How to Save on Groceries
33 Tips to Help You Save Hundreds on Your Groceries
The first step to saving on groceries is to be more conscious of your spending and the ways you can save. Extreme couponing may overwhelm you, but there are plenty of other strategies you can take that will cut your grocery bill. Here is a list of every way you can possibly save in a grocery store:
- Buy in-season fruits and vegetables. Buying fruits and vegetables can get expensive, so to cut down on costs, it's important to buy ones that are in season because if they aren't, they can cost twice as much.
- Play with overage. According to one extreme couponer, some stores like Walmart give overage, which means that if "you have a coupon for $3 and your item is only $2, that extra dollar goes towards your other items." You can apply overage toward items that rarely have coupons, like meat and milk.
- Access online coupons. Be sure to check out online coupon sites like Coupons.com, RedPlum.com, SmartSource.com, and CouponNetwork.com, which are apparently the best sites to print from. Further, "like" your favorite brands on Facebook to get access to some of the coupons they give out over the social media network.
- Make lists. Before you step out the door, it's always advisable to be more organized with your grocery shopping. Create a meal plan for the month, and based on that, start making a list of groceries you need to buy. If you follow the list, you won't be buying more than you need or buying unnecessary items. There are even free printable grocery lists online that let you check off which groceries you need. A good one to check out is the very detailed Ultimatest grocery list (they even have a vegetarian version).
- Use apps. Experiment with grocery shopping apps and consider keeping a running list of groceries on an app. You can even use discount-seeking apps like Grocery Pal, which shows you what items are on sale, and coupon locator apps like Coupon Sherpa or Yowza!!. The coupon apps will display bar codes, which the cashier can scan to give you the discount.
- Don't go hungry. Going to the grocery store with an empty stomach is never a good idea. You'll end up buying more than you need with hunger pangs clouding your judgment.
- Buy generic goods. Most of the time, generic tastes just as good as name brand. Pay a little less for a less well-known but equally great product.
- Avoid overpriced items. Grocery stores tend to mark up a lot of products, so make sure you avoid these eight items. One example is precut produce and meats, which are usually marked up and expire more quickly.
- Know where to get the cheapest groceries. It's important to learn how to save when you're at the grocery store, but it's just as crucial to know where to shop. Ethnic supermarkets, local orchards, and negotiating at the farmers market can be a bargain. Don't be afraid to check out alternative grocery sources such as the dollar store, a nearby pharmacy, or gas stations. Make a note on what you spend most on when you're grocery shopping, then compare the prices at these different locations. It may sound like a lot of work, but once you know where to buy certain items, you won't have to comparison shop until you notice a price increase.
- Preserve it. There are definitely other methods of extending the life of your grocery items besides freezing them. Explore other ways to preserve such as canning, drying, and pickling. More suggestions can be found here.
- Assess your kitchen before shopping. Take a look at your kitchen before you create the week's meal plan and your grocery list. Figure out what foods you can make from using up what you already have so you're not letting food go past its expiration date.
- Educate yourself on shelf life. Start educating yourself on the shelf life of products, which will help you decide whether to buy the items in bulk. You'll also be able to make better choices. For example, did you know that organic milk lasts longer than regular milk? And that white rice lasts longer than brown rice?
- Be healthy. You'll be surprised to learn that a healthy lifestyle will actually get you a lower grocery bill. There's a study by the Journal of the American Dietetic Association that revealed families who went on weight-loss diets also spent less on food. That's because they were reducing their portion sizes and buying less unhealthy food such as soda and chips. It's a win-win situation; by being healthier, you will also be able to save on your medical bills.
- Know the frugal but filling and healthy staples. There are some food staples that are cheaper than others, such as beans. Figure out what they are and try to incorporate them more into your meals. You can also always go for cheaper cuts and buy meats whole and bone-in, as they are more affordable in those forms.
- The right credit card If groceries are a common expense for you, why not take advantage of it by choosing the credit card that will give you optimal rewards for supermarket spending.
- Avoid prepared foods. Some prepared foods like stuffing can have up to a 40 percent in markup, so try to make it yourself when you can.
- Cut and slice yourself. Buy your produce whole cut it up yourself. Precut veggies and fruits are more expensive and go bad more quickly.
- Check your receipt. Scanned items do not always ring up at the correct price. Watch the prices as they come up, and then check your receipt for those you missed to be sure sale and other items come up at the right price and quantities are correct.
- Shop high and low. Next time you're food shopping, compare prices of the items at chest level and the items on the upper and lower shelves. Most stores stock the most expensive items where they're easy to grab and go. A simple scan up and down could knock some serious dollars off your total.
- Be careful about non-grocery items. Health and beauty products tend to be cheaper at mass-market retailers, like Target, or drug stores. But surprisingly, generic medication is the cheapest at Costco vs. a drugstore. Don't always assume something's cheaper at a certain store; do your research and know what to buy from where.
- Buy liquor at a superstore. There are better deals on wine, liquor, and beer at a superstore like Costco. While you're there, pick the store's generic version of vodka for an even cheaper deal.
- Make bigger and fewer shopping trips. Less shopping trips will cut down impulse buys and this also means you'll have less chance of having wasted food left over.
- Crunch unit prices. You should always compare and crunch the numbers of smaller goods, because just because the packages are larger, doesn't always mean they are cheaper.
- Get an Ethylene Gas Guardian. The EGG, or Ethylene Gas Guardian ($22), is a product that will absorb ethylene, which is emitted by most fruits and veggies. Some types of produce that are sensitive to this ripening agent will spoil more quickly when exposed to this gas. A solution is to separate the items (there is a nice list of ethylene-sensitive foods on Real Simple's website), and you can also choose to use the EGG and put it in your produce drawer.
- Use your freezer. The freezer will be your best friend. Buy meat and fish when on sale and freeze in one-pound portions. Whatever you can't finish, divide it into single-serve portions, and freeze it to reheat for later meals. This will help mix your meals up so that you don't have to keep eating the same leftovers.
- Proper placement Make sure that you store those newly purchased goods behind the ones you already have.
- Reusable bags Some cities charge a fee per grocery bag, so invest in a reusable bag to save the environment and your change.
- Save with social media. Most stores or metro areas have their own Twitter and Facebook pages, and they definitely list deals and specials there. Additionally, many stores have deals for the "mayor" of a particular store via Foursquare check-ins.
- Sign up for deals. Check out weekly promotions and deals from grocery stores by scouring their online coupons before going into the stores. Consider email subscriptions for the latest on local deals.
- Buy what you need. Buy only what you need from the bulk bins, which saves money and limits waste. Don't buy these items in bulk.
- Check out the dollar store. The dollar store has many great deals and some goods are sold cheaper there than in regular stores.
- Organize your coupons. Keep your coupons neatly organized by purchasing a coupon organizer ($8). There are plenty of methods to organizing coupons, and you need to find one that works for you. Figure out if you want to sort the coupons alphabetically, by category, or by expiration date. Coupon Geek has a nice list of organizing methods you might want to try out.
- Stock up on sales. For those of you that have kitchen space to spare, stocking up on nonperishables and frozen or freezable items when they are on sale can be a great way to save on groceries.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Jae Payne