Editor's note: Lauren Greutman is a blogger and contributor for ClarkHoward.com.
Trying to come up with a grocery list on a budget can be hard at first! When I first started learning how to coupon and meal plan, my eyes were opened to all of the wasteful spending I was doing, and not even realizing it! I would pick up a lot of convenience foods because I was in a hurry and on autopilot, but realized that I could save hundreds per month by just not purchasing certain things.
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There are so many ways to overspend and break your grocery budget, but by making some simple changes, you can really see significant savings!
Here they are – 18 foods that are breaking your grocery budget:
Spices can be so expensive, especially the spice blends. There are many places that sell spices in bulk, so you only have to buy what you need. To find a local store that has a bulk spice selection, you can check out Frontier Co-op with your zip code here. Or if you only need a small amount of a certain spice, check out stores like Big Lots or Aldi – most spices there are only $1.
Another way to save in the grocery store is to pay attention to product placement. Usually a spice can be found in a couple different locations in the store, the spice aisle is typically the place where that spice will cost the most money.
2. Pre-cut foods
Pre-cut foods are almost double in price from the whole and uncut version. A 1 lb of squash will cost under $1.00 when on sale, the pre-cut version may cost you up to $2.00 more per lb. You are paying for convenience, so keep that in mind when doing your grocery shopping.
3. Organic foods on the Clean 15 List
Organic fruits and veggies are something that I try to buy when I can afford it, but when buying organic product we try to stick to the dirty dozen list. Buying items non-organic from the Clean 15 list can help you save a lot of money. This is a list of fruits and veggies that tend to be chemical and pesticide free whether you buy them organic or not.
The clean 15 list includes: Avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, onions, asparagus, mangoes, papayas, kiwis, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cauliflower and sweet potatoes.
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4. Bottled water
Let’s just face it, bottled water is a convenience, but a very expensive one! Why not purchase a water bottle and take it along with you? It is better for your budget and healthier for than environment too!
Read more: Why you should stop drinking bottled water
5. Salad Kits
Salad kits are usually 5 oz., but that also includes the nuts/berries, and salad dressings inside the bag. You are paying more money for less salad. Why not buy a head of romaine lettuce and cut it up yourself, then add a salad dressing of your choice from your refrigerator. Much less money, and just a bit more work.
6. Individual serving sized packages
Did you know that you can save yourself $150 per year just by never buying individual servings sizes of potato chips (don’t believe me – watch this video). Individual serving sized products can cost you up to 50% more money than the full sized bags. This includes little bags of carrots, apples, and any ‘lunch sized’ portions.
7. Jarred spaghetti sauce
Unless you got the sauce for under $1.00 with a coupon, you are spending WAY too much money on buying jarred spaghetti sauce. Try my homemade spaghetti sauce recipe and make your own for much less!
Make a big pot of sauce at once, then separate into portions and freeze flat in your freezer. When you want to use it for a meal, just stick it in a bowl to defrost and heat up when you are ready to serve.
8. Pre-packaged baking mixes
When you compare boxed baking mixes vs. homemade baking mixes, you will see that you are paying almost 40% more money for the convenience. I recommend buying clear kitchen storage containers and Chalkboard Label to stick on them. Then make your own pancake mix with flour and baking powder.
Once you have your mix in your container, write something like "Take 1½ cups of pancake mix, pour in bowl; in separate bowl, mix 1¼c milk and 1 egg” on the chalkboard label. You now have the convenience of the boxed baking mix for much less money! To see a great homemade pancake mix recipe, check out this one by my friend Carrie.
9. Frozen French fries
Frozen French fries cost between $3.00 and $4.00 per bag, normally 16 oz. in weight. Why not buy an entire 5 lb bag of white potatoes and make you own crispy French fries at home? Yes – it takes more time but you are saving almost 80%!
10. Canned beans
Dry beans are typically cost much less than canned beans. Canned beans can cost from $0.50 – $1.00 per can, 14 oz. or more. You can get an entire 2 lb bag of dried black beans for around $1.59 at Aldi, which after soaking makes about 12 cups of beans (96 oz.). Comparing price per ounce (using Aldi as a standard), $0.042 per ounce for canned vs. $0.016 for dried.
If you buy a 12 pack of K-cups for $7.00, you are spending around $0.51 per cup of coffee. When compared to going out to Dunkin Donuts everyday, having a Keurig might be a good option. What if you still need to save more money?
Buying ground or whole bean coffee in the store (maybe with a printable coupon) and brewing it at home will almost always be cheaper – even if you get the expensive stuff.
But if you’re a real coffee snob and still want to save money, consider roasting your own coffee at home. You will pay only $6.00 per lb for Organic green bean coffee, which makes 52 cups of coffee. That equals out to be $0.17 per cup for organic coffee!
For the full list of items that may be breaking your grocery budget, click here.