As the cost of groceries continues to escalate, many people are looking for ways to reduce their food budget. With a little advanced planning, shoppers can easily slash their grocery bill by 50-percent or more. The secret rests in understanding how grocers cycle food products and keeping a watchful eye on sale flyers.
Most grocery stores cycle food products on a quarterly basis. When you see buy one, get one free (BOGO) items chances are the store is cycling out older products. This does not mean the food is bad nor has a shorter shelf life. Instead, it means the store will be receiving a new shipment and need to clear the shelves. By keeping track of BOGO sales, consumers can anticipate when the next sale will occur.
Tracking Food Cycles and BOGO Sales
If you want to take grocery savings to a new level, purchase a notebook or use a word processor program to track BOGO sales. I made a simple Excel spreadsheet and each time BOGO sales are available at my favorite grocer, I type in the name of the product and sale date. This gives me a reference point of when the next mega-sale will occur.
Most grocery stores limit the number of buy one, get one free items each consumer can purchase in a single trip. In order to capitalize on the savings, I make 3 to 4 visits throughout the week to stock up on sale items.
The best investment I ever made was purchasing a small deep freezer. This appliance has helped me save thousands of dollars over the years because I have a place to store excess food. I also purchased a stand-alone kitchen pantry to store the overstock of canned and packaged goods.
Grocery Sale Items
Most grocers publish sale flyers on company websites in addition to sending out hard copies in the mail. By spending a few minutes browsing the ads, you can take advantage of grocery sale items to plan your weekly menu and stock your pantry or freezer.
After deciding which items offer the most bang for my buck, I plan my weekly menu based on sale items. If chicken is on sale, I scour the ad to find side dishes that are on sale. For example, last week our grocer had BOGO chicken cutlets and BOGO boxed potatoes.
I went to the boxed potato manufacturer’s website and located a coupon for 75 cents. I was able to print two coupons for a total savings of $1.50. The potatoes retail price was $1.89, so I was able to buy two boxes for 39 cents.
Combining grocery coupons with BOGO sales can maximize savings and often slashes prices by upwards of 80-percent.
Grocery Coupons and Product Rebates
Most people dread the thought of clipping coupons or saving receipts and UPC codes to obtain product rebates. I used to be very resistant to coupon clipping until I calculated my food budget savings.
On average, I save about $50 per grocery visit by using coupons and combining them with sale products. I spend less than two hours per month printing and clipping coupons. My overall savings equal around $200 per month. This equates to about $100 per hour. Not a bad hourly wage, wouldn’t you agree?
Once you become acclimated to your stores’ grocery cycles, you will find clipping coupons becomes easier and more exciting. When you nail a sale that slashes your food bill in half, chances are you’ll become a grocery coupon addict.
Thanks to the Internet, consumers have multiple choices in finding grocery coupons. Some of my favorite resources include Coupons.com, Tablespoon.com, and RedPlum.com.
Buying Groceries at Drug Stores
Most of the major drug store chains such as CVS, Walgreen’s and Rite Aid, sell food products. Drug stores often include grocery coupons in weekly flyers and will accept manufacturer coupons.
I have found that drug stores move food products in 12-week cycles and began including their BOGO and clearance sale items on my spreadsheet. Tracking these sales allows me to locate manufacturer coupons to further capitalize on savings.
The most common grocery items I purchase through drug stores include canned goods, bottled water, soft drinks, juice, and coffee. I also watch for sales on bath and beauty products, over-the-counter medicines, and dietary supplements.
Drug stores have limited freezer space and often have clearance sales on frozen foods. It’s not uncommon for drug stores to sell frozen goods at half-off prices. When frozen goods are included in weekly flyers, I try to get to the store early because supplies are limited and inventory sells quickly.
Buying Groceries through Food Coops and Food Buying Clubs
Food coops are a great way to save money without the need for tracking food cycles or using grocery coupons. Most metropolitan cities have food coops which allow members to order food in bulk and share amongst members.
CoopDirectory.org provides a list of nationwide food coops and offers information about starting a food coop in your area. Most of the vendors listed at CoopDirectory.org offer organic products such as spices, herbs, coffee, tea, and bath and beauty care products.
Individuals can buy fresh produce, dairy products, and meat from local farmers through food buying clubs presented at LocalHarvest.org.
Most food co-ops and food buying clubs charge a membership fee. Members receive wholesale pricing throughout the duration of their membership. The majority of food buying clubs offer farm fresh organic produce and many of them deliver to your door.
We belong to a food buying club that assessed a $75 membership fee. We login at the website, place our order and the food is delivered to our home. We can purchase 12 to 15 pounds of organic produce for $30, or 25 to 30 pounds for $50. I don’t know anyplace else where I can obtain organic produce delivered to my door for less than $2 per pound.
Buying groceries through food buying clubs and co-ops helps support local farmers and provides my family with the freshest products money can buy. Considering produce is one of the most expensive items at grocery stores, you can easily recoup your membership fee within a month or two.
These are just a few ways to reduce your food budget. It can take a little practice to maximize savings, but if you pay attention to food cycles you will begin to see the trend. It is best to stock up on dry goods when they are offered as buy one, get one free. Think about how much of the BOGO items your family will consume in 12 weeks and buy enough to get you through until the next sale.
Planning ahead and taking advantage of grocery sales in combination with manufacturer coupons can easily reduce your food budget by 25-percent or more. The better you become at spotting trends, the more money you can save.
CoopDirectory.org – Nationwide list of food coops
LocalHarvest.org – Nationwide list of food buying clubs