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How to Slash Your Grocery Budget by Changing Your Mindset

Photo by: iStock

Do you ever leave the grocery store feeling deflated and defeated because the trip has left a larger hole in your wallet than you would have liked?

A few months ago, that was happening to me nearly every week.

I knew I needed to cut my grocery bill, but for some reason I just couldn’t make it happen. I was so attached to the way I did my shopping — in terms of the types of products I’d buy and the way I went about the trip — that change was tough. Really tough.

Eventually I realized that I couldn’t just show up at the grocery store and hope this time would be different. That wouldn’t work because the problem had more to do with my overall mentality about grocery shopping than it did with my wallet-related willpower.

Once I changed my way of thinking, I was finally able to exit the grocery store feeling victorious while holding a significantly smaller receipt in my hand.

Cutting Your Grocery Bill: Old Thinking Versus New Thinking

Old thinking: I need to eat the same foods week after week.
New thinking: I can be flexible in my dietary habits in order to buy whatever is on sale this week.

On my old blog I used to visually document some of my meals until I realized how incredibly boring it was for readers. Why? Because I ate the same thing every day, over and over again! Doing this wasn’t just monotonous, it was also expensive. Buying the same foods without regard to sales can be rough on your budget. Keeping an open mind—and altering your meals based on the weekly circular will please your taste buds while also helping your bottom line.

Old thinking: Convenience foods are fun!
New thinking: Convenience foods are too expensive.

Baby carrots are cute, but regular carrots are cheaper. Individual snack packs are handy, but larger quantities are way more economical. For those of us who are time-strapped (and honestly, who isn’t?) the lure of convenience foods can be almost too tempting to resist. But if you really want to save some dough, you can do so by investing your time to chop those carrots or divide those pretzels into baggies yourself.

Old thinking: I must have these staple foods, even though I know they’re pricey.
New thinking: What used to be staples are now special treats.

I used to eat a Larabar every single day of the week. It was my staple afternoon snack. But even though Larabars are super healthy, and beyond delicious, they’re also upwards of $1.50 each. That can add up really fast! I changed my mindset and started considering Larabars to be a special treat I could enjoy once or twice each week instead of daily. Making that mental switch with a few pricier foods can make a real difference in your grocery budget.

Old thinking: Buy it.
New thinking: Make it.

I know this isn’t always possible for those of us trying to juggle a million obligations and responsibilities at once, but it really is a great way to keep your food healthy and natural without paying through-the-roof prices. My beloved Larabars are a perfect example, as there are tons of homemade Larabar recipes out there.

Old thinking: I must go grocery shopping every week.
New thinking: I can go grocery shopping every other week.

A few months ago I switched to bi-weekly grocery trips because I was just too busy to make it to the store more often than that. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise for my grocery budget. Suddenly I was actually using all the stuff buried in my pantry instead of buying new items over and over again! There were cans of beans and bags of rice hidden back there and I had no idea. Grocery shopping less often is a great encouragement to actually use the items you already have.

I realize this doesn’t work well with fresh fruits and veggies, which are an important part of my family’s diet. We try to visit a local farmer’s market or produce stand to stock up during the off weeks (and we still save money because we’re not buying nearly as much as we would during a regular grocery store trip). We’re also big fans of frozen fruits and veggies.

What’s your best tip or strategy for saving money on groceries? Have you made any of the mindset shifts I have?

Katie Markey McLaughlin is a freelance writer and blogger who believes that moms can do anything, but not everything. Her blog Pick Any Two encourages all of us to set priorities without apology or guilt. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

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