The recession in full swing and many families have been tightening their belts. With that in mind, I thought I’d spend a bit of time talking about how to save money on what, for many of us, is a major monthly expenditure — groceries! None of this is rocket science, but it does take a bit of discipline. With a bit of discipline, you can save a lot of money each and every month. Oh, and you might end up eating healthier, too. Talk about a win-win!
Before we dive into the full list, a reader pointed out that she saves money on grocery purchases by using credit cards offering cash back or points on grocery purchases. Just be sure to pay your card in full – reward credit cards can be useful tools, but they can also be dangerous if you build up debt – the interest you may be charged can easily outweigh any benefits you receive from points.
Now onto the full list!
Tips on How to Save Money on Groceries
- Go shopping alone
- Have a budget and stick to it
- Make fewer, larger trips
- Don’t shop hungry
- Plan your meals in advance
- Scan your cupboards, pantry, and fridge before leaving
- Keep a running list of items you need on your fridge
- Break your list down by store and plan your outing accordingly
- Plan your trip through the store to minimize wandering the aisles
- Don’t forget your list when you head to the store, but…
- Be willing to deviate from your list for great deals
- Don’t be afraid of store brands
- Buy the Sunday paper
- Keep an eye on the weekly store circular
- Clip (and use!) coupons for name brand items
- Check the store’s website for printable coupons
- Be on the lookout for “double coupon” days
- Stack manufacturer and store coupons
- Keep a price list/book so you know a deal when you see one
- Learn your store’s sale cycle (sales are often cyclical)
- Stock up (within reason) when things are on sale
- Get rain checks when sale items are out of stock
- Visit multiple stores to get the best deals, or…
- Ask your preferred store to match prices form elsewhere
- Avoid non-grocery items that can be bought for less elsewhere
- Joins the store’s affinity program and flash your card
- Buy a chest freezer
- Buy in bulk, but…
- Be sure to look at unit pricing
- Bring a calculator (unless you’re a math whiz)
- Be on the lookout for “shrinkage” (e.g., 1.5 quarts vs. half gallon)
- Cook large batches and freeze for later
- Don’t waste leftovers
- Eat less – seriously, many people eat way more than necessary
- Cook from scratch, avoid processed foods
- Avoid frozen/prepared entrees
- Eat more fruits/veggies, cut back on meat
- Eat in season fruits/vegetables
- Plant a garden
- Hit the local farmer’s market
- Drink more water, fewer costly beverages
- Be on the lookout for pricing errors at the register
- Be sure they scan instant coupons that are attached to some items
- Always fill out and send your rebates
Finally, consider the value of your time. While minimizing your expenditures is always a good idea, it doesn’t always make sense to spend tons of extra time in hopes of saving a few cents off your grocery bill.
How Do You Save Money on Groceries?
Now it’s your turn. While the list above is a good start, I’ve undoubtedly missed a number of things. So… If you have any suggestions as to how to save money on groceries, please share them in the comments.
77 Responses to “How to Save Money on Groceries – 45 Ways to Save Money on Groceries”
My personal favorite way to save money on groceries is: don’t go shopping for groceries with your kids because you’ll always end up buying something new that they really “wanted” but later being thrown away.
Great post, these tips will come in handy. I try to do my shopping every 10 days rather than weekly, this has helped me save quite a lot of money.
Invest in a printer, or use your local library’s resources to print out valuable coupons. Although the newspaper is usually full of coupons, you have many more options when you look on line for the specific items your household uses. Make sure you have an efficient way to store all your coupons until you get the opportunity to use them!
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If you keep snacks in the kid seat area of a cart, you’ll be able to see more easily how many items you have before checkout. That helps me not to buy more than necessary.
It helps if you keep your pantry, cupboards and freezers organized. Also, keep your frozen foods dated so you know how long they’ve been in there.
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Most cell phones have a calculator built in…so you don’t have to take a hand held calculator to the store with you. A lot of people overlook the seemingly small coupons. Example: Libby’s had a coupon for 1.00 off 4 cans of Libby veggies. Hang tight…Dollar General had them on sell for 40 cents a can…bought a bunch at 15 cents a can. Also check you DOLLAR STORES like GREENTREE…they have added food items and lots of brand name personal items…check them out!
#36, while correcting #35, is also a bit misleading. While no farmer runs their cattle through ammonia, meat processing companies most certainly do. And despite the fact that you’ve been raising cattle for 30 years, this process is relatively new (it was put into law by George W Bush). Basically, meat processing companies are allowed to use a certain percentage of ammonia treated meat in ground beef. So, when you buy ground beef from the grocery, you’re most likely getting ammonia. More about it here: http://redgreenandblue.org/2011/04/13/jamie-oliver-wants-to-know-why-pink-slime-in-school-lunch/
An easy way to keep a price log is to use PriceMouse. PriceMouse is a FREE app for iPhone and iPod touch that remembers and compares prices for you at all your stores. It automatically does unit comparisons too. More info: http://www.floatingradish.com/pricemouse/
I’m actually the person who wrote PriceMouse. I wrote it because I wanted to save money on groceries but I’m lousy at remembering prices. 🙂
I like this article so much!you’ve list out all the points that we maybe forget in our daily life.I like shopping online very much and I used to lost in it and waste a lot of money.But now,my budget is in good condition since I took advantage of dozens of coupons online.I’d like to hunt for coupons on some sites like Couponcabin.com,CouponSnapshot.com,RetailMeLot.com,or Savings.com.They really helped me saving a lot!I enjoy myself in shopping online with coupon codes!
I shop for certain items at the Asian grocery store. I get incredible prices on mushrooms, soymilk, tofu, fresh ginger and certain types of noodles. Go with an open mind and you may find some new favorites.
I’m so glad you mentioned shopping less often because everyone else suggests once a week and I like to go once a month, right after the household bills are paid.
Has anyone else noticed how crappy COUPONS are getting? Buy 3+ and save less than a dollar! A lot of stores wont accept printed coupons either.
When I do my monthly shopping, I make a list. I search the cabinets to find staples we need because forgetting them means another trip. Then I jot down fast meals I know my kid will eat. I check the ads for specials and note the store on the list. At the store, my son gets to pick 1 item for himself that we already need or I’ll let him bring the DS or read a book while I shop. I agree with the previous poster that checking before checkout is really helpful. I’m a sale hoarder 🙁 When my fav non-parishable is 50 cents or more on sale I’ll buy many. It’s not good on the short-term but it’s good as long as you know you’ll use it. Worst example: This summer I bought 20 cans of tuna on sale! We mix tuna with everything when it’s over 90* outside
Watch your barcodes and cent per unit. Walmart constantly argues that only products with the specific barcode ae on sale and all other identical items are full price. They do help a lot with noting unit price though. Lately, extra packaged is often cheaper than bulk.
Ive noticed that stores jack their prices before a sale so that its not really much of a sale anyway. Someone told me chain stores are price jacking on the first week of the month because of stamps, but I have’t kept track of that. **Our local news WXII just mentioned we should report (to whom?) grocery places that gouge before bad weather.**
Hey, I was told by a friend of the website http://www.southernsavers.com and anyone should check it out. The lady, Jenny, who runs it keeps the list of sales up to date at main stores. You can also print out a grocery list of compiled items that you check off. It’s incredible. Just wanted to tell other people about it.
One of my daughters talked me into trying the extreme couponing thing. It’s great for her (she saves an incredible amount of money,) but she also lives in an area with large grocery chains which have double couponing, etc. I have to drive for an hour in order to get to a store that does that and with today’s gas prices, it just wasn’t worth it.
So…Save A Lot has appeared in my area and, though I really hate to sound like an advertisement, the difference in prices between their store brands and the name brands are amazing. The difference even shows up, although to a slightly lesser degree, between their store brands and other store brands.
I took my husband shopping with me the second time I went to Save A Lot and he just didn’t believe the savings. What would have normally cost us around $300 in WalMart came to $76 and change at Save A Lot. And I scrounge their meat cases for the close to the sell-by date.
I have not bought one single store brand item at Save A Lot that didn’t taste just as good (and in some cases better) than the name brand.
Their produce section isn’t gourmet, but they always have the common produce. $1.49 for a 5# bag of Idaho potatoes vs. the sale price of $3.49 at another local store.
The one downside is that they don’t carry things like the “same as a five pound bag of sugar” artifical sweetener that I have to use and the “no added sugar” totally fat-free products that we buy. Still have to go somewhere else for those.
But all in all, that store has helped me cut at least 50% off my grocery budget and sometimes up to 75%, depending on what I find in the meat case.
There are many techniques to saving money on groceries besides coupons. I never found coupons very frugal because they are typically for processed foods which are more expensive. Meals can be made quickly, cheaply and more healthy at home from scratch than several of the box meals.
Remember coupons are marketing devices. Only save the coupons for items you actually already buy, then you are not buying items you won’t actually use. I put extra coupons on the table at work for others to take and use.
i don’t eat meat
I save lots of money by using coupons. I have sent emails to the companys of products I frequently use and they send me three to four coupons at a time and this really helps.
I also make large batches of stew, chili, spaghetti and put in small storage containers and freeze them. Not only do I save money I save time by not having to cook during the week.
I make a list and stick to it.
I absolutely love those dent & scratch-type places. I go about once a month and stock up on as many non-perishables as I can. I refuse to pay full price for spices, oils, canned tomatoes, pasta sauce and boxed snacks when I can get them at this place for pennies. They even have organic crackers, cereal, etc. for less than a dollar a box! It’s my favorite way to save money, and no coupons needed!
My local grocery store puts meat on sale that is close to the sell by date. They discount it close to half of the original price and put a bright yellow sticker on it. That is what I look for now everytime I’m in the store. Today I picked up a family pack of 12 chicken legs for $3.32 original price was $6.63. A whole ALL NATURAL chicken for $3.60 regular price was $7.20 and a pkg of split chicken grillers for $3.60 regular price was $6.69. All of that cost me just $10.52. A savings of $10 and they all had a sell by date of tomarrow. Not bad if you ask me. Check your store to see if they have any sales like this on fresh meat.
I like to buy meat that I spot on sale and in big packages. I take them home and break them down into individual size servings, using plastic to wrap them in before I put them in freezer bags. This allows me to re-use the freezer bags later. I then plan most of my meals around what is in my freezer. Also, start an organized collection of really good recipes from a favorite source that you like. I like Martha Stewart and Rachael Ray recipes. It doesn’t matter, just collect a lot of good recipes as this gives you more ways to cook up bargain cuts of meat and your meals always feel more fancy using the cheapest cuts or items in season and on sale, and you aren’t always cooking up the same thing.
I have to disagree with the fact that buying a half of
beef always saves you money. It depends on what cuts
of beef you like or can afford to eat. I only eat the eye of the round and ground round. I can get these 2 cuts on a good sale for under $3.00a pound. A friend just bought a side of beef for $3.00 a pound, cut and wrapped. That included $3.00 a pound for the bones. Now the side of beef included steaks and if you like to eat steaks I believe it probably is a good buy. I do not care for steak so buying a side of beef would not be a good buy for me.We each have our own tastes and budget.
I save money other ways. I make my own Greek yogurt for about $1.00 a quart. Just heat the milk to 180 degrees in the microwave, cool it to 112 degrees then add dry milk and the starter, I use Dan Active, put it in containers, place containers in a cooler, add enough hot water to come up to the top of the containers, place the lid on and put it in a warm place. It only takes 8 hours for you to have yogurt. I usually do this when I am doing dishes in the evening and let it sit over night. Leaving it more than 8 hours will not hurt it at all. I have left it sit for 12 hours one time and it was fine.
I take one day during the week to cook. On that day I make enough French bread for a week. I use my food processor, make small loaves and then freeze them. I make a crockpot full of dried beans and freeze them. If you change the water 3 times during the soaking time you will have no problems with gas. I make some kind of large roast to serve that day and have enough left over to freeze to use at another day in a casserole.
Excellent article!! I especially love the first one “Shop alone”. Whenever I take my husband with me, I always end up spending twice as much.
One thing that I do when I grocery shop is I set a limit on how much I can spend for the week. For every item I buy, I round the price up to the nearest dollar and I write it down. For example, milk….$3.19, I round up to $4.00. When the prices add up to what I want to spend, I quit shopping. When the cashier is done totalling everything up, I’ve usually spent about $10-$15 less than what I had planned.
One more habit I have — before checking out, look through your cart for items you may have picked up on impulse even though you are trying to avoid impulse buys. I can usually put back a couple of high-cost or low-nutrition items that somehow jumped into my cart when I wasn’t looking…
AS always Susan, Great tips! Thanks! I heard about a new site at Church. http://www.mygroceryspy.com It compares prices at the top stores here in Atlanta. From what Iâ€™ve read, it updates twice a week and shows where the lowest prices are on a few hundred items. You can print out your shopping list or have it sent to your phone. (Iâ€™m not savvy enough for that though). I email them since their not up yet, and they told me they will be up in January in Atlanta and Birmingham AL. then other cities. I canâ€™t wait to try it.
Excellent list – one more to add. Look at buying ‘store’ brands instead of name brands for many items. The quality of the products is usually quite similar and the savings can be significant. Granted – sometimes only the name brand will do when it comes to taste. However there are a lot of products where a store brand will suffice.
You make good points about coupon scammers but I just wanted to point out that stores send manufacturer’s coupons in to be redeemed for cash. So they’re not actually losing money on that Reynold’s wrap transaction. Stores can set whatever policies they like, of course. Maybe a point of sale transaction that looks negative at the end of the day is a book keeping headache under the system your store uses. But it sounds like management might be a little confused on why the policy is what it is 🙂
@ABT #26 who said “To people that look for wrong prices to get stuff free, give me a break. Thats just tacky,”
If it’s so “tacky,” then why is that the store policy?
And if you think that’s tacky, then what about a store that lists a sale price to get people to buy a product but then rings it up at full price hoping they won’t notice? The extra money they make from the people who don’t notice more than makes up for a free item given to the few who do notice.
I’m not saying your store does this. But let’s say we give the store the benefit of the doubt and assume they immediately fix the incorrect scan price. Surely a free box of cereal is a small price to pay for the customer goodwill of all the subsequent buyers who get the correct price.
Buy a refillable BPA free water bottle. It’s saved us tons in bottled drinks (water, soda, punch) because it’s just as convenient as grabbing a bottle and going. In our area the local utilities company charges about 9cents per gallon of water. When you compare that to bottled water, tea, juice and sodas….it’s SHOCKING!
I also make my own broth from leftover chicken pieces and bones. At 99cents per can, I can make a gallon of broth for nothing by saving my cuttings from veggies and chicken (toss in bag into freezer until enough accumulates) and the savings is GREAT! We cook with broth rather than water for rice and veggies and soups to give more flavor and keep us from wishing we’d eat out more. 😉 Sneaky no?
most stores now have linked their loyalty cards to sites like coupons.com, cellfire.com, etc. check the stores website. they will let you load the coupons onto the card and then you can just print up the list of coupons you’ve loaded. they will also let you print up the coupons if you prefer. coupons.com site does list what stores are availbale in different areas if you have problems finding links on the store’s own site.
google catalina coupon. people have made it a mission to save as much as they can and load up for a small amount. look for their blogs, might be someone in your area or using stores you prefer.
I didn’t read every individual comment above so this may be redundant and I don’t know if this is available in al parts of the country but I find shopping at Safeway.com and having my groceries delivered to my front door saves time and money. The delivery cost can be as low as $6.95 for each order. The advantage of this besides avoiding crowded markets is that it is easier to find the sales and best deals because when you shop online you can go directly to what you want and sales ( like two for one deals, discounts ) are highlighted in yellow and can be easily spotted. The best example is with meat : if you shop in person the meat section is huge and if you looked for every sale and compared you would be there forever and it is almost impossible to view everything but online you can , for example , view literally every fresh meat like beef in three minutes and see the sales immiediately. Same with chicken, seafood, pork, turkey, and lamb. The site is easy to navigate. You can do the same with vegatables, you can see every price and every sale on the vegatables you’re interested in , in minutes, ditto cleaning supplies, beverages, dairy products, frozen food, etc., all neatly organized and easy to find. You can schedule a delivery time from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm for days in advance. I’m 49 years old and have been shopping at Safeway literaly since age 10 and I think their prices are competetive with other stores. I buy enough groceries to last me three or four weeks and on my reciept I usually save 25% to 33% on my groceries each order.
great tips – thank so much for posting.
I especially like the tips about not going shopping hungry as that definitely makes me buy more than I really need or intended to.
These are great ideas especially when it’s going back to school time. It means more groceries to buy every weekend and buying in bulk, I think, is more practical. But it’s all okay because i discovered the beauty of using coupons.. Makes me feel less guilty about impulse buying.. LOL!
I love coupons. I also work in retail. I have advice about coupons though just from my working in retail. I have found that when going to the store and using my manufacturer’s coupons and store coupons at the same time to get a great deal, I often get mean glares from the cashiers and I have found out why. Working in a business that does coupons(manufacturer and store) I have found that some people make a daily effort to cheat the system.
I can now see why when I go to stores and use my own coupons, why cashiers give me that oh great a coupon user look.
my advice is to read the coupons carefully and make sure you know the stores policies. I saw a comment earlier that said walgreens had their foil on sale for 99cents with their coupon and a manufacturer’s coupon for 1.00 making it free..my business doesn’t do this because you are technically making it a negative price. We aren’t allowed to consider tax in the total so if u have a 1.00 coupon on a 99cent item we won’t take the coupon because it makes the item 0 or -1 cent without tax. We actually can be fired for this because they say it is “costing” the company money. Almost like we owe the customer money ..
We also have customer’s that come in and they will spend 80$ but after their coupons, which we have found have been photocopied and such so they have more than 1..theyre total amounts to 42cents..we don’t honor these people’s coupons anymore.
I have also found that we have customer’s that print online coupons that are fake..so be aware of fake coupon sites. Publix recently had a coupon for buy 3-12pks of soda get 1 bag of doritos free..then we had customers come in with manufactureres coupons similiar to the publix one but they were for buy a bag of doritos get 3-12pks free. Someone actually went through the trouble of photoshopping the coupon. So beware of coupons that sound to good to be true ..they usually are.
I have also found people that come in and buy 4 or 5 newspapers from out store..then come in a week later and hand me 50 coupons for 50 of the items..(because they go to 10 stores and buy 5 newspapers from each one)..such as a lady who bought 20 boxes of tampons for 2.50 a box and had 20 2.00 coupons for those boxes..beware of this as alot of stores are now implementing the right to reserve quanities because of those people.
As I said earlier we don’t accept these people coupons anymore because we have found that they are buying the items and selling them at their own stores for a raised price..and that some of those people are buying in bulk and yardselling those items at a raised price..
Stack store coupons with manufacturer’s coupons….saves a ton!!!
Know when to shop at Costco and when not to. Sometimes it can save a lot of money. Other times, not so much. I keep a list of the highest and lowest sale prices / ea I’ve seen over the last 6 months for thousands of items. I then compare those prices to Costco’s prices (which I check quarterly). Yes, I do this as a business (it is free for the public to access the list), but anyone could do it on a smaller scale. You’d be surprised at which things are a good deal and which aren’t.
Good advice! One thing alot of people don’t realize is that Wal-Mart has a policy of if an item is priced wrong you get either $3 off or if the item is under $3 you get the item free. The only thing is if your buying multiples of that item you only get this for one of that item. So next time your at Wal-Mart pay close attention because even if you point out the error they won’t honor the policy without being asked to do so.
Don’t be scared of the frozen dough for bread. For $1.50 i buy a bag with 3 frozen bread loafs. I use it for garlic bread, pizza crust, sandwiches and just fresh bread for dinner. I used to buy the pisbery roll can bread x2 a pizza crust and a loaf of french bread every week totaling $10.50. Just toss it in the fridge to thaw, (stays good for a week) it takes about an hour and a half to proof, a bit of advanced planning but when i get home i take it from the fride and place it in the cold oven when its time to make dinner i turn on the oven to 350 and cook it. Its a tad harder then just open a bag of precooked bread but it tastes so much better and saves $468 a year.
#35 is full of false information. E Coli doesn’t come from what cattle eat, it comes from being contaminated with feces when the meat is being processed. No farmer runs meat through ammonia. Meat from the grocery doesn’t come from farmers anyway. It comes from commercial feedyards who also do not use ammonia. I have raised cattle for 30 years and it amazes me where you people come up with this kind of info.
Freezing a bulk supply of meat in a deep freezer is an excellent idea. Meat is an important source of protein, but is expensive. Also, if beef is bought from a store it has been run through ammonia.
That’s because some beef farms only feed their cattle corn to fatten them up quickly and when cattle don’t eat grass, the meat can contain E. Coli. So, instead of feeding their cattle grass for 5 days, the farmers run the meat through ammonia. Scary thought, huh?
For the benefit of your health and your pocket book, consider buying a cow from a farmer you trust. You’ll know where your meat came from and how it was raised and you’ll save money. If your family can’t eat the whole cow, you can divide it between other families.
I use many of these ideas weekly, we shop for a family of 6, which includes 2 teens (who eat like horses mind you) for about 100 dollars. This is a full 7 days of meals,snacks, cleaning products, etc. I spend a lot of time shopping for deals, which my other half helps with, it is a good bonding time also planning out the menu. With 2 people it goes a lot faster than with just one. I also ask the kids for input on the menu, this makes it all seem like less of a chore to me and more like family time. I try to keep my meals to less than 10 dollars per meal. I always stock up on sales. We choose to shop weekly, mostly because we incorporate a great deal of fresh produce into our meal plan, and we need to eat it in a timely fashion. Buying in bulk does help on somethings, like cereal, our store offer very large store brand bags for 3 bucks a bag. I also do a lot of shopping for cleaning products and paper products at stores like dollar general and family dollar, especially cleaning products. Much cheaper than grocery stores, same brand names…plus I have found an orange cleaner I LOVE, that is a no name brand for 1.50 for a very generous bottle it smells fantastic and works great, don’t be afraid to try some of these no name cleaners.
Frozen vegetables and canned vegetables, while they are in the technical sense “processed foods”, are often very good deals. I believe that most people would say cooking with them as ingredients counts as “from scratch” cooking.
I prefer frozen to canned because their nutritional profile is more intact though.
@ comment 30, which says you don’t need a calculator when shopping by unit price because the store breaks things down to unit price:
well they don’t always, and it’s not always to the same units when they do.
small example: my local grocery store has 3 packages of celery, none of them broken down by unit price. Two of them are weighted packages (8 oz and 16 oz)and are $1.99 a pound each. The last package (brand) is unweighted and sold by the bunch and costs $2.00 for the bunch.
If you weigh this last package as I did you find it weighs 1.5 pounds so it has a unit price of 2/1.5 which is $1.33 a pound.
Of course you can argue a calculator is unnecessary but I have found it reduces the friction in making calculations and comes in handy. Also I use the “m+” button on it to keep a running tally as I have a $40 or $50 (currently $40) per week food budget and if I’m getting close to $40 in the week some high priced or secondarily important item may have to stay on the shelf in preference to something of higher priority. If I’m using a list (haven’t forgotten it in other words) then I will also write the price of each item down as I pick it up and keep a tally that way (using the calculator or a pencil).
Awesome list of tips! #8 also saves me tons of time. No zipping back and forth from one end of the store to the other.
“# Be sure to look at unit pricing
# Bring a calculator (unless youâ€™re a math whiz)”
Using unit pricing to shop for groceries will save you a lot of time and you don’t need a calculator – all the work has been done for you.
Great post. Lots of ideas.
I like your point about cooking meals from scratch and avoiding processed foods. As they say, the general relationship is that the more processed the foods are, the higher the cost. Another good reason for saving money and staying healthy.
I try to use all leftovers and all veggies from the previous week or two before buying more. (though have never succeeded so far!) I make a list in a notebook that’ s usually in my pocket, as things occur to me in the kitchen or throughout the day or week.
Then I compile a list from that notebook, or at least read over the notebook, before I enter the store or actually start shopping.
Then when I go shopping I have 2 categories of stuff that I shop for: the food for the week (usually under $40, typically fresh veggies, maybe milk, and meat) and stuff for the pantry or household.
I just buy one of things if it’s at the normal price. If it’s on super sale I’ll buy anywhere from a 6 mo to a 1 year supply. I just bought like 2 yrs worth of toothbrushes and soap because they were on super sale and I was running out of each.
And as a final note, I pack my lunch and eat out very infrequently, but that’s my choice. I also have not been going to get coffee etc at cafes, as I just make it at work in the back room or drink filtered water. My financial goal on a workday is to go and take *all* the money I made back home with me, not to leave any of it in the restaurants/cafes and shops. I will make an exception for a social occasion, but those are really exceptions. I have found if I don’t keep a handle on this that I can easily spend $300 a month on cafes and coffee breaks.
I agree that you have to be disciplined when shopping and you’ll save lots that way. I don’t buy certain things unless they’re on sale, and if I have a coupon, that’s even better. My husband made some storage shelves in the basement so I can stock up on canned goods, paper goods, soda, juices, among other things. When these items are on sale, I buy several. Another tip is to NEVER run out of staples like ketchup, mayo, salad dressings, etc. I always make sure I have at least two, and when I’m down to one I know I have to buy more. I never have to buy anything at the regular, inflated price. Also I always look over my receipt when I get home to make sure everything was the correct price and that all coupons were deducted. If not, I will go to the Customer Service my next shopping trip, and they correct any mistakes. It doesn’t happen often anymore, but even once is money out of my pocket. If I catch the mistake while my order is being rung up, I’m not shy about making sure I get the item free, as advertised. My store only gives the item free if the customer asks.
As a grocery store employee I have a few observations and tips…
I disagree with writing down prices, Prices change weekly, they can go up a few cents down a few cents. If the price doesnt change the size does. Biggest offenders are Paper products, and cereal.
I mean if you want to track store to store prices fine but keep this in mind.
To people that look for wrong prices to get stuff free, give me a break. Thats just tacky, kinda like people that shop in one place only to demand you match prices on every item. Bad karma people.
Be aware of sales tactics. Buy one get one you can usually get just one for half off. Same for “Three for $XX” You dont have to get all three.
A newer tactic is “Buy two get three free!!” One high end store is doing that to get people in, when you do the math based on their marked up price its just an ok deal not a spectacular one.
Eat what you buy and never buy what your family will not eat!
Not sure if you knew this or not…typically you can bring your receipt back in if you forgot your coupons and they will give you the money back in cash. I also always try and cook a bit extra for lunch for the next day so I don’t need to eat out.
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This is a great list. I do a lot of these things and it has definitely stretched our food budget a lot further. If you’re willing to put even a little extra time into it there is a lot of money to be saved on food. Great post.
Do not limit your grocery shopping to grocery stores, mass merchandisers, and local farmer’s markets. One of the best places on price is Walgreens or CVS. They do not have a large selection, but they take manufactors coupons on top of their coupons and lost leader sales. Example: Walgreens recently had Reynold’s Wrap Aluminum foil on sale with their coupon for $.99, then you use your $1.00 off Reynold’s manufactors coupon and it is FREE. This happens a great deal with shampoo, toothpaste, etc. I recently got 15 pounds of Smart Balance butter for free this way.
I would have to disagree on two of these as money savers…
# Cook from scratch, avoid processed foods
# Avoid frozen/prepared entrees
Although normally healthier to cook from scratch and avoid processed foods – its often much cheaper for example to buy a can of green beans for .50 cents then to buy fresh green beans and have an hour in clean, prep and cook time.
I will never understand why it is cheaper to buy most fruits and veggies after they have been transported, processed, cooked down, put in manufactured containers, ink labeled, transported again and stored on a shelf.
I mainly buy frozen veggies and fruits now as it is somewhere inbetween canned and fresh in costs and quality.
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Don’t forget no frills supermarkets like Aldi’s. You can save 30-50% at Adli’s compared to chain supermarkets.
They are able to offer such low prices because they cut operating costs to the bone – smaller stores, more limited store hours, cash and debit cards accepted only, customers bag their own groceries, you rent shopping carts for a quarter.
The savings are well worth it.
I think this is an extension of “scan your cupboards before leaving” but doing occasional COMPLETE pantry inventories can help prevent food from going bad.
Every now and then I search through the pantry and see what is coming up on expiring and how we can use it in a meal with just a few more ingredients. Then I add those ingredients to the next shopping list!
And I love the “eat less” item! As Americans we tend to eat too much, and eating less should help our overall health (and decrease heath care spending).
Probably the biggest one for me is making fewer but larger trips. It’s so easy to go in with the intent to buy milk or bread and come out with three or four additional items. Do that multiple times a week, and it adds up.
Great Article. Most of them i have implement currently. Really working and can save a money. BUT the important is DISCIPLINE. Follow the tips and guide your self to be discipline. You will get the better result at the end.
One additional idea…
If I forget to bring my store discount card (i.e. bonus card, advantage card, breeze card, etc.), I always ask the cashier to scan a store card or input my phone number to get the “discount.”
Don’t be afraid to ask..
The nice thing about saving in the grocery store is you can get results immediately. Some changes to the budget take weeks and months– the grocery savings can be seen in a weekend.
Find out when your local markets have reductions on specific perishables, meat in particular. The Kroger where I used to live had meat at greatly reduced prices (at least 1/2 off) just because they were on their last day of sale. We never got spoiled meat – it was always as delicious as it was before it reached that date. If you can’t use it all, just freeze what you can’t use. One way you can help the environment just a wee bit is to save the inner liners from cereal to wrap as much of the meat as possible – it’s heavier than wax paper, and it works fine. I agree with Mike J – shopping when you’re in a hurry can save shoppers like me, who keep finding things they “need” while strolling through the store, a bundle. Like RGK, I live on my diet pop, so I buy it by the ton when I can get it at a decent price. At one time, I hade 48 12-packs of diet Code Red plus tons of diet Coke stacked in an alcove in my kitchen. Yay, buying in bulk!
For great deals on quality meat and veggies, consider purchasing direct from the farmer! You get good deals on high quality products with a lower “footprint” and support your local economy. Localharvest.org is a non-profit site that lists farmers in your own area. Good idea to check out, great value and getting to know your farmer.
All good tips and I pretty much use them all. One thing I also do is let sales partially dictate what I buy. It’s not contradictory to the idea that you should have a list of what you need to get, but instead an extension of buying things when they are on a good sale/coupons, etc. There are a lot of things you can go either way on, so if I see them on some really good. For example I did my shopping yesterday and saw Taco Bell Taco Shells on a very cheap sale, plus I brought all the coupons inserted in the Sunday paper and saw I had a coupon as well. I ended up buying 2 boxes (20 taco shells) for $1.50! So I made tacos last night. I wasn’t planning on buying them but they were so cheap and still something I’d use so I got them. I am also big on stocking up on things when I can get them real cheap. I live in NYC in an apartment and don’t have much storage room but I just keep 1 closet near the kitchen half used as a pantry and it’s loaded high. I drink a ton of diet coke, I practically live off it, and I have over a dozen cases stacked in there right now. Got them cheap a couple weeks ago for something like 10 cents a can.
For packaging bulk meats, instead of plastic, try white butcher paper. You can seal air out well with it, and if you fold it in half, shiny side out, you can stack things like hamburgers or chicken pieces so that they freeze individually and don’t stick together. Butcher paper comes on a huge roll for a good price, and you can write the contents on the outside with a sharpie or grease pencil. I write the cut of meat, the weight in pounds or ounces, and the date I wrapped it, so I can keep track of what’s in the freezer and when it needs to be used. You can also write a “use by” date on the package, as well. The packages seal easily with a piece of masking tape. My mother and grandmother used this method, and I’ve used it myself for 20 years. It also makes packages easy to stack on a freezer shelf. Also, for bulk purchases of things like chicken breasts, you can skin and bone them, separate the chicken tenders for a separate package, and lay them out to freeze individually on cookie sheets, then wrap the individually frozen breasts, either singly, or between pieces of butcher paper. The skin and bones can be frozen separately or boiled then to make homemade chicken stock, too. Much more economical than buying packages of frozen breasts. They can also be diced up ahead of time and frozen in containers for making stir fry, or frozen in a marinade, as well.
Beware of impulse buys that could add up the costs
I agree with Trevor – buy in bulk. We buy bulk “family” packs of meat, chicken and pork and then divide them into meal-size portions. Each portion gets wrapped with plastic wrap and placed in a freezer bag and frozen. Come dinner time, instant portion control and savings!
From an environmental standpoint, I do feel guilty using plastic wrap so often, but the store would use that wrap to seal their smaller packages of meat, right? And we’re using less styrofoam packaging.
Fantastic list of tips. We’re all about getting a bigger freezer and buying in bulk from Costco or Sam’s Club. It’s worth it! 🙂
Go grocery shopping when you’re in a hurry. This ties into “don’t wander around” because it leads to impulse buys. I am guilty week in and week out of grazing through the gourmet cheese section — I ALWAYS end up buying cheese for $7 – $10 . . . but it’s soooooo good.
I think I need to figure out Susan’s tricks! I spend probably the same amount of time, but only manage to save about $8-$15 per visit, but I still find it’s worth my time to do all that stuff.
Meanwhile, I have a good very recent story about this one: “Be on the lookout for pricing errors at the register.” At my last shopping trip, I was stocking up on cereal that was on sale, and one box rang up about 79 cents too high. I brought it to the sales clerk’s attention, and turns out, it was mismarked from a sale that happened the previous week in the store. Wouldn’t you know it, but for pointing it out, I got that box of cereal for FREE. As dumb as it sounds, I was so excited (heck, still am, since I’m bringing it up a couple weeks later!). And from my understanding, this is the policy for this particular grocery store if you catch a mismarked item (Stop & Shop, a chain that is primarily in the Northeast, I believe). So keep your eyes peeled! 🙂 You could get food for cheap/free!
Susan: Don’t forget that those are after tax dollars, making them even more valuable!
Although this is a really good point,
— Finally, consider the value of your time. While minimizing your expenditures is always a good idea, it doesnâ€™t always make sense to spend tons of extra time in hopes of shaving a few cents off your bill. —
I figure I take about an hour getting together my list, using the circular sales, coupons, internet coupons, etc. together. But I usually save about $20 – $35 off my weekly grocery bill (which is budgeted to be $80). For that hour spent, I’m “earning” $20 – $35, for me, spending that time is well worth the $$.
As always a great article. Though, I am not sure about “Donâ€™t shop hungry.” It’s not that I disagree with it, it’s that I work in a grocery store and at some point in the day, I will be hungry. So this concept just doesn’t work for people in my situation.
I do know for a fact, if I didn’t work there, I would be spending less though.