I know I am not alone in that I’ve drastically cut back on my spending in the past year. I’m much more careful about what and where I buy and if I don’t absolutely need it and love it, the item goes back on the shelf. While sometimes I miss the highs of a new lip gloss or cute shirt, I do not miss the guilt I used to feel when I discovered I already owned a gloss in the exact same shade or discovered the unworn shirt, months later with the tags still attached. Living thrifty can be fun and it is definitely satisfying.
One area that it seems I had little control over was my grocery tab. I mean, I’m in a household of two, how can I be dropping $150 for barely a weeks worth of groceries? And every week, as the news get more frightening, it seems my grocery bill is slowly ticking upward. It’s not as if you can stop buying food, so what is a girl to do? Pretty much what your Mom and/or Grandmother has told you for years: plan well, shop carefully and remember, coupons are your friends. Here’s our top tips for the best ways to Save Money when Grocery Shopping:
Don’t shop hungry
You are sure to overspend and come home with something you didn’t really need and purchased out of hunger (like ho-ho’s or potato chips).
Before you even start your grocery list, make a plan of the meals you need to serve and/or pack for the next week. Write out your meal plan and try to work your leftovers into the following days lunch or dinner (use leftover meats for sandwiches or make a large pot of rice one night and reheat it/use it in another recipe the next).
Write a Grocery List
Always bring a grocery list when shopping, it really keeps you on track and can save a return trip or two to pick up things your forgot the first time (and you know that second trip will not consist of just the forgotten item). Take that list to another level and Make a Master Grocery List as well to keep track of the items you use regularly and/or in large quantities. Buy these items in bulk when there is a good sale on them.
Shop your farmer’s market
I’ve never been a fan of shopping at more than one grocery store for savings (the time and gas money spent seem to not be worth the cost cutting). My exception is an excursion to the farmers market. You will find the freshest and best tasting fruits and vegetables (and many farmers markets sell eggs, cheese, nuts and more) at greatly reduced prices. Plus, buying food grown locally saves you in freight charges tacked on to the cost of the produce, saves fossil fuels and helps stimulate your local economy.
Skip the prepackaged produce
Yes, prepackaged, cut and washed veggies are really convenient, but almost twice the price of buying them bulk. If you can’t make the farmers market, buy them at your grocery store in bulk. When you get home, take the time right then to wash and store them in meal size baggies, you’ll be all ready to go when you cook.
Coupons are found money
Stop rolling your eyes, there’s no shame in using coupons (hipsters in L.A. always give me the stink eye when I pull out a wad of coupons; oh well). First, get a subscription to your Sunday paper (according to my Pop-Pop everybody should get the Sunday paper). The coupons you use will more than pay for the subscription (or newsstand price) and nothing beats a Sunday morning browsing the funnies.
Coupon Rule 1 and it’s the only one you need – Do not use a coupon unless it’s for a product you would already be buying. Simple as that. Don’t let them sway you into trying some sugary snacks you would never pick up or switch to a brand you don’t really like (cause you won’t use it). I’ve found that there are always at least a handful of coupons for brand name products I already regularly use. Check out online sources for coupons too, such as PrintClipCoupons or CoolSavings.
Once you start clipping coupons, you’ll notice the large grocery chains will offer the same items at a decent sales price within weeks of the published coupons. Buying in bulk when an item is on sale with your coupons can make a big difference! Stef loves the ease of Lean Cuisine for a quick, affordable lunch and when everything aligns, she’ll snap up 10 or 15 at a time.
Try Out Some Generics
This one may be hard if you have kids, or are particularly hung up on brand names, but you will find some substantial savings when buying generic brands. You’ll be glad to know that the quality of generic brands seems to have improved vastly since my youth. Many name brands and their matching generics are remarkably similar. Stick to brand names for things where you have a strong preference (I need my name brand cereals and sodas) and try out a few generics every trip until you find a few that will work in your household (I like to use generic store brand foils and wraps and frozen veggies).
Join a Club
If you have a large family to feed, a club membership (for Costco, Sam’s Club, BJ’s, etc.) can pay off quickly. You can also throw in with a friend or family member to share a membership, which will make the fees easier to swallow. (See if you and your friend can split some grocery items sold in combo packs for even more savings) Again, don’t forget to bring your list and stick to it! Your grocery savings do not count if you’re bringing home two dvds, a package of tube socks and the latest “as seen on tv” kitchen gadget.
If you’re really feeling the pinch, you can (have a computer) count your pennies. When I’m feeling low on spending cash, I like to cash in my spare change jar using the Coinstar machine. This handy device found at many grocery stores, will count your change (for a fee), cash it in and print out a receipt that can be used like cash at the register. I know this can be done for free by wrapping and going to the bank, but again, it’s a matter of convenience for me (and I always feel a little ookey handling a lot of change). Depending on your spare change collection, you could get a “free” cart of groceries or a nice “discount” on your bill.
We want to hear from you! Do you clip coupons? What are the best generic products you have discovered? Share the ways you have found to stretch your grocery budget.