We all like food. It’s a simple fact of life. We all like money, too, and sometimes it’s hard to choose one over the other, especially when it comes to that dreaded weekly or bi-weekly shopping trip. With these five saving-savvy shopping tips, though, you can get the best of both worlds: the food that you need and without having to dish out those extra dollars.
Make a list and stick to it.
This may seem a little bit silly to you, but trust me it works. Write down everything you plan on buying from the store before you even go. If you don’t want to sit down the night before, buy a whiteboard or notepad to hang on the fridge and write things down as you run out of them. Then, the most important step, when you take the list to the store don’t buy anything that isn’t on that list. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll save simply by eliminating things you didn’t plan on buying ahead of time. This is because most people are impulsive shoppers. Stores know this and they market to the impulsive side of you by trying to entice you to purchase things you didn’t originally come to get and for the majority of people it works. How often do you hear people saying they spent more than they intended to? It was because of impulsive buys. Cutting back on impulsive buying will also reduce your bill.
Don’t be afraid to use coupons.
While it’s true that we all hate being stuck in line behind that person who seemingly has an endless supply of coupons, it’s equally true that using coupons wisely can save money, but be careful when choosing coupons. Don’t buy what you don’t need, even if there’s a coupon for it. You’ll fall into that sinkhole where you’re spending more money than you need to because there’s a coupon for that specific brand or item even though you weren’t intending to purchase that item. Use coupons on items that you actually need and will use. Coupons can be found not only in some papers and circulars, but online too if you don’t get your local paper. Coupons.com is a large site that has all sorts of really great coupons including new ones every week, so take a look a night or two before going shopping and print out the ones you plan on using.
Downgrade. Name brand products aren’t always the best.
I know it’s hard to switch from name-brand products if that’s what you’re used to getting, but trust me it’s worth it. I spent six months fighting with my husband, who came from a mother who only used name brand products, to finally get him to purchase store brand products. You know what? He can’t even taste the difference. You might be surprised to know that’s the case for most items, but not all. It’s going to take a little bit of experimenting for you to figure out what your family can settle for store brand and what needs to be name brand because, face it, we all have those few products that we just need to buy in a certain brand and that’s ok. Even switching five products from name brand to store brand can save you $5 or more right there, depending on the item.
Trade out some expensive meals for less expensive ones.
If you have a family of gourmets, try a different approach to satisfying your need for good food. Rather than spending extra on big, elaborate foods, find meals that your whole family likes that cost less. That doesn’t mean you have to go so drastic as to slip in a bowl of Raman noodles at least one a week (though that would certainly save money and just about everything goes with Raman). There are a lot of great recipes that are cheap and easy to make that don’t require a whole lot of money. I can make a mean goulash for about $8 – $10 worth of ingredients that feeds about five people. Since it’s just my husband and I, that means leftovers for us, which brings up another really great way to save a little bit on not having to buy as much: freeze your leftovers. We may not want goulash three nights in a row, but if we have it one night and freeze it then we have dinner for two more nights and it only cost us about $10 to make as opposed to the corned beef we love so much that costs us more like $15 to make dinner for only one night.
Change your shopping habits according to the season.
This is a really simple way to save on your grocery bills. In essence, try not to buy things out of season. While having fresh fruit may be wonderful and even necessary year-round, try to make most of your fruit-filled dishes when the fruit is in season. That way, it will cost less. As an added bonus, most fruit can be frozen or canned right in your house, so if you buy fresh fruit during the summer you can stock up and won’t have to pay those ridiculous off-season prices for the same thing. The same thing applies for meats. If your favorite meat goes on sale, don’t hesitate to stock up. As I mentioned, we love corned beef but it’s so darn expensive. There’s usually one time of year where it hits rock bottom cheap and we stock up on several packages of it for the rest of the year to avoid having to pay the higher prices for it. That week’s grocery bill might be more than we had hoped for, but in the long run we’re saving quite a bit.
Watch out for “sales” pitfalls.
One last word of warning, don’t get swept away by the store’s flashy marketing that flaunt that an item is on sale. You may not be getting the deal you think you’re getting. My favorite example of this happened in Walmart when I was shopping one week. In those big Walmart sale letters it said sale price $9.99 and then in small letters at the bottom was the regular price: $10. The savings were a whole penny, but I can’t tell you how many people I saw buy the item thinking they were getting a terrific deal. Keep an eye on items you usually buy, so then you’ll know about what the price range for those items is and you won’t be tricked into a not-so-great deal. Always be aware of the “regular price” on sale items.