Everyone has had to walk through the continuous aisles of the grocery store. Buy one get one sales, special deals and reward programs, the savings are everywhere. What amazes me most is that even with all of these money saving deals, the average family of four still spends anywhere from $500-900 per month on groceries. Now, I don’t know how much you spend on groceries, but there are easy ways to cut back on that bill.
Rule #1 Never go shopping hungry
It’s been proven that grocery shopping hungry will add an extra $20-60 to your bill per visit. There are so many temptations at the grocery store. You have to be willing to walk away without adding anything extra to your cart. (The same rule applies to your children.)
Rule #2 Stick to your grocery list
If you don’t make grocery lists, you need to start now. You’ll be amazed at how much you’ll start saving. Impulse buys will kill your budget in a heartbeat.
When you are making your shopping list, you should work around the weekly sales. Set aside several recipes that you’ve made before. This way you know the cooking time and ingredients you’ll need. Not very good at this? Go to rule #5.
Rule #3 Stock up when things go on sale
Most stores offer sales on a three month cycle. You don’t have to stock up for the full year, simply long enough to get through the next sale unless it’s a seasonal item. Make sure you are only purchasing what you actually use. Pasta, spaghetti sauce, canned vegetables, cake mixes etc. are great items to stock up on. Avoid stocking up on a brand or item you’re unsure of. Test it first and then stock up. Always check expiration dates.
Another item to consider stocking up on is fresh produce. Fresh corn is ridiculously cheap when it’s in season. Cook and freeze it and you have an easy, healthy, fresh side dish for the rest of the year. Strawberries, blueberries, peaches, cherries etc. are great to have in the dead of winter.
The only fruit that doesn’t freeze well are bananas. They turn an ugly brown after a couple of weeks, but the flavor is still intact. If you’re using them for baking or smoothies, you won’t notice the color. Bananas are normally pretty cheap year round so they don’t need to be frozen.
Rule #4 Watch the weekly ads
Weekly ads are your friends. They will help you figure out your weekly meals and if you need to stock up on anything. Also, if you keep an eye on the local competitors you can save lots of money. Just keep in mind that saving a dollar here, but going to three grocery stores wastes more time and gas than you’re saving. Go to the store with the most savings and be done.
Rule #5 Plan your meals for the week
Yes, this rule ties into creating your shopping list. It helps to know what you’re cooking for the week so you’re only going to the store once. The less you’re at the store, the less likely you are to buy extra items and the more time and gas you’re saving.
The second reason for mentioning this is for those of you who don’t have the time to create a weekly meal plan or a detailed shopping list. eMeals.com is a company that offers a large variety of meal planning options. They have meal plans for families, dinners for two, gluten free diets, low fat meals, clean eating, organic preferences and they coordinate everything around the grocery store you select. Trust me, they have a meal plan for you.
It’s $5.00-7.00 per month for someone else to research the local ads, put together your meal plan and create your shopping list. The meal plan for two people spends around $45-50 per week for 5 meals including servings of fresh fruits and vegetables. The meals are really good, easy to make and rarely require more than 30 minutes of kitchen time. Trust me, the $5.00 you spend every month is nothing compared to the savings you will have. This will also give you a wonderful example of how to create your own meal plan for future use.
Rule #6 Always keep last minute meals on hand
I am so much more likely to blow my grocery budget when I’m hungry and tired. I’ll buy a pizza or pay for anyone to feed me a decent meal no matter the cost. I’ve learned the hard way to keep quick meals on hand. Spaghetti, soup and sandwiches or frozen leftovers are great examples. This way when you’re starving and tired you just dump something in a pot or oven, ignore it and enjoy a great meal. These meals are also great for those evenings you don’t have time to run to the grocery store. This way you know you’ll always have something decent for the family to eat.
Rule #7 Avoid end caps
Every grocery store uses the end caps of the aisles to try to encourage an extra sale. They’re hoping that if you give in and add an extra item or two, they’ve gained a profit. Some of the best advertising techniques are used in your grocery store. Foods that your kids will love are lower on the shelves. Items that are name brand and cost more are kept at eye level. Always compare the items on the middle of the shelf with the top and bottom shelf. You can actually save a bit of money by taking an extra moment before grabbing something off of the shelf.
Rule #8 Be aware of rewards programs/big box stores
There is a big myth out there that buying things in bulk automatically means that you’re saving money. In some cases, that is very true. In other cases, you’re actually paying more than you would at your grocery store. The things that are wonderful to purchase at big box stores: flour, sugar, coffee, cleaning supplies, toothpaste, vitamins and pills, toilet paper, paper towels, ziplock bags, and cereal. Everything else needs some price comparison before purchasing. Sometimes you save money and sometimes you don’t. Just wait before automatically loading up your cart.
Some companies offer rewards for buying more items at the store. Our local Winn Dixie will give you money off of your gas and certain items will save you more gas than others. Obviously, the company will use this to help move stock. Always consider how much you’re spending vs. how much you’re saving in gas. Stores can only offer these deals if they’re making a profit. Make sure you’re the one coming out on top by shopping smart.
Basically, there are a million ways to approach grocery shopping. You know which brands you like and what your family will eat. The priority is to not fall for some of the simple pitfalls, but to also start using the resources available to you. If you don’t have time to plan ahead, there are easy tools to help you. If you have a membership at a big box store, then make sure you’re buying the things that save you money. Stock up, freeze and enjoy the money savings!
*Photo of Earth Fare a store I wish we had in South Florida