14 Tips To Save More On Groceries
It’s tough to walk out of a grocery store without feeling lighter in the wallet, especially if it involves buying for families and children.
Business Insider reports that the average Atlanta household spends $314 a month on food; in Seattle the cost goes up to $516. Groceries are not inexpensive, and in the irony of our culture, eating healthy and/or organic fruits and vegetables hits the wallet harder.
Fear not, there are ways to chip away at the total.
One tip is not well known: Shop where the eyes don’t go. The more expensive items on shelves typically are placed at eye level. Moving the eyes to the top of bottom of shelves can save dollars.
Another is better known: Never shop when hungry. Go after a meal, not before. Shopping when hungry means everything looks tasty and the cart suddenly has three times more items than you planned, or need. Shop with a full stomach and you don’t crave those cheese doodles.
Let’s face it, we all like to keep as much of our paychecks as we can. Here several more logical ways to save money while filling the pantry.
Money Saving Tips for Grocery Shopping
We are happy to provide the following fabulous 14 topics for insights into saving money at the grocery store. Grocery saving may not be a life calling, but learning how to save on groceries can brighten a day.
- Plan Meals Based on Pantry
- Meal Planners
- Eat Before Shopping
- Shop Local
- Track Expenses
- Sales Cycles
- Use a List
- Generic Brands
- Buy In Bulk
- Shop Online
- Store Strategies
- Item Strategies
- Brand Strategies
There are enough ways to obtain coupons, either brand, store or online to make this work. Brand coupons refer to specific brands. They come in the Sunday paper and sometimes through the mail. Store coupons are for specific stores, and usually come via mailed flyers. Online coupons are given by stores and can be downloaded via store Apps on your phone. Some stores have the download set up automatically when the App detects your presence in the store.
The best way to use paper coupons is to have them ready before pushing the cart down the aisle. Collect as many of the ones you like as you can.
If there is a store that gives double coupons – either regularly or on a particular day – load up at that store. It’s an amazing thing to see $20 in coupons turn into $40 in savings.
To feel really good about it, check the receipt, which lists the total coupon savings. Go home and think about how much money you kept in your wallet or purse.
As an aside, Key Ring is a nearly indispensable app that stores the reward cards some stores require. Instead of carrying 10 or 15 cards in your wallet, scan them on Key Ring and carry the cards and bar code on your phone.
The only negative about coupons is the time it takes to cut, save and organize.
Well, that and the fact that sometimes coupons are the items or brands you just don’t like or typically buy.
Plan Meals Based On Your Pantry
We all make this mistake. We go to the store, fill the cart with what we like, get home and find we now have two packages of butter, three boxes of pasta and three jars of the same pickles.
The wise solution:: Take inventory before leaving the house.
The way to be even wiser: Plan meals around what you have. If there is marinara in the pantry, buy angel hair. If you have angel hair, get some pesto. If you have enough frozen chicken for two meals, plan to have piccata one night and roasted chicken with the new potatoes and onions you’re buying.
Proper preparation prevents poor performance.
Use A Meal Planner
Knowing what you’ll be cooking during the week helps the buying process.
Think about vacations. Starting the day with a clear idea makes it easy to decide what to do each day. The museum on Tuesday, a boat tour on Thursday. Planning makes anything easier.
So when you go to the store, it’s wise to think ahead. A big lasagna plate made on Sunday could serve dinner on Sunday and Tuesday. Between could be a ham steak with vegetables. Thursday might be stir fry. Fish Friday follows.
The plan helps the buying, because the buying then becomes what you need, not what you see and want.
Eat Before You Shop
As we said already, never shop when hungry. When you go out hungry, everything looks good and when you get home you find bags full of expensive junk food that you never intended to buy, or needed to bring home.
Shopping the local store keeps the money local. That’s a first benefit. Another is that a local farmer’s market brings fresher vegetables and more satisfaction than the impersonal big box store.
You may know the local store owner or get to know him or her. We’ve all been to enough local stores where we get the friendly free item or discount because the owners know us and appreciate us.
The butcher shop a few blocks away may have a deal on meat. The farmer’s market may have tomatoes grown locally. And there’s not a lot better than fresh strawberries, as opposed to the shipped-from-across-the-country version you find in bigger stores.
Pay attention to what you’re spending. If you can keep a tally in your head, that works.
If that doesn’t work, print out a spread sheet before leaving, then keep track of what you bought and spent. If you need a calculator, use one. Most phones nowadays have them.
Make a budget so you walk into the store with a firm idea of how much you’re going to spend, then use the calculator to help you stick to it.
Learn the Sales Cycles
Many stores start sales on Wednesday and they then last through Tuesday. If a sale item looks especially appealing on the flyer that arrives in the mailbox, be sure to get to the store early in the cycle. Waiting a few extra days may cost money, or the Honey Crisp Apples that were on sale may not be there.
All store fliers will provide the information on when the sales will start.
Stick To Your Grocery list
Impulse buys cost money. Make seven or eight and suddenly you’re $20 over budget. Stick to the list, which takes attention and discipline.
That being said, it’s also important to pay attention. If one brand is on your list and another is on sale, be alert to the sale items to save money.
Several phone apps can help. Make A List or Make a Grocery List allow you to make a shopping list on your phone. Flipp compiles all the sales at stores near you. MealBoard manages recipes, stores the grocery list and even can keep track of what’s in the pantry. AnyList allows you to share the grocery list with a friend or family member. Grocery Pal allows you to check out the sales at your favorite stores and add items that are on sale to your grocery list.
Buy Generic Brands
Don’t be afraid. We all have our favorites, but it’s worth trying generics or store brands. They are money savers. One word of advice: The generics often are high or low on the shelves, so do the due diligence to find them.
Buy in Bulk
A store like Costco can offer savings, but keep in mind you’ll take home more than you would when buying a single item at a grocery store. Be prepared for the 24 cans of tuna fish or the giant can of green beans that might last several months.
There are certain items that provide great benefits for buying in bulk – toilet paper, paper towels, coffee, vitamins, dog food, shampoos and deodorants. Take advantage.
One word of caution: Keep storage in mind.
Instacart is an excellent App that allows you to shop at home. Pick a store, choose what you want, pay with a credit card and an Instacart rep picks up your food and delivers it to the house. In times of COVID-19, the order is left at the door.
The great thing about this approach is it eliminates the impulse buy, but keep in mind there is a fee for the service – and a tip if you feel generous.
- Compare the average prices of the items you purchase on a regular basis at different stores. Then frequent the store that most often features the items at lower prices.
- Try to limit shopping to one or two stores. Driving across town will cost more in gas than spending an extra dollar or two on your grocery bill.
- Avoid purchasing non-grocery items like paper goods or cleaning products at the grocery store. These are usually much less expensive at larger, chain retailers.
- Some club stores sell bulk quantities at discount rates. If you buy food at these wholesale stores, break it into family-sized servings and freeze it for future use.
- Think logically. Peeled and bagged baby carrots are enticing, but buying full-sized carrots and cutting them yourself saves money. This is usually true of all vegetables. A head of broccoli is less expensive than bagged florets. A whole melon is cheaper whole than one chopped up and dropped into a plastic container.
- Larger boxes usually save money. Think the larger cereal box as opposed to two small ones. You’ll save, provided it doesn’t go stale. Don’t purchase more than you can use.
- Store brands are often just as good, if not better, than some premium brands. You can easily save money by purchasing store-brand cereal, dairy products, bread, etc., without sacrificing quality. Aldi’s is a store that has a large selection of its own brands that are less expensive and every bit as good. Costco and Trade Joe’s brands are other good options.
- If you have a coupon, compare the price of that product with that of the store brand. Even with thirty or fifty cents off the regular price, it may be less expensive to purchase the store brand
Enrolling in SNAP: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps)
Another way to cut back on your monthly food expenditures is to apply for food benefits. Depending on your household size, you could qualify for up to $800 per month. Qualifying for SNAP depends on your income and assets, as well as other factors. Learn more about the SNAP program, how to qualify, enroll and benefit amounts. A nonprofit credit counselor can offer financial advice.
About The Author
Pat McManamon has been a journalist for more than 25 years. His experience has mainly been in sports, but the world of athletics requires knowledge of business and economics. He also can balance a checkbook and keep track of investments with Quicken quite adeptly. McManamon’s experience includes covering the NFL for ESPN, LeBron James for the Akron Beacon Journal and AOL Fanhouse, and the Florida Gators and Miami Hurricanes for the Palm Beach Post.
- Loudenback, T. and Knueven, L (2020, March 5) What average Americans spend every month in 22 major cities. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/what-americans-spend-on-groceries-every-month-2019-4