have that problem!” Read on. Today we’ll look at how many different food and drink items we do this with, even healthy foods.
Excessive amounts of healthy food are just as bad for you as small amounts of not-so-healthy food. One reader wrote to say that she couldn’t figure out why her 4 year old daughter was so overweight when she was so careful to made sure her daughter ate healthy. She was literally feeding her daughter too much healthy stuff. Yogurt is high in calories, granola bars are high in calories, and juice and milk are high in calories, so they should be served sparingly.
I can’t stress enough how important it is for parents to know and practice portion control and understand basic nutrition. This is one of the main principles that helped me when I had so little money. It probably kept us from starving, literally.
We make sure our kids have their teeth cleaned and checked on a regular basis, get their shots so they won’t get sick and make sure they always wear their seat belts. Many of us carefully watch for recalls on car seats and toys. Ironically, most of us don’t pay a bit of attention each evening as we scoop a couple of large spoons full of food on a child’s plate or tell her she can have another glass of juice, her 4th for the day. Please slow down and watch your family’s food intake.
Here are some tips to save money on groceries by using better portion control:
Don’t let kids leave milk in their cereal bowls when they are finished. Make them drink it. Now some of you are about to say, “But that is what leads to child obesity — making kids clean their plates.” No… If you have given them the right portions (1/4-1/2 cup), it will be exactly what they need. They are only getting obese because parents are giving them more than they need, not because they are required to clean their plates.
You will find that kids won’t leave as much on their plates if you practice proper portion control. You’ll want to make sure they eat what you’ve given them so they won’t come back in an hour wanting a snack or continue grazing after they have gotten up from the table. Eating too much and grazing cause obesity, but practicing good portion control and making sure they get the right nutrients will take care of both of these.
Don’t let kids have seconds on anything until they have eaten everything on their plates.
- Your family will tell you if you are not correctly controlling portions– not with their mouths, but with their leftovers. If your 5 year old always leaves half of his milk or sandwich, check into it and see if you are giving him too much.
- Start small. Serve only half a small container of yogurt, granola bar, apple or banana to children as old as 8 years. Don’t let each child grab a whole package of pop tarts. Split it. Better yet, split one pop tart. The same applies for other snacks. Each child doesn’t need a whole package of those cheese and cracker or peanut butter cracker snack packs.
If children eat the first half and are still starving, then you can let them have more. I’m not saying don’t feed your children. I’m just saying give them a smaller amount at first and then give them more if they’re still hungry. Kids will often eat as much as you serve them, even if they’re not hungry, so don’t serve too much.
I usually recommend that, to save money on food, people stop going out to eat, but I must face the fact that many of us are still eating out in spite of hard economic times and unemployment. It’s a fact. I saw a recent study that concluded that we are still spending the same amount of money going out to eat as we have in the last few years. Here are some suggestions to save if you are one of those people:
Split things when you go out to eat. I know a family who would buy their daughter a large milkshake in her favorite flavor when they went out. After 4-5 sips she didn’t want any more, saying she didn’t like it. For many kids, that often translates to “I’m full”. They have their parents well trained because they know if they say, “I’m full,” they won’t get as big a size the next time. Even though they can’t drink it, they still want a big one.
When I took my 7 and 8 year old grandkids for a milkshake, we bought one small and I took an extra cup to split it. I sat and waited. If they wanted more I would have bought another one, but I never had to buy a second one. They were always full.
I know what you are thinking (don’t you hate that I can read your mind?)– “but Billy wants chocolate and Sally wants vanilla.” Don’t make excuses why you can’t do something. Instead think of a way to make it work. Often, in this situation, I don’t buy one for myself, but I’ll get each one of them his or her own small one. Then I eat what is left of each of theirs and nothing is wasted. I do this even when we go out for fast food. One grandchild asked me again the other day why I never ordered anything. Before I could answer, the older one said “Because Nan always has to eat our leftovers,” as if that was my assigned job in life and that is what Nanas do.
You may say, “but I want to get my own.” I’m sorry, but you’re the parent and, if you truly want to save, get out of debt or whatever, you are the one who needs to make the first and greatest sacrifice. We all want to get out of debt, but we usually don’t want to sacrifice or change one thing to do it. It doesn’t work that way. We often say, “This won’t help me save money.” but that really isn’t the case. The truth is, we don’t want to give up anything to get out of debt so we convince ourselves it won’t work.
Forget the happy meals. Split a hamburger and fries between 3, 4, 5 or 6 year olds. I am giving general ages. You need to adapt these to your own children depending on their sizes. Your 6 year old may be as tall as 10 year old and plays outside all day or you may have a 10 year old who is small and sits in front of a computer all day. Each child needs to eat a different amount.
- Don’t automatically throw out uneaten food. If your child leaves half a glass of milk, put it in the fridge for him to drink later or use it the next morning in his cereal. If he leaves half a sandwich, put it in a bag for him to eat the next day or serve it later as a snack.
Using a measuring cup and water, measure glasses and see how much they really hold. Don’t guess at this. I have some large mug glasses and some small narrow glasses. I always assumed the small ones held less. Boy was I wrong. I thought the small ones were 8 oz. glasses, but they were 12 oz. glasses. You need to know how much your glasses hold so you can give your child the right portion of juice and milk.
Here are some facts:
- Juice contains about the same amount of calories as soda and is just about as bad on children’s teeth.
- 1-6 yr. olds should only be given 4-6 oz. of juice a day. That is equal to 1 sippy cup a day.
- 7-12 yr. olds should only be given 8-12 oz. of juice a day. That is one small sized glass a day.
- 1-3 yr. olds should be given two 8 oz. glasses of milk a day. The 4 ounces in a child’s cereal or pudding is included in that. If kids have milk in cereal and pudding, they only need 1 glass of milk that day. Also, don’t forget about the milk in cheese, yogurt, ice cream, etc.
- 4-8 yr. olds should have three 8 oz. glasses of milk a day.
- 9-18 yr. olds should have four 8 oz. glasses of milk a day. Again, don’t forget about milk included in cheese, yogurt, ice cream, pudding, etc.
These numbers should make us stop and pause. Just one regular size glass of juice a day gives a young child almost twice what that child needs. So often I have seen moms and grandmas give kids as much juice as they want– three, four or even more glasses per day. That is six to eight times or more than the child needs. Once nutrition needs are met, the rest is just adding extra calories. And we wonder why our kids are gaining weight, even when eating healthy.
- Don’t allow your kids to guzzle a glass of milk, juice or even water right before they eat. It fills them up and then they won’t eat their food. Half the time, kids aren’t picky eaters; They’re just full before they even start to eat. Then they’re hungry again before the table is cleared, because they filled up on liquid and not food.
- Put things like milk and juice into small, easy to pour pitchers. Sometimes a large jug of something is too hard even for an 8, 9, or 10 year old to pour and it gets away from them, causing them to pour more in their bowls or glasses than they intended.
- Watch the syrup. You may have to pour it for them until they are much older because it really seems to get out of control. Beware of the wide mouth syrup bottles. They are designed so that you use more syrup. Avoid them if possible.
- If your kids eat food with cinnamon sugar or regular sugar, put the sugar in a shaker with small holes. You can also cover over some of the holes on a shaker with larger holes with tape so that they can’t dump it too quickly.
- Use small plates and glasses for everyone. The cereal bowls that come with most dishes now are ridiculously huge. Instead of holding 1/2 cup of cereal, they hold 2-3 cups and we think we need to fill them to the top. Using them makes it too easy to waste food and eat excessively.
“What if my kids won’t like any of these ideas?”Sorry, but that’s too bad. Who is paying for the food? Who is running your home?
To ease things along it might help to have a family conference where you apologize to your kids for having taught them wrong so far and then tell them you are trying to change things. Ask for their suggestions and ideas. Make them feel that they are a part of this turn-around and explain that you need their help and ideas. When kids feel more a part of something, they tend to want to do it more.
I can’t cover everything on dealing with kids here but you can find lots of helpful tips and ideas like the ones above in our Saving With Kids e-book series.
Nutrition is equally as important to me as portion size but I was long winded as usual, so I must wrap it up. I will try to touch on nutrition in another article. I have also written about it in the Groceries On A Dime e-books.
Some readers may ask, “What does this have to do with getting out of debt?” Most people can cut their grocery in half by practicing portion control. Try it for a week or two and see what happens– And I’m talking serious portion control not just half-hearted measures.
Here are a few additional tips to help you save money on groceries from our Groceries On A Dime e-books.
- Be careful: A large banana is 2 servings of fruit for a child. We are only supposed to have 3 fruits and 4 veggies a day, not 7 of each.
- To make things easier, get out your ice cream scoop and use it to measure servings. Your scoop is equal to 1/4 cup and most items have 1/4 – 1/2 cup serving sizes, so it is the perfect size. Watch what you are doing and don’t make the scoops heaping full. Make them level with the top or you’ll still be underestimating how much you’re getting.
- Don’t get overwhelmed. You only have to measure things for a week or a couple of days in order to get the general idea. After that, you should be able to eyeball it. If you don’t even want to mess with measuring, just lay the ice cream scoop on the counter or table where you are dishing up the food. Then you can compare it to what you are serving as a general guideline.
If you’ve found the information in this article helpful, check out our Groceries On A Dime e-books. You’ll find detailed information about menu making and grocery lists (with charts to copy), tips on using and organizing coupons, finding things on clearance, warehouse shopping, organizing your pantry and fridge, using leftovers, how to store foods, portion control and lots more about how to save money on groceries.