Grocery shopping is an important expense for most households. It usually takes up a significant chunk on the household budget. There are ways to make grocery shopping more affordable. It is possible to make some simple changes and save money on groceries. Financial experts recommend that households spend about 15% of their take-home income on food.
Here are a few great ideas on how you can start saving money at the grocery store. The list is divided into two parts – ‘before going to the grocery store’ and ‘while in the grocery store’ because a key part of saving money is planning.
Before Going to the Grocery Store
It is important to plan what you’re going to shop for. When you plan your meals, you know what to buy in the store. If you know what to buy, you waste less food. Here are tips on how to save money before going to the grocery store:
Plan your meals on a weekly basis.
Meal planning saves you money because there is less food waste when you know what you will eat and buy from the store.
Redefine what ‘dinner’ means.
Gone are the days when ‘dinner’ means a three-course meal each day of the week. Supper doesn’t have to be a big feast. Plan your dinner meals based on your household activities. Consult your social calendar and double-check if three-course meals are appropriate for certain nights. When everyone’s busy, you can do simple sandwiches or big salads. Plan your food shopping around these activities.
Prepare a list and stick to it as much as possible.
It is important to create your grocery shopping list beforehand and it is also crucial to stick to your list as much as possible.
Check your pantry, freezer, and fridge.
When you’re making your shopping list, check what you have in your kitchen. Build what you will cook based on the ingredients that you already have.
Clean your pantry, refrigerator, and cupboards.
It is a good idea to clean out your pantry, refrigerator, and cupboards at least once a month. Use up what you bought before buying more.
Coupons are great and powerful tools that are intended to be used at the store. These days, there are many different ways to gather coupons. You can do it the traditional way by clipping paper versions, print them from a store’s website, or use the store’s app.
Know the sales cycles.
Many grocery stores have sales cycles. You need to start paying attention to when your preferred items go on sale and how much the price drops. Keep track of those sales and see if there’s a trend. This helps you anticipate sales and saves you money in the long run.
Communicate with household members.
Talk about what you’re purchasing with household members. Whether it is your spouse, children, or roommate, they need to know what you’re going to buy so that you don’t end up with multiple products.
Shop on a full stomach.
Before you go grocery shopping, make sure that you have a full stomach. You have probably heard this before: “Don’t shop hungry.” This statement is true. If you shop hungry, your hunger will steer your spending. Suddenly, everything looks so appetizing and you end up buying things you don’t need.
Look for the best grocery store in the area.
We pick grocery stores mostly for convenience. However, you will get the best deals by choosing grocery stores that will let you save more on food items. Don’t allow a comfortable routine to cost you money. Research and ask around and find the most cost-efficient grocery store in your area.
While in the Grocery Store
The number one rule that you will hear to save money while in the grocery store is to ‘stick to your list.’ However, that is easier said than done. You need to acknowledge that sometimes, even the best plans can be set aside and forgotten when you’re in the grocery store. Just remember that the top priority should always be saving money.
Take advantage of store sales.
Take advantage of store sales, particularly meat and other expensive food items. It also pays to take note of the start and end days of the sale. You don’t want to miss out on great deals and discounts.
Look for off-brand products.
One aspect of being purposeful in purchasing items is to choose some generic products. There are, of course, many high-quality name-brand products that you can choose to purchase. However, some no-name brands or store brands should not be overlooked. Generic brands are usually 15% to 30% lower in price. You can buy no-name brands for staple food items like pasta, salt, sugar, cooking oil, and baking soda.
Shop at the most appropriate time.
Right timing is important when grocery shopping. If it is possible, shop at non-peak times to avoid the crowds. When there is a clear, almost-empty aisle, you have more time to compare prices and brands. If you’re flustered while shopping, you tend to hurriedly choose items that you might regret buying. You should also shop when you have energy because it is easier to focus and make wise decisions if you’re not tired.
Look up and down the shelves.
Your eyes naturally gravitate towards the middle shelves when you’re shopping. That’s where the priciest items are stocked. It is not a coincidence that eye-level items are the most expensive items in the store. It is a tried-and-tested marketing strategy. Look up and down the shelves to find the best-priced items.
Track your expenses.
Use your phone calculator to track expenses while shopping. If your kids are with you, this is the best task to give to them. They will enjoy tallying up what’s in the cart. Keeping a running tally of how much you’re spending will save you from any surprises when you get to the checkout counter.
Buy less canned and packaged convenience foods.
Canned and packaged foods tend to be more expensive. It makes more sense to buy a whole head of lettuce and shred it yourself instead of pre-shredded, packaged lettuce, which is more costly. Grated cheese packed in a neat little container is also more expensive compared to whole cheese. Go for unpackaged food items whenever you can because they cost less and are usually healthier, too.
Think twice about buying in bulk.
Many people think that buying in bulk always saves them money. While buying in bulk has its benefits, don’t assume that bulk buys automatically cost less. It is important to compare the price per unit of the item that you’re buying. It is tempting to stock up, but you should remember that you should only buy what you really need. This is especially true for items that are perishable.
Reconsider buying bottled water.
If you still buy bottled water, it might be a good idea to invest in a water filtration system instead. This will save you money in the long run.
Plant cooking herbs.
Fresh herbs are necessary for cooking. Buying a few sprigs of fresh herbs at the grocery store is a waste of money. Store-bought packs of chives, parsley, rosemary, or mint can be costly. The best thing to do is plant cooking herbs. This way, you will have access to them all-year-round. If you won’t use the herb harvest right away, you can puree and freeze them.
Shop in season.
Keep costs down by sticking to fruits and vegetables that are in season. Produce that’s in season is generally more affordable. They taste better, too. Buying fruits and vegetables when they’re off-season is more expensive.
Be strict about budget-breaking surprises.
One of the most basic ways to stay within budget is to avoid budget-breaking surprises while grocery-shopping. Nowadays, most grocery stores offer ‘scan it’ counters where you can scan items while you shop. If you’re shopping with your kids, learn to say no to their requests to get candies or junk food.
This may not be for everyone, but if you try growing your own bell peppers, beans, tomatoes, and other vegetables, you will save a lot of money at the grocery store.
Go meatless once or twice a week.
Large quantities of meat can eat up your food budget. It is a good idea to try some meatless recipes at least once or twice a week.
Consider shopping at dollar stores.
While many dollar stores don’t have the complete list of items that you need, there are several items that you can buy there that will save you a lot of money. For instance, you can get great savings on spices when you buy them at a dollar store.
Many budget-conscious shoppers swear by the cash-in-an-envelope system when doing grocery shopping. Put cash specially designated for groceries in an envelope and stick to the budget. When you go to the store with only cash on hand, you know exactly how much you can spend.