How to Budget for Groceries and Maintain Efficiency – Full Time RV Living

Last Updated on March 7, 2024

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Key Takeaways:

  • No More Loyalty: Abandon brand loyalty and explore different stores for the best deals. Shopping at multiple stores may be inconvenient but can lead to significant savings.
  • Specialty Stores: Don’t overlook specialty stores for specific items like meat, seafood, or produce. Butchers, fishmongers, and farmers markets often offer better prices and fresher products.
  • Stick With the Basics: Simplify your grocery list by focusing on staple foods like eggs, bread, rice, and beans. Opt for cheaper cuts of meat and generic brands to save money without sacrificing quality.
  • Cheapest Brands: Choose generic or store-brand products for basic items to reduce costs. Avoid premium-priced items unless shopping at upscale grocery stores.
  • In-Season Produce: Prioritize seasonal fruits and vegetables, which are usually more abundant and affordable. Research local produce availability to plan your purchases accordingly.
  • Go Frozen For Off-Season: When fresh produce is expensive or unavailable, opt for frozen alternatives. Frozen fruits and vegetables retain their nutrients and are often more budget-friendly than canned options.
  • Glass, Not Plastic: Select products packaged in glass jars or bottles instead of plastic containers to save on costs. Glass containers can be repurposed for various purposes, reducing waste.
  • Buy Loose: Purchase loose items from bulk bins or deli counters to avoid packaging costs. Bulk buying is also economical for frequently used non-perishable items.
  • When You Can, Buy Bulk: Consider buying non-perishable items in bulk quantities to benefit from lower unit prices. Stock up on essentials like rice, potatoes, and eggs for long-term savings.
  • When To Shop: Plan your grocery trips for optimal savings by shopping mid-week when stores offer overlapping discounts. Late-evening shopping can also yield bargains on perishable items.
  • Let The Offers Guide You: Stay flexible with your shopping list and capitalize on special offers to maximize savings. Adjust your purchases based on promotions and discounts available.
  • Beware of Impulse Buys: Stick to your shopping list to avoid unnecessary purchases and impulse buys. Shopping on a full stomach can help resist temptation and save money.
  • Avoid Waste: Minimize food waste by purchasing perishable items in smaller quantities and consuming them before they spoil. Choose unripe fruits to extend their shelf life.
  • Go Wild: Take advantage of opportunities to hunt or forage for food, where possible. Freshly caught or gathered ingredients can supplement your groceries and add excitement to meals.
  • Consume Less: Practice mindful eating habits to avoid overbuying and wasting food. Opt for smaller portions and prioritize essentials to make the most of limited storage space.


One of the most important tips to remember when living on the road or traveling, is to keep to a budget. Full-time RV life is not that cheap. Even if you are only traveling for a short time, it is important to watch your spending. There are several ways you can budget for groceries and live efficiently while on the road.

Depending on where you go, prices can be higher or lower than what you are used to. It helps to shop smart so that you have enough money for groceries as you travel through different places. The key to efficient shopping is knowing where to shop, what to buy, and a few other hacks we are here to help you with.

1. No More Loyalty

If you typically shop at one store and get certain brands at home, you have to give this up when traveling. Prices can vary a great deal among brands and stores on the road, and sticking to your usual picks can cause you to spend too much. You should also develop the habit of looking at more than one place for groceries. One-stop shopping is convenient, but shopping where items are the cheapest will be more efficient. Even if that means visiting 2 or 3 stores on grocery day.

2. Specialty Stores

As you keep an eye out for which stores have the cheapest items, do not overlook specialty stores. For example, meats can often be purchased at lower prices from a butcher, seafood from a fishmonger, vegetables from a farmers market, and bread from a local bakery. If you are in an area for a while and can compare pricing from different stores, this is recommended to find the best prices for groceries while you are there.

3. Stick With the Basics

One of the main features of RV living is to simplify life. You leave many things at home and get back to basics. This same principle should apply to your groceries too. The basic staple foods will always give you the best value for your money, so stock up on butter, eggs, bread, rice, potatoes, cheese, beans, and yogurt. If you like to eat Organic you can find these items organic in most larger supermarkets everywhere. Meat can be expensive, but is also a staple for many. To save money with meat, opt for whole chickens and ground beef as cheaper options. Getting meat from a butcher will save money and be sure to avoid expensive cuts like lamb and steak.

4. Cheapest Brands

As you pick up your staples, look for the cheapest brands. For these basic foods, you do not need branded items. If all your groceries are coming from one supermarket, you can choose their ‘own-brand’ products for the basics to save money on the final bill. The only time this is not always a good idea is for top-range grocery stores, where all prices are high.


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5. In-Season Produce

Fruits and vegetables are perishable but you still want them on the trip because they are better for you then the processed versions. To save money here, learn how the produce changes with the seasons. Fruits and vegetables that are in season are going to be plentiful and cheaper than rare ones that are being imported from somewhere else. You just need to do a little research of the area you’re headed to and what foods are in season and then shop accordingly.

6. Go Frozen For Off-Season

If the fruits and veggies you want are not in season or are too expensive, then always opt for frozen rather than canned. Frozen produce is typically cheaper and the nutrients remain because freezing does not destroy them. Plus frozen fruits and vegetables can be easily made into smoothies for quick breakfasts on the go.

7. Glass, Not Plastic

When you have to buy sauces or condiments of any kid, be sure you get glass bottles or jars and not plastic ones. The plastic bottles are more expensive to make so the prices will be higher too. When empty, the jars and glass bottles can be used for arts and crafts for the kids too.

8. Buy Loose

It is better to buy loose foods from bins or baskets if available, rather than pre-packaged foods. This is common for rice, eggs, sugar, salt, flour, spices, and nuts. This also applies to packaged meats and you can typically get cheaper meat from the deli because there is no packaging included in the end pricing. The pre-packaged versions may be more convenient, but they will cost you more too.

9. When You Can, Buy Bulk

If you come across a wholesale store or when grocery shopping before you hit the road, buy bulk where you can. While this is not probable for most foods like meats, because of limited freezer space, it is a good idea for non-perishable items. Foods like rice, potatoes, and eggs, that are going to be used frequently should be purchased in bulk. Bulk prices are cheaper and as long as it is a food that is getting eaten each day, it will not go to waste. Bulk buying of small snack packets are also great for keeping kids satisfied.

10. When To Shop

Not many people realize that there are better days and times to grocery shop. For most supermarkets, Wednesday is the best shopping day because special offers from the previous week are still in effect as are the new ones for the next week. Available discounts are essentially doubled.

Additionally, deliveries are usually made Monday and Tuesday, so you will be getting the freshest foods.
Grocery shopping is also better in the evening, as late as possible. Bakeries, delis, and other specialty stands will be getting rid of perishable items at very low prices. There will also be less people around and less crowded aisles.

11. Let The Offers Guide You

You may have a list when you go to the grocery store, but pay attention to offers. Let them guide you to the best deals to save you money. If you are getting a particular item but see that another brand is offering 3 for the price of 2, switch to that brand instead. Having a list is a great guide and ensures you don’t forget anything, but don’t let the list be rigid. If there are special offers, even on items you were not planning to get, make sure you take them, so long as the items will get used.

12. Beware of Impulse Buys

One way that lists are great, is they can limit your impulse buys. Sticking to your list means you will buy only what you need and will not waste money on stuff you don’t. The only time to deviate from your list is for special offers on items you will use and that will save you money. There are always rows of temptations at the check out lines, so be aware and be careful. You can avoid many of the impulse buys by shopping on a full stomach as most of them appeal to your taste, and if you are hungry, you’re more likely to give in and spend money.

13. Avoid Waste

Wasting food is wasting money and with traveling there is limited fridge and freezer space, so you need to be mindful. Wasting groceries is wasting money. If you’re traveling a do not buy excessively large amounts of perishable foods that you will not have time to eat. When you do buy perishable fruits, pick the ones that are unripe so they will not perish before you eat them.

14. Go Wild

When you can, hunt or forage for your food to save buying some. There may be some fresh fruit in the area you can pick or fish you can catch. If there are any opportunities to catch or forage for your food, then this serves to save money and serves as a fun activity for all.

15. Consume Less

This is left to the end because it may seem obvious, but is always worth saying. Many people eat food for comfort and traveling or living on the road can be unsettling at times. This is when having a grocery list is important and making sure the family only buys and eats what they need. There is limited storage and cooking space in an RV, so you want only the food you need. This saves money and is healthier for you too.

Grocery shopping is a task you will have to do while traveling, but it doesn’t have to be a challenge nor does it have to be expensive. With these tips you can get the groceries you need, for prices you can afford. Prices may vary as you travel from place to place, but with the right planning, you can stick to your budget and focus on fun.

Last update on 2024-05-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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