I often talk about planning ahead for busy times in order to save money on groceries. But sometimes, life just sneaks up on you and you won’t have the time to set aside a meal prep day, or do freezer cooking or meal planning. And that’s okay!
© SkyLine / Dollar Photo Club
Life happens. And since I’m currently in a state of transition, it is happening quite a bit lately for us. So here are a few of my tips for saving money on groceries even when we don’t have much time to dedicate to our usual frugal efforts.
1. Prioritize your Tasks
If we really try, we can usually spare a few minutes every couple of days to keep our budgets in check. Things like making beans in your crockpot take almost no hands-on time at all and it will save you at least 50% over the cost of store-bought beans! Another frugal thing I always try to prioritize is making sure breakfast is dealt with ahead of time.
For the last few months I’ve been making homemade oatmeal packets in bulk –takes just a few minutes and breakfast is handled for the entire month! Here’s a post I did on 15 Make-Ahead Breakfast ideas if you’d like some more frugal breakfast ideas. If you only have a few minutes to spare here and there, make them count and tend to the areas that will affect your budget the most!
2. Be Okay with the Next-Best-Thing
I think many of us get into the habit of thinking “if it’s not homemade, it’s not frugal” and while that may sometimes be true, it isn’t always the case. Life doesn’t always allow us to be in tiptop money-saving mode. And when that happens, it’s so important to know your habits!
Fight the urge to think with rose-colored glasses and think reasonably about what your worst case scenario may look like and plan for THAT. Best case? You were right and you totally wouldn’t have had time for anything else. Worst case? You just bought yourself a little breathing room and may be able to spend more time on something else.
3. Keep it Simple
The simplest meals are often the most frugal meals! Rice and beans, baked chicken and veggies, spaghetti with homemade meat sauce –all frugal staples, and all ready in under 30 minutes! My go-to on super busy weeks is to cook as many one-dish baked meals as possible and lining the baking dish with foil. This typically requires very little hands-on time and clean up.
These simple frugal staples mixed in with crockpot meals, anything I can pull from the freezer and some of our favorite under 10-minute meals like BLTs or tomato sandwiches allows me to put home-cooked food on the table most nights, even if it’s nothing fancy or blog-worthy!
4. Set Yourself up for the Best Deal
Go to the store with a few frugal tricks up your sleeve. Shop loss leaders, always look at the price per ounce to see if something is truly a good deal and look to the bottom shelves first to find the cheapest options.
These are all things that I do each time I’m shopping, but I do prefer to shop at Aldi when possible because most things are a better deal than my other local options. So if you have an Aldi or a similar store locally, I definitely recommend saving yourself the work and shopping there!
Check out this post: 30 Things to Buy at Aldi
5. Recycle Old Meal Plans
I shared this little nugget on my friend Missy’s blog recently. I’ll let you head over to read the full tip, but to sum it up –I recycle my old meal plans from prior weeks when I know I won’t have time to make a fresh new meal plan. Head on over to Missy’s blog to hear more on this tip and read the 4 time-saving meal planning tips I shared as well!
6. Use Cash-Back Apps
Download cash-back apps like Checkout 51 to earn cash-back on groceries. I don’t recommend changing your shopping list excessively just to accommodate a deal you can earn cash-back on. But if all you have to do is choose a different brand, it’s usually worth it to earn a little extra on something you’d be purchasing anyway.
I’d love for you to share your own tips for staying on saving money on groceries when life’s a little hectic in the comments below!