Danielle Wagasky felt like she had to change something when she realized she was spending $800 a month on groceries to feed her family of four, according to Business Insider. Wagasky had to be strict about her spending because she and her family were living on just $14,000 a year — the amount she and her husband Jason, a U.S. Army service member, were making on his GI Bill while he completed his undergraduate degree. Wagasky devised a simple but sophisticated budget to help bring her grocery bill way down.
Wagasky’s budgeting plan is pretty straightforward: she divides all of the family’s expenses into categories like bills, savings goals and wants. But, she said they get pretty specific for their categories—they have 30 categories for their spending. Wagasky said she keeps a master spreadsheet on her laptop with all of the categories and the amount of money that she and her husband have set aside for that category. Whenever that amount runs out, then Wagasky knows she can’t spend any more money in that category for that month.
By keeping a detailed budget like this, Wagasky, her husband and their two children manage to live comfortably in a fixer-upper in Las Vegas, Nevada with two cars, according to the Huffington Post.
The detailed budget is part of what helped Wagasky cut her grocery bill in half. In her book, Living a Beautiful Life on Less, Wagasky said the grocery bill “is the one thing you have absolute control over,” according to Business Insider.
She has 10 simple tricks to help you cut your grocery bill down a lot.
1. Shop Less Often
Wagasky goes grocery shopping about once a month. This helps her avoid making impulse purchases, which might happen more often and bring up her grocery bill if she were grocery shopping once a week. If you grocery shop three times a week, Wagasky suggests trying to start small and limit yourself to one weekly grocery trip. Then, you’ll really have to plan your trips and stick to your budget.
2. Always Bring A Calculator To The Store
In her book, Wagasky said having a calculator on hand will help you stick to a budgeted amount for groceries, according to Business Insider: “When you go through with a calculator, it is amazing the change that takes place. You are more aware of how much each item is adding up. You suddenly weigh the options a bit more with name brand versus generic. You think twice about adding all that candy into the cart just because it looks good. It makes you more conscious of what you are tossing in.”
Thanks to technology, your smartphone probably has a built in calculator so you don’t have to think about bringing one.
3. Pay With Cash
Only bringing cash to the store will keep you from overspending. Wagasky even suggested leaving all of your credit and debit cards at home, so that they you really have to spend only the cash that you’ve set aside for groceries. Talk about developing a disciplined shopping routine.
4. Use Ads And Coupons
Sit down with the coupons once a week and tear out or circle the ones you’d like to use. Coupons let you get more for your small grocery budget.
5. Shop The Perimeter Of The Store
In her book, Wagasky wrote that many grocery stores have similar layouts, with fruits, vegetables, dairy and meat around the outer perimeter of the store. Most of the prepackaged foods and canned goods can be found in the center of the store, according to Business Insider. By shopping around the store’s perimeter, you can control your budget, avoid impulse purchases and make sure your family is eating healthier.
6. Try To Buy Less Meat
Wagasky found that you can seriously cut down your grocery bill by swapping meat out for beans in a lot of your recipes. If that sounds difficult, just start with one or two meatless days each week.
7. Use Generic Products
Try generic brand products to see if you like them, because they’re often cheaper and usually they don’t taste differently. Wagasky also suggested looking up and down the shelves in grocery stores. She found that stores will place brand name products at eye level, so make sure you’re looking at all your options.
8. Buy Seasonally
Grocery stores will sell certain items really cheap during specific seasons. For example, you can often find all the ingredients for a great barbecue cheaper during the summer.
Also, in-season fruits and veggies just taste amazing to something that was flown from hundreds of miles away. Here’s a great guide to help figure out what produce is in season.
9. Eat Produce In The Order Of What Goes Bad First
You can stop yourself from wasting a ton of produce by eating fruits and vegetables in the order that they go bad. For example, you should eat things like bananas, spinach and avocado before you eat carrots, potatoes or apples. You’ll save yourself a lot of money and will waste a lot less food by keeping the lifespan of fruits and veggies in mind.
10. Try To Make Things Homemade
Wagasky wrote that her family will not buy bread. She can make it more deliciously and cheaper for a fraction of the price of store-bought bread, according to Business Insider.
“If I were to buy bread from the store, I would be paying over three dollars per loaf,” Wagasky wrote in her book. “Thirty-six dollars a month is a hefty fee to pay for something I can make in minutes for one-third the cost.”