The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Food is wonderful. Until you remember that you remember that in order to get food, you have to go out and buy it. The grocery store probably isn’t anyone’s favorite place to spend an afternoon, but with the right planning, it can be totally painless and even rewarding. Your favorite meals are only a few steps away. Here’s how to start.
Know What Your Body Needs
If you want to be at the top of your game, you need to know what kind of fuel your body needs. Between macro-nutrients, calories, vitamins, minerals, and food groups, it can be a bit overwhelming to determine what should go in your mouth. Everyone has different dietary needs and preferences, but these calculators can help you to figure out what nutrients you should be getting and how many calories you should be taking in every day. It’s as easy as plugging in a few numbers!
Plan Your Meals
This is the fun part. Keeping in mind your nutritional needs, pick out recipes that you love or want to try and write down the ingredients that you’ll have to pick up to make them. If you’re cooking for yourself, don’t forget that you’ll have leftovers! That might mean that you don’t have to do as much cooking, so plan the number of meals you want to make accordingly. Personally, I try to cook two or three times a week and spend the rest of the days coasting on leftovers. Regardless of how often you want to cook, having your meals planned out every week is going to help you save time and money in the long run, so it couldn’t hurt to get in the habit!
Know your Budget
There’s no such thing as a free lunch– literally. Food costs money just like everything else, and odds are you don’t want to spend your whole paycheck on frozen peas. Pick your budget before you step foot in the grocery store. Make a list of groceries beforehand so that you’re able to judge how much money you’ll be spending. Here are a few tips to help you save as much cash as possible.
- Got coupons? Bring them. Saving ten cents on a half gallon of oat milk might not seem like a lot, but it adds up. The trick here is to make sure you’re only using coupons for items that are already on your list; don’t go buying something you don’t need just because you can get a good deal.
- Join the rewards program. Most grocery stores have a rewards program that you can join for free. It’s a great way to get discounts and coupons. Look into the programs at your local grocery store!
- Buy items that are on sale. When items are about to expire or go stale, the store might put them on sale to encourage shoppers to snap them up before they go to waste. If you’re planning on using these products within a day or two, you can go ahead and take advantage of the discount.
- Look for cheaper alternatives. Chicken thighs are considered to be more flavorful than chicken breasts at a lower cost. Beans are a wonderful, cheap way of getting more protein in your diet. Generic brands often have comparable quality to name brands. Pricey meals can be just as good when made with cheaper ingredients. Feel free to experiment!
Have a Gameplan
We’ve all done a double-take at checkout when we see that our total is fifty dollars more than planned. Did the extra bag of Cheetos really cost that much? Or maybe it was the organic chives? Or that fresh bread that smelled so good walking past?
The trick here is to stick to the list. The path to a budget-friendly checkout is straight and narrow. Keep your eye on the prize and don’t let yourself get distracted by the colorful packages or intricately decorated desserts.
Remember that the enemy is an empty stomach. You’re more likely to spend too much money on groceries if you’re hungry while you’re shopping. Seriously. Eating 30 cents of instant ramen before you shop could save you a lot of money by the end of the day. When you’re hungry, everything looks appealing, and it’s a lot harder to say no.
And lastly, make sure to bring reusable bags. If you live in an area, like Boulder, that charges for plastic bags, then bringing your own might save you a few bucks at checkout. Besides, it’s eco-friendly!
So there you have it: a guide to grocery shopping! The big takeaway is that a little planning goes a long way. Knowing your nutritional needs and your budget is half the battle. The rest is as easy as plopping your groceries in the cart! Pick your recipes and go ham– unless of course the turkey is cheaper.