How to Save Money on Groceries
It doesn’t matter whether you only have to feed yourself or whether you have to feed your whole family… you’ve probably noticed that grocery costs take a significant chunk of your paycheck. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, food is the 3rd-largest expense for most households. For a 4-person family, the average spending each month on groceries ranges from just under $570 to as much as $1290, according to statistics from the US Department of Agriculture.
So, what do money saving experts say about how you can get your grocery budget down — without having to leave the foods you love on the shelf?
Here are some of their best tips and tricks. The good news is, you don’t have to use all of them. It only takes a few of these to significantly reduce your grocery bills, cutting them as much as 25%.
For the average grocery shopper, that means saving somewhere between $1700 and $3900 per year.
Sounds enticing? That’s what we think, too. So let’s take a look at the tips.
How To Save Money On Groceries By Planning Ahead
The fact is, saving money is something you can do even before you go down to the grocery store!
A little bit of time spent planning and preparing for your trip can pay off significantly.
1. Start by creating a menu
Maybe you’re the spontaneous type where dining is concerned, and putting together a menu doesn’t sound like much fun.
Nevertheless, having a planned out menu for what you’re going to eat is one of the most effective and powerful ways to save on your groceries.
Putting together a menu makes sure that you’ll buy and have on hand exactly the ingredients you need for preparing healthy meals at home, rather than having to go out to restaurants or ordering a pizza.
In addition, having a menu means that you’ll know exactly what you need to buy — and you can pick it up all in one go.
This means you won’t forget to buy crucial ingredients, which would lead you to waste time or valuable gas driving back to the store to grab them.
2. Have a standardized list
In addition to what you need for dinner, you’ll probably need items for your breakfast, lunches, the occasional snack, and of course keeping the house clean when you go to the store.
If you walk in totally focused on getting what you need for meals, you may forget them entirely — or find that you buy much more than you actually need.
To avoid this common and often unintentionally budget breaking problem, start by making up a standard list of things you buy over and over again.
This could be a number of boxes of cereal… loaves of bread… diapers… or even laundry detergent.
Having this kind of standard list will also save you time. It means your grocery list will be partially complete even before you start!
3. Keep an eye out for sales
I know, I know, you already look for what’s on sale. But here’s how you can be even smarter about it.
Grocery stores will tend to put their weekly sales ad in Wednesday’s newsapaper, as well as posting their sales online and of course leaving a big stack of ad flyers near the front dor.
Grab the ad when it comes out, and use it when putting together your weekly shopping list.
Here’s how I like to do it:
Before making my menus every week, I browse through the circulars and make note of what’s on sale. If there is a great deal on chicken, for example, I will focus my meal plan so it has more chicken-based recipes. If pork is on sale, then we’ll eat pork. And if nothing much is on sale, then we can do meals that are full of rice and beans — those are always an affordable meat alternative.
The circulars also tell me if there are things that I should start stocking up on because the price is particularly low. Items to be on sale in a 6-8 week cycle — if something this week is on sale, then it will probably be at least two months before it is on sale again.
At the same time, you should be careful. Never buy anything because it is on sale or because there is a coupon for it.
Make your menus and your grocery list BEFORE you clip any coupons!
Extra purchases of items “because they are on sale” will add up fast, and usually cost you more money than you can save.
Saving At The Store
Now that you have your shopping plan together, it’s time to head to the store.
There are a lot of ways to save while you’re at the grocery store — let’s look at a few of them.
1. Start by only buying just what you need
It sounds simple, right? But the fact is, impulse buys tend to increase your grocery bill 20-30% — if not more!
So, stick to your list. Avoid browsing aisles and lingering. Go for what you need, make your purchase, and leave.
Again, just sticking to your grocery list is often enough to save 20-30% on your groceries.
If there was a coupon for 25% off everything in the store, would you use it? Well, here it is.
2. Consider generic or store brand items
Many generic items are almost identical to the name brand version, and sometimes you’ll find you prefer the generic version.
Especially if you need something but don’t have a coupon for the name brand version, buying the house brand can save you a lot of money. On the other hand, some stores don’t have many store brand items — they only stock name brands. In that case, it may be worth going to a different store.
One thing to watch out for: many generic products are just as good as the name brand, but other generics are significantly lower quality.
If you buy a poor quality product, you might end up throwing it out and wasting the money.
Here’s a quick cheat sheet of generics to buy:
– Basic foods like flour, butter, sugar, and oil will tend to be exactly the same, no matter the label
– Canned fruits and vegetables will be the same as name brands
– Frozen produce can be half the price in the generic version, and the store brand often gives you more in the bag!
On the other hand, here are some examples where it’s better to stick to a name brand:
– Meats. If you care about the quality of meat, generics will almost never be satisfactory. This goes for everything, from chicken to steaks.
– Paper products. Store brand paper towels or toilet paper simply don’t last or hold up the way that the name brands do. You usually end up using twice as much!
This is just the tip of the iceberg — there are a lot more ways to save. But, these tips will give you the maximum savings for minimum hassle, while still letting you eat what you enjoy. You’ll also be surprised at just how easy it is to save money on your groceries!