Groceries represent a large part of the overall monthly budget for most families. According to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average family spends just under 13% of their budget on food costs. That number is expected to rise in the next year as the astronomical price increases in wheat and corn begin to show themselves at the grocery checkout. (For related reading, also check out 22 Ways To Fight Rising Food Prices.)

TUTORIAL: Budgeting Basics

The USDA recommends a range of monthly grocery budgets from thrifty to liberal. For a family of four with two children between the ages of 6 and 11, the costs range from $603 to $1,190. Many families can cut those numbers in half with savvy grocery shopping and strict budgeting. Unlike fixed expenses like the mortgage and the electric bill, the grocery budget is flexible and can be adjusted to absorb financial stresses such as increased prices or job loss. Here are five ways to slash your grocery bill and eat well.

1. Stick to Your Budget
As with all of your other household expenses, you should have a monthly budget for groceries that you can comfortably afford. The amount will be different for every family based on your tastes and your overall income, but shoot for 5-10% of your total expenditures. It is easy to make a budget but much harder to stick to it. Plan your grocery trips ahead of time so you know exactly what you are going to buy and how much of your monthly budget you will spend on that trip. If you plan to eat out during the month, include that estimated amount in your total food budget.

2. Buy from the Flyer
It's no secret that grocery stores put their loss leaders on the front page of their store flyers to attract customers. The hope is that customers will buy other full price groceries but smart shoppers buy what's on sale. Plan your meals around the sales rather than decide what to have for dinner and shop for it. This is the most powerful tool that you have to cut your food budget in half. Is chicken on sale this week? Then, that is what's for dinner. If beef is on next week, pick up a few packages and freeze one.

3. Stock Up
To really save money on your grocery budget in the long term, buy non-perishable sale items in bulk. If your favorite brand of spaghetti sauce is half price this week, buy 10 or 20 jars and tuck them away in your pantry. They won't go bad and it means that you may never have to buy certain items at full price again. Sales happen in cycles and, if you buy enough to get you to the next sale of the item, you can save significantly.

TUTORIAL: How To Manage Credit And Debt

4. Plan Your Meals
One of the main reasons that people stop in at McDonald's on the way home or pick up a pizza is that they have no idea what to have for dinner and are too tired to plan a meal and then cook it. On the weekend, plan out your meals for the next week so that you always know what's for dinner. Make sure that you have all of the fixings on hand for the meals to avoid mid-week emergency shopping. During the week, simply follow the plan. Take out meats to defrost overnight and do any other prep work ahead of time. The easier you make dinner preparation, the less likely you will be tempted to pull out the credit card for takeout.

6. Eat in Season
With the advent of global transportation, you can have fruits and vegetables year around. Tomatoes from Guatemala, bananas from Costa Rica and Mexican grapes are available on grocery store shelves throughout the winter. Food that has to be shipped thousands of miles isn't cheap, though. You may have to pay $3.99 a pound for tomatoes in the winter when in the summer, you would pay $1.29. Going back to eating what is in season in your local area throughout the year will save your wallet. As an added bonus, in-season produce is often tastier.

The Bottom Line
Deciding how much to spend on your family's monthly groceries will be a combination of your financial situation and your own preferences. Saving money on groceries with these easy tips allows you to divert that savings to other parts of your budget or to paying down debt. And nothing tastes sweeter than that. (For additional reading, also see America's Biggest Food Companies.)

Related Articles
  1. Budgeting

    Blue Apron Review: Is It Worth It?

    Read about one of the top meal-kit delivery services in the United States, and learn more about what it offers and how much it costs.
  2. Stock Analysis

    JCPenney's Path To Profitability (JCP)

    Learn about what J.C. Penney's management team has been doing to profitably grow its business as the company recovers from years of revenue declines.
  3. Home & Auto

    The Latest Airbag Recalls: What to Do

    The latest warnings are from Honda/Acura and Dodge. How to look up your car – and what to do if you find it on the recall list.
  4. Retirement

    5 Reasons Millennials Lead in Saving for Retirement

    Say what you want to about millennials but the one thing they are doing better than any other generation is saving for retirement. Here's why.
  5. Economics

    What is a Complement?

    A good or service that’s used in conjunction with another good or service is a complement.
  6. Investing

    3 Small Steps to Maximize Your Investing Goals

    Instead of starting the New Year with ambitious resolutions, why not taking smaller manageable steps that can have a real impact.
  7. Investing

    7 Creative Ways to Save for an Early Retirement

    Take note of these out of the box steps you can take towards securing yourself an earlier, more comfortable retirement.
  8. Retirement

    Ipsy Review: Is It Worth It?

    Discover the history of ipsy, how much packages cost, options available for membership, major competition and what the future looks like for the company.
  9. Stock Analysis

    The Biggest Risks of Investing in Johnson & Johnson Stock (JNJ)

    Learn the largest risks to investing in Johnson & Johnson through fundamental analysis and other potential risks. Also discover how JNJ compares to its peers.
  10. Budgeting

    Craft Coffee Review: Is It Worth It?

    Learn more about one of the first and most flexible specialty-grade coffee subscription services on the market, a perfect fit for any coffee lover.
RELATED FAQS
  1. How does a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) affect my salary?

    Some companies build salary adjustments into their compensation structures to offset the effects of inflation on their employees. ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Where can you buy NetSpend reload packs?

    You can only purchase NetSpend reload packs at Giant Eagle, Albertsons, Roundy's and Pathmark supermarkets. NetSpend cards ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. What does marginal utility tell us about consumer choice?

    In microeconomics, utility represents a way to relate the amount of goods consumed to the amount of happiness or satisfaction ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. What are some common ways product differentiation is achieved?

    There are many ways to achieve product differentiation, some more common than others. Horizontal Differentiation Horizontal ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. How does the trust maker transfer funds into a revocable trust?

    Once a revocable trust is created, a trust maker transfers funds or property into the trust by including them in a list with ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What is the difference between an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) and a VAR ...

    An original equipment manufacturer (OEM) is a company that manufactures a basic product or a component product, such as a ... Read Full Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Inverted Yield Curve

    An interest rate environment in which long-term debt instruments have a lower yield than short-term debt instruments of the ...
  2. Socially Responsible Investment - SRI

    An investment that is considered socially responsible because of the nature of the business the company conducts. Common ...
  3. Presidential Election Cycle (Theory)

    A theory developed by Yale Hirsch that states that U.S. stock markets are weakest in the year following the election of a ...
  4. Super Bowl Indicator

    An indicator based on the belief that a Super Bowl win for a team from the old AFL (AFC division) foretells a decline in ...
  5. Flight To Quality

    The action of investors moving their capital away from riskier investments to the safest possible investment vehicles. This ...
Trading Center