Tips for Grocery Shopping on the Dave Ramsey Plan

Photo of a receipt on top of a basket of grocery items. Frolic & Courage.

I’m a class of 2014 graduate of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (FPU) and one thing I know how to do really well is make my dollars stretch when it comes to food, hence these tips for grocery shopping on the Dave Ramsey plan were born!

I’ll be up front with you — no, I’m not starving myself and no, I don’t each rice and beans everyday. I actually eat really well: bacon-wrapped steak with a baked potato and broccoli, lemon pepper garlic salmon, and grilled chicken kebabs with couscous. And for the record, no, nobody else makes a “charitable contribution” to my bi-weekly grocery bill. I go to work, pay for things with my own money, and do my best to kill student loan debt using the snowball method in addition to any leftover funds I have. Did you catch that? The cool thing is I have leftover funds now because of how I plan out my grocery shopping adventures!

How I Started

I created these tips for grocery shopping on the Dave Ramsey plan when I was a grad student, but before I took the class I was a money-burning mess at the grocery store. I would almost always walk into the grocery store hungry (grad students are broke and starving, what can I say?) and put whatever I wanted in my cart. Sure, I was mindful about the prices and didn’t go crazy with luxury food brands or pick up a whole lobster, but if there was a 2-for-1 sale or any any type of sale I was all over it. I was so much in love with these sales that I overspent under the guise of “getting a good deal”. Lies. All lies. What I learned from that experience is a good deal doesn’t matter if you still end up broke every pay period.

In FPU we were given a Membership Kit to guide us along our journey, read Dave Ramsey’s Complete Guide to Money, and participated in powerful and encouraging group discussions. If you’re strapped for cash and can’t attend FPU, check out Dave’s The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness and the accompanying Total Money Makeover Workbook for how you can start living a financially peaceful life, too. The discussions, combined with the practical steps I learned in the program, gave me a new sense of power and confidence that enabled me to take control of my finances!

Photo of a grocery cart filled with food. Frolic & Courage.
Before I got on the Dave Ramsey program, this basket of groceries would’ve cost me a fortune. Scroll down to see how much this full basket cost me now!

How I Save Money on my Grocery Bill

Enter the new method that helped me save a ton of money with these tips for grocery shopping on the Dave Ramsey plan.

  1. Make a List. Meal planning is a good thing, y’all! Using a dry-erase marker, I write everything we’re going to eat for two weeks on a white board calendar. Next, I make a grocery shopping list a few days before I receive my paycheck. Not in my head, not right before I leave to go to the store, but a few days before so I can evaluate what I have and what I actually need.
  2. Use Free Technology to Your Advantage. Using an excel spreadsheet, I write my allotment (budget) in the top cell and create three columns: one for the item I want to purchase (Item), the estimated cost (Planned), and the actual cost (Actual). The Planned column prices are based on the price of an item in-store at the non-sale price. Once complete, I upload the spreadsheet to my phone to fill in as I’m grocery shopping and make edits from that list on a bi-weekly basis. This method really helps me to stay focused and aware of what I spend in real-time. In addition, don’t forget about the free store shopping cards (not credit cards) and apps that will identify savings. My go-to savings tend to come from the RetailMeNot, Giant grocery membership, and the Target app.

    Screenshot of an Microsoft Excel based grocery list. Frolic & Courage.
    My actual grocery list in Excel. Allotment = my budget for two weeks.
  3. Reward Thyself. If I am under budget, I have four options or “opportunities” as Dave Ramsey would say. Each feels like a reward to me because I am able to tell my money where I want it to go with complete control. One option is to save the extra cash in my grocery envelope for the next grocery shopping trip. Another idea is to repurpose, or re-channel, the money to a different budget item, like gas, toiletries, or fun money. I could spend the extra money on a luxurious grocery item that wasn’t part of the plan (panko fried shrimp for dinner, maybe?) or drop the extra cash back into my bank account to pay off debt. Either way I feel rewarded for my diligent effort.
  4. Pay for Groceries in Cash. This is the biggest push-back I hear from Dave Ramsey pupils. I’m telling you- when you have to physically go to the bank, withdraw cash, and see it leaving your hands you will think twice about how you spend money. Also, when you’re galavanting through the aisles, adding items to your cart and realize you don’t have enough money at the register it will change your perspective. This is the best motivation to hold onto your spare change!

    Photo of a grocery store register total of $75.92. Frolic & Courage.
    My total for a basket full of groceries for two that will last two weeks! Yes!
  5. Find the Cheapest, yet Highest Quality Grocery Store to Shop at. Let’s be honest- shopping at Wegman’s or Whole Foods might empty your pockets sooner than you can say “kale salad”. Alternatively, don’t limit yourself to rubbery Dollar Store steaks or almost expired veggies at the expense of your health. That is not the goal here, either. What you want is a reputable grocery store or even a farmers market with low prices and great quality. Aldi, Target, Sam’s Club, and Giant are my go-to stores now.

    Photo of a hand holding an Aldi shopper's guide inside an Aldi grocery store. Frolic & Courage.
    Stores like Aldi have extremely low prices and source foods from local farmers. Double win!
  6. Milk Your Items. What do I mean? Try to buy food that can be served many different ways to get the most out of  your money. I use tortillas for tacos, wraps, burritos, quesadillas, enchiladas, and chips; that’s five different meals made from a single item. I use Naan or Pita bread for sandwiches, dipping into hummus as a snack, or pizza; three purposes, same ingredient. Want more protein? I freeze, store, and use ground beef (or any meat) for spaghetti, burgers, meatballs, or tacos. A bag of frozen vegetables can last for months. Plus, a tub of mixed greens can be used in everything- salads, sandwiches, burgers, etc. Expect the same with staple seasonings- creole, Italian, taco mix, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. You don’t need a cabinet full of spices to make a good meal, just know how to work with what you’ve got!

    Photo of a refrigerated packs of chicken breasts in a grocery store next to a sign that says "$1.69" per lb.
    Leave chicken breasts whole, cut them in half, or slice into nuggets or strips. This way, you can bake, fry, bread, or grill them for many yummy meals.
  7. Expect the Unexpected. Prices constantly change at the grocery store for fresh meat. The items you want may not be on sale or sold out. Maybe you didn’t count your cash correctly and are working with less, so you have to shift your budget. Maybe you’ll have to make concessions in order to save, like bring your own bags or drive to different stores. Remember that “shift” happens, so don’t freak out and roll with the flow. You’ll be okay!

    Photo of a quarter inside of a grocery cart.
    At Aldi, don’t be surprised if you have to loan yourself a quarter to use the shopping carts – you’ll get your quarter back once the cart is returned.

With these tips for grocery shopping on the Dave Ramsey plan, my vision of a debt-free future gets a little clearer. I hope that you have great success with your finances and grocery shopping! If nothing else, I pray that you find a money-saving plan that makes the most sense to you! Want to see me in action? Watch my Grocery Shopping for Two on a Dave Ramsey Inspired Budget vlog below.

Tell me, what are other ways you save on your grocery bill? Do you have any time-tested strategies? What works? What doesn’t work? Please share your tips so we can all learn in the comments below!

Happy grocery-saving shopping!

Antoinette | F&C

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