Clipping coupons around the kitchen table may be a thing of the past, but Ohio State still offers several tips and tricks to help students save money on groceries..
Ben Raines, program coordinator for financial education at Scarlet and Gray Financial and Kent Gordon, a third-year in finance and director of mentorship of Phi Gamma Nu business fraternity, provided some advice to break down budgeting for groceries.
Understand your shopping habits
Before creating a budget for groceries, it’s important for students to understand their spending habits first, which Gordon said is achievable by recording the grocery bill for a couple of weeks, averaging the costs and then determining an approximate grocery budget.
“Everybody’s financial situations change, and they can change at different rates, but it’s important to look back at it and adjust depending on what your needs are and what your financial situation is,” Gordon said.
Gordon said he recommends using the tracking tools that banks already supply in their mobile banking applications. Many banks have apps that break spending into categories and show graphs and diagrams of how much is spent in each.
Create effective goals
Once they’ve gained a general understanding of their budget, students can use specific methods to help them reach their financial goals.
Gordon said he often uses the SMART goal framework to break budgeting into five standards — specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. With this framework, students should create a realistic budget with exact dollar amounts to track and meet their financial goals by the end of the year. He also encourages people to apply these goals to grocery budgeting.
Students can save money by only buying what they need rather than wasting food by buying too much.
Gordon said seeing a visual log of meals can motivate people to branch out and try more recipes, which can help students create a more focused shopping list or limit how often they eat out.
“I think a lot of people can get carried away if they walk by something and just throw it in the cart,” Gordon said. “So, a good way to avoid spending more than you need is to have a good idea of what you’re going to buy.”
Develop cooking mindset
With so many restaurants located near campus, it may seem hard to resist relying on them out of convenience. However, these meals are one-time purchases that accumulate over time, and Raines said learning to cook increases both confidence in the kitchen and in the aisles of the grocery store.
Raines said one way to approach learning to cook is by picking a recipe and breaking it into smaller steps. Once students figure out the steps to making a dish, they can learn how to make one portion at a time.
“You don’t have to be ready for a Michelin-star chef job,” Raines said. “But if you can learn to dice an onion this week and make rice the next week, you’re well on your way to being a fully competent chef for yourself.”
Learn about available resources
In addition to the step-by-step method of breaking down grocery budgeting, there are other resources available for students to cut down costs on food. Buckeye Food Alliance is a student-run food pantry sporting the motto “No Buckeye Goes Hungry.” The organization is located in Suite 150 of Lincoln Tower and is open Tuesday-Friday or Mondays at St. Stephens Church on Woodruff Avenue.
Raines said students can use this resource as a supplement to their budget by buying some of their groceries at the store than coming to BFA for other needs.