Aside from your mortgage, most likely one of the larger categories in your monthly budget is food. Obviously we can’t eliminate food from the budget. There are some ways though that you can save on your grocery bills. My wife and I regularly save around 25-30% on our grocery bill with very little time spent on our part.
1. Keep a price book
Keep a small notebook with the prices and package sizes of items you typically buy. This serves several purposes.
- If you shop different stores this will be a big help in doing comparison shopping,
- One way companies “raise” prices is by charging the same amount but giving you a smaller package. Tracking prices and sizes will help you to catch that.
- You’ll get an idea of how often items you usually buy go on sale.
- Not all sales are created equal. Occasionally, stores will jack up the list price and then show a sale price that isn’t much different from the normal price.
Coupons are good way to save money on groceries. Watch the sales flyers each week. If you can match your coupons with what is on sale you can maximize your savings. Get the Sunday newspaper. You’ll very likely find enough coupons to more than pay for the paper. Some newspapers will even sell extra coupon inserts on Monday for a very reasonable price. Web sites like www.coupons.com, www.smartsource.com, and www.redplum.com are also good sources of printable online coupons. If you are on Facebook you can like sisters shopping on a shoestring, krazy coupon lady, and money saving mom. Each of these will deliver great savings ideas to your Facebook feed. I’m not saying you need to be like the extreme couponers you see on TV buying $100 worth of groceries for $3.48. But we regularly save 25-30% on our grocery bill by spending just a little time each week doing this.
3. Stock up on sales.
Watch the sales flyers. When items you use go on sale, stock up. The key to this is don’t buy what you won’t use. If you get a good deal, but then you have to throw away half of what you bought because you weren’t able to use it before it spoiled, it really wasn’t a deal.
4. Consider store brands
Try out the store brands. They are usually considerably cheaper than name brands. Most of the time the quality is nearly as good if not the same as the name brand. I would just suggest you try the product out with a smaller sample before you stock up. We have occasionally come across store brands that were significantly inferior to their name brand counterparts, but generally this has been the exception rather than the rule.
5. Pay attention to the cost per unit.
General wisdom would say if you buy large quantities that your cost per unit would go down. Usually, this is true but not always. Sometimes it’s actually cheaper to buy a couple of small items rather than 1 larger item.
6. Check out warehouse clubs.
Just be careful what you purchase here. This is where that price book will be very handy. Not every item is cheaper at warehouse clubs, but some items are significantly cheaper. Most warehouse clubs have a yearly membership fee. You need to make sure that you will save enough over the course of the year to make it worth while. As in the stocking up tip, you also need to make sure you will actually be able to use the items you purchase. The great per ounce price on the 128 oz. jar of Miracle Whip isn’t a good deal if you throw out most of it because you don’t use it that fast.
7. Salvage grocery stores.
If you have a salvage grocery store in your area this can be a great way to save. Basically, they sell scratch and dent type items. These aren’t items that are opened, but they might have a corner of the box dented in for example. These items are often sold at significant discounts.
8. Get a store loyalty card.
Most stores now have store loyalty cards. Often times there are sales and specials that are only available if you have their card. Generally, these cards are free. An additional benefit is some grocery stores have opened gas stations and have programs where you can earn discounted gas based on food purchases or vice versa.
9. Start a garden.
It cost some time and effort, but growing your own produce is a lot cheaper than purchasing it in a store and your freshly picked produce will taste great.
10. Shop farmer’s markets or flea markets.
If you like fresh fruits and vegetables but don’t have a green thumb or don’t have the opportunity to grow your own, look for a local farmer’s market or flea market. Often you can get fresh produce at a considerable savings over what you’d pay at your local grocery store.
11. Avoid paying extra for convenience.
100 calorie packs, snack sizes, pre-cut fruit and vegetables are all examples of items where you will pay extra for the convenience. Instead buy whole items and cut your own, or buy a bag of chips and then portion it out in measured amounts in baggies if you like the convenience of the snack sized servings.
12. Don’t shop hungry.
This is an old one but still very true. If you shop when you are hungry everything you see will look good to you. I can pretty well guarantee you’ll find a few extra things in your cart.
13. Your bonus baker’s dozen – Pay cash!
Use the envelope system and pay cash for your groceries. I really didn’t think this would make a difference for us, but it really did. I would have guaranteed that when I was using my debit card or a check to pay for groceries that there was nothing in my cart that wouldn’t have been there if I paid cash. But when we started paying cash I was amazed that there really were things we didn’t buy. (And we haven’t missed them!) You really will spend less when you use cash,
Most of these tips don’t take a great deal of time and you can save significantly on your grocery bill. Given this is generally one of the larger expenses in most households and obviously everyone has to eat, spending just a little time and planning in this area can really help your budget.