If you’re like me, you have noticed a rise in grocery prices every time you go to the store. It seems like every week, prices increase – even by a few cents – items that you need each and every week. Even if you aren’t buying novelty items and just the bare bones pantry staples, the cost can add up quickly. It can make stretching a grocery budget challenging! It doesn’t matter if you’re feeding two people or ten people, there’s no denying that it is costing more to feed a family these days. Here are some tried and true ways to trim the cost of grocery shopping.
Plan Out Your Meals
This is probably one of the easiest ways to start saving money. A lot of times, people head to the store without a plan of what meals and food items they are going to eat. This can result in a much higher grocery bill, and a lot of frustration when you get home and want to make dinner, only to find that “there’s nothing to eat.” How many of us have found ourselves in that dilemma before? You can choose to plan your meals a week at a time, two weeks at a time, or even a month at a time. When my husband was paid monthly, it was easiest for me to plan meals a month out.
Each month, I would print off a blank calendar, and mark the nights that we would be home. I would write down things like church potlucks or a night or two to eat dinner out, but the rest of the month was filled with made from scratch dinners. I would factor in leftovers, too – for example – a pan of homemade lasagna feeds my family of 5 for at least 2 meals. So if I made it for dinner at the beginning of the week, I could plan on us eating it another night for dinner, or warming it up for a quick lunch. Some nights the meal plan was really simple, too – like pancakes and bacon, or grilled cheese and tomato soup. By making a meal plan, I was less likely to find myself running back to the store a couple of days later to find something to cook, and less likely to make impulse purchases, which can be a really necessary expense.
Make a List
If you decide to plan your meals out, then the next step would be to make a list of the items you need to purchase when you go shopping. Take an quick inventory of your pantry and don’t buy ingredients that you already have on hand. You probably have found that you buy the same staple items weekly, so include those on your list, too. Also add in any produce or dairy items that you need to purchase. The more you stick to your list, you’ll see your grocery spending can be kept under control. Also, don’t go to the store hungry! Shopping when you are famished will cause you to buy more!
Shop the Sales
This one is really a no-brainer, but it really is smart to shop the sales. By stocking up on things like meat when it is on sale, you will find that you can fill your freezer with bigger ticket items which can save you later down the road – perhaps on a week when the budget is tight and you can’t spend as much, you can remember that freezer full of meat. Shopping the sales will also allow you to vary the types of items that you get – like seasonal vegetables and fruits. I like to buy berries when they are on sale and freeze them. Some larger retailers like WalMart will honor the sale prices from other stores if you have the ad in hand or on your smart phone when you check out.
Grow Your Own Food
In the summer months, having your own garden can help you save big at the supermarket. You can also can or freeze any excess and enjoy the harvest all year long. Consider trading produce with friends and neighbors – it’s an easy way to get variety and share your produce with others. If you don’t have your own garden, definitely shop at farmer’s markets or produce stands – you’ll be helping another local grower, you’re getting fresh food, and those prices are almost always cheaper than the store.
Shop at Different Stores
I often hear people say that they feel like they have to do all of their shopping at places like Wal-Mart – since it’s all in once place, but I find that I often spend more when I shop there – because there is so much to choose from. You might be surprised to learn that you can buy many grocery items at places other than big box retailers and chain groceries. You can buy paper towels, plastic storage bags, and even some grocery items like spices, bread, and even bagged frozen vegetables at the $1 store – which is a great way to save cash!
I like to shop at Big Lots for cereal, granola bars, and even canned goods – they have lower prices on many items that I already buy. Aldi is another favorite store of mine – they have amazing prices on produce, meat, and dairy items, not to mention all of the other great deals. If you have one nearby, you should definitely check it out! A friend of mine loves to shop at salvage grocery stores. Salvage groceries are full of items that have been discarded because of damage to the outer packaging – like a box that is damaged, or a dented can. The food inside is still perfectly fine, but could not be put on store shelves due to the damage. Prices are slashed way down on these items, so you get major savings.
Purchase Store Brands
We all know that name brands are pricier overall that their store brand counterparts. If you’re looking to make cuts to the grocery budget, buying the store brands is a good way to do that. Often the ingredients are exactly the same, it’s just the outer packaging, and the price that make the difference. Obviously, there may be things that you prefer the name brand like toothpaste or cosmetics, but you can typically substitute store brands on other products – such as paper towels, diapers, baking supplies, or over the counter medications.
Cook From Scratch
This is another way that you can save money at the grocery store. You can cook and bake from scratch for less than you can buy pre-packaged foods. Buy buying all of the needed ingredients and basic foods, and keeping them at home – you will be able to prepare many dishes and baked goods whenever you need to! I Not to mention it is healthier for you as you know exactly what is going into your food. Made from scratch foods don’t have lots of preservatives, additives, and other ingredients. Pre-packaged foods are costly, and often have smaller quantities inside – so you might have to buy 2 or 3 times as much of a pre-made product to feed your family at one meal.
Shop With Cash
Studies have shown that shopping with cash can affect how much you spend. If you have a certain amount of cash in hand – you’re going to really pay close attention to what you put in the cart. It will make you aware of what purchases are wants and what purchases are needs – especially if you are on a tight budget.
Buy In Bulk
If you are feeding a large family, you may want to consider buying some items in bulk. While it may be a larger cost up front than the smaller version, you will usually find that the cost per ounce is less overall. So this is an instance where you might purchase bigger quantities of items you use frequently – things like toilet paper, cereal, meat, or condiments. The one drawback to buying in bulk is that you may not have the storage space to keep larger packages.
These are just some of the ways you can try to help reduce your grocery costs. By implementing even a few of these, you can start to see savings right away. Even just making a few small changes in your shopping habits can make a big difference in your grocery total. Saving money at the store can allow you to put that money back to use for something else, or to save for groceries the next week. However you look at it, there is always an upside to saving money at the store!
What are some of your favorite supermarket saving strategies?