Groceries can easily be one of the largest expenses a household has each month. Since food is a necessity, it can be easily overlooked as a place to cut back on spending. I am a firm believer in cutting costs in every possible way, and I’ve listed some of my favorite tips for saving money on groceries below.
1) Never shop when you’re hungry. You’re more likely to buy extras that you either don’t need or that cost too much money.
2) Try to shop alone. I never bring my husband and son with me to the grocery store, because then I would have 4 arms reaching for items that aren’t on the list.
3) Shop from a list. If you make a promise to yourself that you’re only buying what you need, it will save you money.
4) Make your shopping list fit your store. For instance, I’ve shopped at the same store for 5 years now. So, I know where everything is located. I make my grocery list according to the aisles in the store, so I don’t have to veer off course to find one or two items. This saves time, plus there’s less of a chance I will buy something extra this way.
5) Clip coupons! Not only do I clip coupons, but I have them arranged on my desk by expiration date and type of product. Don’t worry, this isn’t some major system. I just separate them into food and non-food (i.e. diapers) and put the ones expiring this month on top. This is really simple. Then, after making my list for the week, I go through the coupons to see what applies. Then, I paper clip the coupons to the list so I’m sure not to forget to use them. Also, if there are coupons in the paper that you don’t use (for instance dog food coupons and you have no pets), you can give them away or even sell them on Ebay. You won’t get rich by selling a few coupons for 25 cents each, but at least you won’t be throwing money away.
6) Check out competitor prices. My grocery store price matches. So, if another store has the same item for less money, as long as I have their ad, my store will match the price. This is great because it saves me from driving all around town wasting gas to save a few bucks. The items that this really saves money on are chicken and beef as well as canned goods (think 10 for $10 sales and such). But it can also save you on produce, milk, eggs, and really anything else . This probably only takes me about 10 minutes a week to do. And is well worth the money. I can easily save $5-$15 a week just by checking out competitor prices.
7) Know your prices. If you know that your store has mixed vegetables for 99 cents a bag usually, and one week the price is $1.49….DON’T BUY IT. You can do without those veggies for the 50 cent savings. Buy an alternative for the meantime or stock up when they’re on sale so you don’t have to pay the higher price. You can easily buy things like frozen foods and canned goods at the lower prices and stock up to avoid paying the higher price for the same item. The best thing to do is find items that are at the lowest price and use a coupon for that item at the same time. That’s when the real savings comes in.
8) Buy what you need for the week or longer. Don’t shop a little here, a little there. That’s when you pick up extras that you don’t need and that’s how you spend too much money. I make out a menu for the week. I know I sound a bit like a wife from the 1950’s, but it helps to keep me on track. That way, I know what we’ll be eating for the week, and what I will need to buy to make those meals. Then, there are no trips to the grocery store mid-week for a loaf of bread, a pound of cheese, etc. Those trips will kill your budget, so avoid them at all costs.
9) Don’t waste food. Don’t buy 10 pounds of potatoes at $2.99 because it’s cheaper than 5 pounds of potatoes for $2.49, unless you will really use the 10 pounds of potatoes before they go bad. If you only really will use 5 pounds of potatoes, but you bought the 10 pound bag and wasted the rest, you just paid 50 cents more for the same potatoes you could have gotten for $2.49 if you’d simply bought only what you needed.
10) Don’t be afraid to buy generic, but buy name brand if it’s cheaper with the coupon. There is virtually no difference these days between name brand and generic items, and some generics are actually better. If you can save money, why not buy generic? With that being said, if I can get the name brand on a sale with a coupon and it’s less than the generic, I will buy name brand.
11) When looking for a deal, don’t look at eye level. Grocery stores typically place the most expensive items at eye level because those are the ones that will be seen the most, and therefore, purchased most. Usually the better deals are on the higher or lower shelves. So, look around for the best deals, and bring a calculator so you can see the true cost of the item per unit to get the absolute best deal.
These are just some basic tips that I’ve learned along the way. Most of all, you just have to trust yourself and spend just a few minutes to save several dollars a week or more. If you can avoid impulse buys and can stick to a shopping list, you will save even more.