33 Ways to Save at the Grocery Store
Are food prices getting to you? It may not be rising as fast as gasoline, but over the last 10 years, we’ve seen food prices go up by 34% according the latest Consumer Expenditure Survey. Unlike some expenses that you might be able to cut down on or eliminate, food is something that you’re going to have to buy unless you’re growing it yourself.
Now you don’t have to lose your shirt at the checkout line. Here are 33 ways to save at the grocery store:
- Subscribe to online coupon sites, like Coupon.com, and read the weekly flyers for what’s on sale. Coupons can save you hundreds of dollars at the grocery store.
- Don’t do all your shopping in one place. Plan to shop where there are the best deals by checking the flyers and grocers’ online sites. According to Bankrate.com, you can save up to 19% by shopping around.
- Plan a weekly menu, rather than shopping on the spur of the moment. When you’re at the store, impulsively buying what looks good, you’re more likely to spend more money.
- Plan your menus so that your dishes share the same ingredients. It reduces the amount you have to buy at the store and lessens the likelihood that something will go bad.
- Plan a little extra for meals, so that you can take in lunch the next day. It’s more expensive to eat out or pay for frozen meals than bringing last night’s leftovers to work.
- Make a shopping list of everything you need. The list will help you keep on track and avoid impulse shopping.
- Try to shop alone. The more helpers you bring the store, the more likelihood that you’ll get off the shopping list and extra things will get added to the cart.
- Always eat before going grocery shopping. When you’re hungry, you tend to buy more food, and find it harder to fight temptation.
- Don’t go to the grocery store when you’re angry, tired or upset. You’re less likely to carefully select the right items with the right price if you mind is elsewhere.
- Plan your shopping trip on off-peak hours. You’ll be able to get through the store faster, and avoid sitting in long lines, being tempted by items sitting around checkout.
- Many grocery stores offer discounts to loyal members. Make sure to join their programs and take your cards when you go shopping. Also join loyalty programs of products that you like to use every week.
- Some grocery stores allow you to use multiple coupons on the same item. Make sure you understand their rules before going to the store.
- Bring a calculator to the store. It can come in handy when you’re trying to comparison shop.
At the Grocery Store
- Some grocery stores have coupon dispensers in the aisles. As you’re making your selections, see if there are coupons to go with it.
- Whenever possible, always buy generic. It’s cheaper than the brand names and most of the time you’re getting the same thing.
- When grocers are planning their store, they put the most expensive items at the easiest place to reach. Always look above and below, and compare the prices before selecting a brand.
- Check out the markdown sections first. Just make sure that it won’t expire before you’re going to use it.
- When you’re trying to decide between sizes or quantities, use a calculator to figure out the cost per unit. It might surprise you but sometimes buying in bulk doesn’t save.
- Read the sales tags carefully. Sometimes offers aren’t clear. For example, grocers will often list sales as, “Buy 10 for $10,” rather than say that the item is on sale for $1. While they’d love you to buy 10, you don’t have to if you don’t need it.
- If there’s a sale and the grocery store is sold out, see if they’ll give you a rain check for when they restock the item. Make sure you read the terms of the rain check.
- Don’t buy food in single servings. Instead, buy enough for the week, and store it in a container. You can also portion it into Tupperware or Ziploc bags if you want to take it for lunch.
- Only buy produce that’s in-season. It will be more fresh and less expensive than off-season. You can always buy a little extra and freeze it if you want to enjoy that produce in the off-season.
- Avoid buying products with licensed characters (i.e. Dora, Sponge Bob, Blues Clues, etc.), because you’ll pay more for the product. Retailers have to pay licensing these popular characters and they usually pass those costs to the consumer.
- If you have to go last minute shopping, grab a basket rather than a cart when you walk in the store. You’ll restrict your impulse shopping because you have a smaller space to fill.
- Avoid last minute shopping while waiting to checkout. It’s probably not on your list and those little extras do add up.
- Pay attention to what the cashier is ringing up. People can make mistakes, such as ringing it up twice or ringing up the wrong price. You don’t want someone else’s mistake affecting your pocketbook.
At the Home
- When putting away your canned food, arrange the oldest product to the front, and the newest to the back. It reduces the likelihood that a can will get forgotten in the cupboard and go bad.
- Keep your produce in the crisper part of the fridge. Crispers have a different humidity setting than the rest of the fridge and are optimized to keep fruits and vegetables fresh.
- Date your leftovers as you put them in the fridge. If you find that you’re getting backed up, have a leftovers night or freeze leftovers for later on in the week.
- Always send in the rebates. It doesn’t matter if its $1 or $25, the savings add up.
- Keep track of what perishables you throw out. If you find yourself throwing out the same items week after week, then you might consider buying it in smaller quantities or removing it off your shopping list.
- Keep a list on the fridge, and as you run out of things, add it to the list. It will reduce the amount of time you have to prep on shopping day.
- Put any extra money you saved on your grocery shopping into your emergency fund so it comes in handy on a rainy day.
Always try to reduce the waste, get value for your dollar, and optimize your food usage. With a little extra planning and research, you can navigate the grocery aisles with ease, and cut your costs down. You may have to work a little harder but the savings in your pocket makes it all worthwhile.
About the Author
The following post is from Kathryn Katz, a Certified Personal Finance Counselor who works for Consolidated Credit in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Their non-profit agency helps families through financial crisis using credit counseling, debt consolidation and financial education.