Do you know how much money you are eating each month? Not literally, eating money is not nutritious. I mean the amount of money you are spending on food! Groceries and eating out are some of the biggest budget busters for many people trying to get a handle on their finances. Let’s talk about several ways you can save money and still eat well.
1) Shop the sales. You should be planning your weekly menu based on the sales at your grocery store of choice. Is chicken on sale this week? Awesome, there are a million chicken recipes. What about pork? Pork chops for everyone!
I’ll talk about brand loyalty in a bit, but you need to give up a little brand loyalty to shop the sales (or stock up when your favorite brands go on sale). Lays aren’t on sale this week? Great, you like Doritos too! Buy what’s on sale and enjoy it.
2) Use coupons. Bonus points if you use coupons AND shop the sales! Coupons have a bad rap because they are typically for “junk” foods — chips, candy, crackers, soda, etc. But you can also find coupons on bread, frozen fruit and vegetables, bottled water, pasta, rice, etc. Even better, you can easily find coupons for personal care items and cleaning supplies.
Where do you get coupons? Assuming you don’t receive the paper anymore (does anyone still get the paper?), you can find coupons in mailbox inserts and online. You could also dumpster dive but that’s gross and completely unsanitary.
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3) Buy store brand. Store brands are often cheaper than name brands, EVEN when the name brand products have coupons and/or sales. They are also just as good. Many grocery stores have awesome return policies on their store brand items, so you really don’t have anything to lose.
Some items that you don’t need to buy name brand: rice, pasta, oatmeal, bread, frozen fruits and vegetables, crackers, canned fruits and vegetables, and water. Don’t buy store brands of pop or mac-n-cheese, they just aren’t the same.
This is where you need to give up a bit of brand loyalty. We will always have a few brand name things that we “can’t” live without. For me this is Crest toothpaste, Diet Pepsi, and Dove body wash. But try to do away with brand loyalty as much as possible.
4) Stock up! Okay, this isn’t Hoarders or Extreme Couponing so I would never suggest you buy 50 bottles of ketchup. First off, no one likes ketchup that much! Secondly, imagine the amount of rent and utilities you are paying to store ketchup.
However, there are certain things that you will always need and don’t expire ever (or for a long time). Examples are cleaning supplies, toiletries, and dried goods (pasta, rice, etc.). Also, for those willing to invest in a chest freezer you can store meat and frozen goods for quite awhile.
Obviously, only stock up on items when they are on sale and/or you have great coupons. Don’t stockpile goods unless you have adequate storage space and won’t feel cramped by the excess.
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5) Shop at discount stores. Stores like Aldi offer low, low prices on groceries. (Yes, that is the place where you have to put a 25 cent deposit on carts.) The quality of packaged goods can be pretty hit or miss, but the produce is generally safe.
6) Price match. Stores like Walmart offer price matching on everything, including groceries. If you find a cheaper price at a local store (including a discount store like Aldi), Walmart will honor that price. Some stores require you to present the competitor’s ad, Walmart does not.
7) Avoid shopping while hungry. I don’t know about you, but hunger turns me into a totally different person. A deeply unhappy, impulsive person with zero self control. Don’t shop on an empty stomach so you don’t fill up your cart with impulse food purchases!
It may be a good idea to keep an energy bar in your car, purse, or pocket to reach for when you are feeling peckish. That way you won’t go home with 5 boxes of cookies that have pictures of elves on them.
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8) Shop with a list. Before you go shopping, use the weekly sales, your meal plan, and coupons to create a list of things you need. Stick with this list to avoid impulse purchases. You didn’t write ice cream on the list because you don’t need it!
Shopping with a list also makes your trip easier and quicker, as you don’t have to try to remember the things you need. Get in, get out, and get on with your day!
9) Sign up for the membership program. Many grocery stores offer a rewards program that give you discounts on products and access to sales that shoppers without cards don’t have. There are other perks as well. For instance, Giant Eagle gives you 10 cents off each gallon of gas during your next fill up for every $50 you spend in-store.
These rewards cards are usually free and it takes about 2 minutes to sign up. Do it!
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10) Pay attention during check out. Believe it or not, cash registers ring things up incorrectly all the time. Make sure you are getting any applicable sales and discounts for the items you are purchasing. Also, make sure any rewards card discounts or coupons go through correctly. Just paying attention can save you so much money and it’s easy to do.
If you are couponing or price matching, it is a good idea to have the respective store policy on hand. Cashiers are often unaware of these policies and may try to incorrectly tell you that you can’t get certain discounts. Don’t accept it timidly and lose out on savings. Pull out the policy and show them that you are right.
What is your grocery store of choice? What are your favorite methods for saving at the grocery store?