Friday, March 3, 2017

Save Money on Groceries, Free Up Money to Invest

A significant part of having your money work for you, is having it not "not work" for you.

What does this mean? It means that if you limit the money that goes to areas that guarantee it won't work for you (ie, won't grow or pay you pack over time), then you can allot more to areas where it will work for you.

One common expense where this can be utilized is in grocery shopping.

We all gotta eat, and so why not be efficient in how we obtain the food we need? The money you spend on food is not working for you, in the sense that it is not appreciating.

The food you buy is there for you to consume to sustain living, and when it is gone, it is gone. You are then left to find more food for sustenance, and thus, spend more money to acquire this food.

The more money you can save grocery shopping, the more that money that can be accumulated, and used in acquiring assets that pay you over time (like, you know, dividend growth stocks, for example)

There was a time when I believed that I was saving money by going to big warehouse stores once a month, and buying my groceries in bulk. It's amazing the things that you can fool yourself into believing.

What I was actually doing was spending over $300 per month to obtain insane amounts of food that I would not even completely consume. So even worse, I would end up wasting food and money.


My Grocery Run System and Guidelines

At some point, I determined that I needed to get more efficient in both respects. After some experimentation, I arrived at a weekly grocery run system
(if you haven't figured it out by now, I am someone who likes my routine and systems).

My system is to make weekly grocery runs, only buying items that I will need for that week. As a single guy living alone, I have established a goal to accomplish this in $40 or less per trip.

The key here is that I buy things that I will need only for the week, not things that I want to stockpile or things that I might kinda sorta want.

These are my guidelines:
  • Vegetables and Meat sources
    • These are the basics for my lunch and dinner. For this I usually get frozen vegetables and chicken or turkey meat to heat up in the Foreman Grille, or other cooking device. I usually add in a savory sauce (ie Asian Sesame, Stir Fry, etc) for marinating/flavoring while heating up.
  • Items to snack on in Between Meals
    • Here I'll rely on trail mix, apples, and some assortment of cookies. Just something to satiate me in between meals.
  • Protein Source for the Morning 
    • Through some reading, I have realized the importance of getting protein at breakfast to set up metabolism for the rest of the day, so I make sure to have something on hand to consume in the mornings just after waking up. Usually this would be turkey sausage to heat up, or bread and peanut butter for a morning Peanut Butter sandwich to get that protein. 
  • Items to Snack on After Dinner
    • I possess a sweet tooth going back to childhood (non-recovering chocaholic here), so usually after dinner each night, I have a craving for something sweet to eat. For this I usually enjoy the cookies mentioned earlier, or I may have a treat like a piece of apple pie or small chocolate cake. When I want to buckle down on dessert cost (and yes, calories), I may do something simple as bread and cinnamon sugar (spreading cinnamon sugar on the bread to satisy my sweet tooth). I try to pick one or two of these things for the week (not all 3!).

You may have similar guidelines, or very different ones, especially for those with families, and those superb cooks in the audience (I am not one of them). The key is to identify what you or your family need for a specific time period. For me that is a week, but for others, it may a 2 weeks, or a month.

Whatever it is, think of necessary food items for that period.


What I have learned that efficient grocery shopping comes down some key points:

1. Focus on Needs vs Wants

What do you really need for your grocery time period? To identify this, focus on the basics.

The trick here is that in most grocery shops, the most essential items from a nutritional standpoint are placed on the outer ring of the place (fruits, vegetables, meats, etc). Usually a lot of what you don't need is in the inner aisles (junk food, sweets, etc.).

I would suggest starting your shopping trip on that outer ring. Also identify for your situation, what are your essential items for the grocery time period?

I think focusing on protein sources and vegetables should fit the bill for your meals, and then items to snack on to get you from one meal to another, with as little expense as possible, but also providing proper nutritional value. Whole fruits and protein snacks come to mind here, where you don't need to purchase a whole lot to get the job done.

2. Create your shopping list and bring it with you

Once you've identified your needs for your grocery time period, write it down!

Carry a list, whether you go old school with a physical piece of paper , or new school with a digital list on your smartphone.

Have a list of your needs, so that you stay focused, and minimize the chance that you'll get distracted, roaming to some other part of the store and getting something that you don't need.

I use a Shopping List App on my phone, where I can list out items and then check them off as I pick them up and put it in my cart.


3. Utilize Rewards

I love rewards.

What's better than earning something on what you would ordinary spend anyways? It's like a form of active-passive income, in a very indirect way.

Some groceries have their own program where you earn points that can be redeemed for discounts on gas fill-ups for your car. Whatever works to help you minimize your money outflow.

Personally, I'm all about travel and cash back, so I will either use a travel rewards card that gives me 3 points per dollar spent at grocery stores (which can be redeemed later for flights or gift cards), or a 2% cash back card.

I know, I know, 2% does not sound like much, but it certainly adds up over multiple visits. It also beats the heck out of 0%!


In Summary

So there you have it, some ways to have more focus on your grocery runs and hopefully spend less money. The more you save, the more you can invest, and have it grow, helping to build wealth down the line.

These have worked for me in going from a $300 monthly grocery bill to about a $160 monthly grocery bill. Of course it does not end there, as I am always looking for new ways to get the job done with less money when it comes to groceries, and invest the difference, where I can, in assets that pay me.

Once the food is purchased, a big help to make it last, especially with snacks, is to only eat until full, and only eat when hungry (and not just because of boredom). Avoiding the temptation to overeat can definitely help that food stick around a little longer, maybe to the point where you may not have to take that grocery run a certain week.

What are some strategies you use to cut down your grocery spending?

Then, what do you do with the savings?

Let me know in the comments!


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