how to budget groceries

9 Top Tips On How To Budget Groceries (And Stick To It)

According to data from the Office of National Statistics, the average household in the UK spends an estimated £3,150 on groceries annually. This is a significant expense for many UK families and households. However, there are simple ways to make grocery shopping more affordable. Read on to find out how to budget groceries like a pro.

How to Budget Groceries: What Are You Actually Spending?

Have you ever sat down and worked out exactly how much you spend per month on groceries? If you haven’t, we’d recommend you do because it can come as quite a shock as to just how much you are actually spending out of your budget on food.

In order to do that, you can keep all your receipts and add them up at the end of the month. Another easy way is to connect your bank account to a budgeting app like Emma and check your spending by category (see below).

how to budget groceries

If it seems too much don’t despair, there are simple ways you can reduce your spending.

Let’s take a look.

1. Crunch The Numbers While You Shop

Now you know just how much you are spending a month on food, perhaps it is time to work out exactly where all your money is going. Keeping a running tally of how much money you’re spending on certain items is a good way to see where you might be able to tighten up your budget.

You might be surprised where some of your money goes. 

Pull out your calculator on your phone and start keeping track as you shop. How much are you spending on the veggies? How much are you spending on meats? And more importantly, how much are you spending on snacks?

Asking yourself these questions while you shop is a great way to curb some of those unnecessary purchases.

Do you really need that big tin of biscuits or that fancy bottle of mineral water?

Probably not.

2. Use Tally Mark-Ups

This is a super handy tip when struggling with how to budget groceries. While you’re walking around with your phone’s calculator in hand, round up each item’s price to the nearest pound. So, a £1.59 pack of crisps might end up as £2, a £5.29 multipack of toilet paper will end up as £6.

If you do this for every single product that ends up in your shopping cart, you’ll still have a rough estimate of what you’ve spent, and you’ll be well surprised when you get to the checkout. As you’re shopping cost will come well within budget.

3. Empty Your Pantry And Fridge

It can be surprising what you can find lying about at home in the pantry or fridge if you are prepared to have a decent dig. The kind of meals you can put together when you really try can be rather astonishing.

Who says you need to make another trip to the shops when you have perfectly good minced beef in the fridge and a pack of pasta and tomato sauce lying around in the pantry? Whack those three ingredients together with a few spices, salt, and pepper and you’ve got a very basic but surprisingly tasty pasta dish that would keep anyone happy.

4. Stocking Up Isn’t Always The Way To Go

Stocking up or buying in bulk is great when it is actually saving you money. However, don’t always assume that the bulk items are always the cheapest and best choice. Sometimes there are smaller items on sale, or the bulkier items are actually more expensive than their less bulky counterparts.

It’s therefore important to compare the price or weight price per unit to see if you are actually getting the best deal. 

Also, as tempting as it is to buy a product that is cheaper per unit or weight price, it isn’t always the best thing to do if the food is going to be wasted. Sure, if it’s a perishable item it’s probably a good idea, however, if it’s something that’s likely to go off before you or your family gets to enjoy it then it’s likely a waste of money.

6. Pay Cash At The Checkouts

One of the best ways to save money on anything, including grocery shopping, is to pay in cash. We have more of an emotional connection with hard cash rather than numbers that are sitting in an account and can easily be spent with a wave of a debit or credit card.

Therefore, before you go to the store it’s a good idea to take out your grocery budget in cash. This will help you stick to your budget and will help you with your tallying efforts, as you must know exactly what you are spending, and it forces you to make sure you have enough when you checkout.

7. Freeze And Store Your Pre-cooked Meals

Are you partial to spending too much on fast food when you are hungry and can’t motivate yourself to cook?

Say hello to frozen pre-cooked meals. 

Set aside a day during the week where you spend a few hours cooking yourself up a big old batch of Chili Con Carne or Shephard’s Pie. Divide it all up into meal-sized portions, place them into the freezer, and voila! You have the easiest takeaway waiting right there whenever you want it.

8. Shop By The Seasons

When figuring out how to budget groceries, a great piece of advice is to shop for food that is in season locally. Buying fruits and vegetables that are out of season is a really easy way to spike your grocery spending in no time at all.

And the thing is, it may not even taste good. It’s likely been shipped from somewhere far away well before it was even close to being ripe. So, it won’t be fresh, and you’ll likely regret it.

9. Try Out A Different Grocery Store

Stuck in your grocery shopping habits?

It’s not a bad idea to change it up sometimes and try somewhere new. You’ll be surprised at times how much you’ve been overpaying for certain products. Even creating a list for items that you know are on sale elsewhere and making a short trip down the road can save you a bundle rather than getting it all in the one place where it may be more expensive.

The Wrap Up

While this list of tricks should help you get you grocery spending under control, another great way to ensure you are sticking to your budget is to employ the help of Emma.

Emma is a money management app that analyses your transaction data to help you take control of your finances. She will make sure you aren’t overspending on your next grocery shop, and show you how much money you’re spending on grocery shopping as well as each retailer every month.

Ultimately Emma is one of the most useful to help you find the usual suspects and figure out how to budget groceries. Emma is available for download on both the App Store and Google Play Store.

Edouard Daunizeau

I look after all things Growth here at Emma. I come from France and have spent the last few years scaling consumer tech startups in the UK and beyond. 🚀