Lauren Cobello » Budgeting » Budget Tips and Tricks » 18 Foods that are Breaking your Grocery Budget
When I first started learning how to coupon and meal plan, my eyes were opened to all of the wasteful spending I was doing, and not even realizing it! There are so many ways to overspend and break your grocery budget, but by making some simple changes you can really see significant savings! I wanted to go through and talk to you about the top 18 foods that are breaking your grocery budget every time!
I was used to picking up a lot of convenience foods because I was in a hurry and on autopilot but realized that I could save hundreds per month by just not purchasing certain things. Trying to come up with a grocery list on a budget can be hard at first! In fact, that is one of the biggest reasons why I created my ALDI meal plans. Want to try one out for free? Just sign up below, and I will send you a mini-plan to try out!
Spices can be so expensive, especially the spice blends. There are many places that sell spices in bulk, so you only have to buy what you need. To find a local store that has a bulk spice selection, you can check out Frontier Co-op with your zip code here. Or if you only need a small amount of a certain spice, check out stores like Big Lots or Aldi – most spices there are only $1.
Another way to save in the grocery store is to pay attention to product placement. Usually, a spice can be found in a couple of different locations in the store, the spice aisle is typically the place where that spice will cost the most money.
Pre-cut foods are almost double in price from the whole and uncut version. A 1 lb squash will cost under $1.00 when on sale, the pre-cut version may cost you up to $2.00 more per lb. You are paying for convenience, so keep that in mind when doing your grocery shopping.
Organic fruits and veggies are something that I try to buy when I can afford it, but when buying organic products, we try to stick to the dirty dozen list. Buying items non-organic from the Clean 15 list can help you save a lot of money. This is a list of fruits and veggies that tend to be chemical and pesticide-free whether you buy them organic or not.
The clean 15 list includes avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, onions, asparagus, mangoes, papayas, kiwis, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cauliflower, and sweet potatoes.
Let’s just face it, bottled water is a convenience, but a very expensive one! Why not purchase a Contigo Water Bottle and take it along with you? It is better for your budget and healthier for than environment too!
Salad kits are usually 5 oz, but that also includes the nuts/berries, and salad dressings inside the bag. You are paying more money for less salad. Why not buy a head of romaine lettuce and cut it up yourself, then add a salad dressing of your choice from your refrigerator. Much less money, and just a bit more work.
Did you know that you can save yourself $150 per year just by never buying individual servings sizes of potato chips (don’t believe me – watch this video). Individual serving-sized products can cost you up to 50% more money than the full-sized bags. This includes little bags of carrots, apples, and any ‘lunch-sized’ portions.
Unless you got the sauce for under $1.00 with a coupon, you are spending WAY too much money on buying jarred spaghetti sauce. Try my homemade spaghetti sauce recipe and make your own for much less!
Make a big pot of sauce at once, then separate into portions and freeze flat in your freezer. When you want to use it for a meal, just stick it in a bowl to defrost and heat up when you are ready to serve.
When you compare boxed baking mixes vs. homemade baking mixes, you will see that you are paying almost 40% more money for the convenience. I recommend buying clear kitchen storage containers (like these ones from Oggi) and a chalkboard label to stick on them. Then make your own pancake mix with flour and baking powder.
Once you have your mix in your container, write something like”Take 1½ cups of pancake mix, pour in a bowl; in a separate bowl, mix 1¼c milk and 1 egg” on the chalkboard label. You now have the convenience of the boxed baking mix for much less money!
Frozen french fries cost between $3.00 and $4.00 per bag, normally 16 oz in weight. Why not buy an entire 5 lb bag of White Potatoes and make your own crispy french fries at home? Yes – it takes more time but you are saving almost 80%!
This one might be a little surprising to find on the list of foods that are breaking your grocery budget because canned beans cost only $0.50 – $1.00 per can, 14 oz or more. But dry beans are typically cost much less than canned beans. You can get an entire 2 lb bag of dried black beans for around $1.59 at Aldi, which after soaking makes about 12 cups of beans (96 oz.). Comparing price per ounce (using Aldi as a standard), $0.042 per ounce for canned vs. $0.016 for dried.
If you buy a 12-pack of K-cups for $7.00, you are spending around $0.51 per cup of coffee. When compared to going out to Dunkin Donuts every day, having a Keurig might be a good option. What if you still need to save more money?
Buying ground or whole bean coffee in the store (maybe with a printable coupon) and brewing it at home will almost always be cheaper – even if you get the expensive stuff.
But if you’re a real coffee snob and still want to save money, consider roasting your own coffee at home. You will pay only $6.00 per lb for Organic green bean coffee, which makes 52 cups of coffee. That equals out to be $0.17 per cup for organic coffee!
As a mom of four, I’ve fed my babies a lot of baby food. To be completely honest, I didn’t start making my own baby food until baby #4. Why? Because I was too lazy, and I psyched myself out too much and thought it would be a lot of hard work.
Then I found this 2 minute way to make your own baby food, and it saved me so much money! I was able to buy an entire squash for around $2.00 and make approximately 10 jars of baby food! A jar of baby food by me costs anywhere from $0.50 – $1.00 per jar, so this was a savings of 50%!
Salad dressing is one thing that I’ve spent money on for years – but when I found a recipe from the 100 Days of Real Food cookbook I was hooked on making my own.
The recipe calls for olive oil, lemon juice, brown mustard, a shallot, and white wine vinegar. For a fraction of the cost I make my own, and it has ingredients I can pronounce. I also love making my homemade low-fat salad dressing too!
Instant Rice may be convenient, but did you know that you spend almost 60% more money on Instant Rice? You can get about 2 lbs of dried rice for between $2.00 – $3.00, then use this simple Rice Cooker and make it perfect every time!
Canned Broths are made mostly of water. You can save more money by using either Bullion cubes which cost around $4.00 for a jar of 24 cubes. Or you can make your own homemade chicken stock. Our chicken stock recipe makes around 128 oz for under $6.00 (cost of chicken and veggies at Aldi), so that is a huge savings.
Making your own homemade popcorn is so cheap and easy!
A box of 8 juice boxes normally costs around $3.99 (full price), which equals $0.49 per box. If you have four kids like I do and give them each just one juice box per day, you are spending $2.00 per day on juice boxes. I would have to buy 3 1/2 juice box packages per week to keep that up, and spending $13.90 per week on juice boxes.
Since my grocery budget is $125.00 per week, I would be spending 11% of my grocery budget on just juice boxes. Save that 11% and put it towards healthier foods and send your kids to school with a water bottle instead.
I am pretty sure you knew this was going to be on my list! Soda is the biggest waste of money – even when on sale!
Drink water, it’s a lot less money and better for you!
[…] increase your income. The simplest and fastest place I’ve found to reduce expenses is at the grocery store, and with Meal Planning. We actually have meal plans where you make 20 freezer meals for around […]
Generally, local food co-ops or natural food stores that carry bulk spices are an excellent source of variety and may be purchased at a low price!
I use the “Make-a-Mix” books and make my own mixes for dozens of things that you can buy for a lot more money. A big plus for us is being able to make up mixes with whole grain flours, less sugar and so on.
For the K-cups you can also get a plastic K-cup that you can fill & re-fill with your own coffee.