Basics, Saving Money

How To Save Money On Groceries

I’ll admit it.  I actually enjoy shopping for groceries.  I usually shop on Tuesdays and I try to go to the store when there are fewer customers shopping.  Over the years, I’ve learned how to save money (and a little time) while shopping for groceries.  Here’s what works for me –

1.  Use a grocery store price book to track the prices of regularly purchased items.  (I’ve created a free printable version of the price book that I use.  Feel free to click the link and print out a copy for yourself.)

  • The price book will help you figure out the rock-bottom prices from your favorite store or stores.
  • The price book will help you know when to stock up – and when to buy just the minimum.

2.  Familiarize yourself with the layout and selection from your favorite store.

3.  Take advantage of a store’s price-match policy.

  • This is especially important if you want to avoid driving all around town, just to save money on one or two items.  Take the weekly circular with you to your store of choice, find the sale items listed in the circular that you want to purchase, and then have your store price-match those items.
  • If you are going to price-match more than one or two items, try to go to the store when there are fewer customers.  You’ll feel more comfortable asking for the price-match if there aren’t 10 people waiting in line behind you to check out.

4.  If an item that you want is on sale but out-of-stock, ask for a rain check.

5.  Use coupons, but only for items that you were already planning to buy.

  • Coupons are very popular.  I get mine from the Sunday paper and I print them online.

6.  Sample generic versions of various products.

  • I have found that the quality of most generics is equal to the quality of most name brands.  Most reputable stores will give you a refund if you try their generic or store brand and you are not satisfied.

7.  Find out if stores in your area offer double (or even triple) coupons.

  • My favorite local store will double coupons up to 50 cents.  So, if I have a coupon for 50 cents, they’ll take 1 dollar off of the purchase price.  I find that I can really save money when using doubled coupons and purchasing canned fruits and vegetables.

8.  Skip the grocery store and try the local farmer’s market or vegetable stand if you are looking for fresh produce.

  • If you have the time, you can really save a ton of money by buying from local farmers or from local produce stands.

9.  Bring your calculator to the store – and use it!

  • If you ignore all of the above, don’t ignore suggestion number 9.  I use the calculator on my cell phone.  You need to be able to figure our price per ounce or price per gallon or price per unit.  The little information stickers below most products are often wrong.  A quick calculation or two, and you’ll soon know whether to buy the 24 ounce or the 44 ounce ketchup.

10.  Pay attention to price – period.

  • A lot of research goes into separating your money from you.  Ignore end caps.  Ignore where an item is on the shelf.  Ignore those bright yellow or orange “sale” signs.  Compare prices – per unit, per ounce, per pound, etc.

11.  Understand how “2 for the price of x” works at your store.

  • In some cases, stores require that you actually buy 2 qualifying items in order to get the discounted price.  Other stores, while using the “2 for the price of x” signage, will actually sell you 1 item for half of x.  Know your stores’ policies.

12.  Shop with a list.

  • Use your list in conjunction with your grocery price book.  List items in two columns. 1.) Items we have to have, right now.  2.) Items we need to stock up on, if they are on sale or have hit a rock-bottom price in our price book.

13.  Leave the kids at home (most of the time).

  • It’s usually much easier to shop, compare prices, and get done quickly if you can leave the kids at home.  There are times, however, when it’s important to let the kids in on the process.  I’ve actually taken all three of my kids, by myself, to the grocery store, and while I’m not really able to fiddle with the price book or worry too much about using the calculator, I have managed to still save money and maintain my sanity.  The key is to stick to the list – and let the kids help whenever they can.

14.  Don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish.

  • Let’s be real.  Time is money.  It doesn’t make sense, unless you simply have loads and loads of free time, to kill ourselves to save 3 bucks at the grocery store.  There is something to be said for convenience.  From time to time, pay the extra few pennies, get home a few minutes earlier, and enjoy the evening with your family.

15.  Learn to cook from scratch – or not.

  • This one is last for a reason.  There are times – many times – when it makes a ton of sense (and cents) to cook from scratch.  There are other times when it just pays to buy pre-made or pre-mixed items.  You’ll have to decide for yourself, based on your cooking skills and eating habits, which will work for you.

This is a subject about which I’d love to hear from you.  How do you save money at the grocery store?  Leave a comment and let us know.  Rock on!

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10 thoughts on “How To Save Money On Groceries

  1. “There are times – many times – when it makes a ton of sense (and cents) to cook from scratch. There are other times when it just pays to buy pre-made or pre-mixed items.”

    We keep a stack of frozen food on hand for when we don’t have enough time to make homemade dumplings, or spaghetti sauce or whatever. It’s much cheaper to have a frozen pizza on hand than to go out for fast food. We probably do a frozen meal every other week or so.

    That said, we usually cook from scratch. We go through big bags of flour, sugar and other basic staples (beans, rice, noodles) on a regular basis. We find that cooking completely from scratch is the cheapest option and probably more healthy than most of the frozen foods we would eat otherwise.

  2. Regarding items #2 & #12: I have an Excel spreadsheet that’s laid out by aisle. Each column corresponds to an aisle in the grocery store. We take an inventory before we go shopping, and then fill in our required number in a box on the spreadsheet. We keep track of prices of our frequently-purchased items, and enter them on another tab in the spreadsheet. There’s a formula that calculates the projected bill based on the needed quantity. It’s pretty accurate, and gives us a general idea of the magnitude of the week’s grocery shopping expense. A little anal retentive, to be sure, but I don’t like surprises.

  3. I had never even known about ‘rain checks’ until I moved from South Florida to North Carolina about 2 months ago. Here, the local grocery stores have rain checks for sale items that are out of stock — and they don’t go bad!

  4. I love grocery shopping, too. It is a bit of a challenge lately, as I’m only allowing myself £40 (~$63 USD) a month to live on until I am debt free. Some good advice here beyond my own tips such as batch cooking!

  5. #12-Shop with a list. True. You have better control over your money when you have a grocery list on hand. Stirs you away from impulsive spending. Gives you an idea how much you are going to be spending too.
    My Well Of wealth

  6. #12-Shop with a list. True. You have better control over your money when you have a grocery list on hand. Steers you away from impulsive spending. Gives you an idea how much you are going to be spending too.
    My Well Of wealth

  7. Rather than buy frozen meals or dry mixes, I make my own. I make black bean burgers on the weekends and then tray freeze them. Once they are frozen, I put them into zip top bags and I can can pull out just what I need without them being stuck frozen together. This also works well for pancakes and French toast

    I also make my own spice mixes for sauces so that all I have to do is dump them into a pot along with the canned tomato paste and/or sauce and I’ve got nearly instant spaghetti sauce. I sometimes make my own pancake mix as well, but usually I only eat pancakes on the weekend. Since I’m not usually in a rush on weekends, I don’t mind making them from scratch. But as I said above, they freeze well, so you can enjoy your leftovers dring the week.

    Next, I want to try a taco sauce recipe that I found online. It’s a clone of a popular fast-food chain sauce. This recipe is supposed to make three cups and last one to two months in the refrigerator. The ingredients are simple and dirt cheap, so it’ll likely save me a ton of money on salsa. Also, I want to try making my own chocolate milk mix.

    With just a few simple ingredients and little bit of work, you can reap huge savings.

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