On average, my semi-monthly grocery trip was costing between $250 and $300, totaling around $600 each month. When I lost my job last December I quickly realized I needed to start shopping on a budget. Grocery shopping is one of my biggest monthly expenses. Too often I was throwing away food and buying things I didn’t need. I was also making way too many “in between” trips to the grocery store for just a few items. Does this sound like something you do in your home? Are you looking for a way to save money and waste less? By learning how to be a better shopper my grocery trips are now between $175 and $200. I’m saving about $200 a month and at the end of the year I will have saved at least $2400, if not more.
With a little planning you can save a lot of money on groceries too and throw away less food each month! I’m going to give you a few tips that helped me cut my grocery costs. By following my advice you can learn to spot deals, buy better, cook smarter, and save hundreds of dollars on groceries each year.
Have a plan. One of the first things I learned when it comes to grocery shopping is if you don’t have a plan it’s going to cost you. I’ve learned making a list not only saves money, but will save you time. To cut down on the frequency of your grocery shopping trips, schedule a time every 2 weeks for a bona fide shopping trip. Plan to spend at least 45 minutes up to 2 hours on your semi-monthly grocery shopping trip. I know that sounds like a lot of time but it’s not when you realize you’re no longer making 4 or 5 trips to the grocery store every month.
When making your list (and before you go to the store) take a look in your fridge and pantry. Sometimes it’s easy to forget what you already have and you’ll only waste money buying things you don’t need. Another thing to keep in mind when buying groceries is what kind of meals you intend to make with the food you buy. You can save money by only purchasing the ingredients you need, in addition to buying items that can be used in several dishes. If while looking through your kitchen you are finding spoiled vegetables, fruit, or other fresh foods you need to reevaluate your needs.
To cut down on waste eat what you buy, freeze what you don’t need on hand, and plan ahead for meals. Label and date the foods you store in your freezer and stack them neatly to keep it organized. Frozen foods can go bad if kept for too long so try not to freeze anything for more than 6-8 weeks. When making your grocery list, visualize the store you where you usually shop for groceries and organize your list by department. This will save you from backtracking in the store and possibly buying things you don’t need.
Ways to spend less money at the store. There are so many ways to save money while grocery shopping and using your list is the best one! I follow the same routine every time I shop; I start in produce then go around the entire perimeter of the store stopping at the deli, meat, and bakery counters. For dry and canned goods I snake the aisles until everything is checked off my list. I don’t waste time looking at items that aren’t on my list unless I spot a particularly good deal on something I can afford to stock up on.
I also use a calculator to keep track of my spending as I go in addition to using it to check the price per oz, or to compare prices between different brands so I can get the best deals. When all of the items are checked off on my grocery list, I check out, pay for my items, and leave the store. Don’t meander or buy things you don’t need. The more time you stay in the store, the more likely you are to spend more money! Here are a few more tips:
- Stock up on things you use regularly if they are on sale. This applies to all foods except fresh produce which tends to spoil too quickly. For example, chicken leg quarters are usually $2.99/lb where I shop but on my last trip they were on special at the meat counter for $0.97/lb. Instead of my usual purchase of 2-3lbs I bought 6lbs at a savings of more than 50%.
- Take advantage of buy one get one (BOGO) offers. BOGO’s are a great way to stock up on pantry staples like pasta, condiments, and drinks and you can save hundreds of dollars each year. Some grocery stores have what I call a “Super BOGO”. Super BOGO’s can be anything from buy 1 get 2 free, to buy 2 get 3 free. Two of the stores I shop at also have meal deals where you purchase all of the items for a specific meal together and you either get one item for free or a discount on the whole deal. Recently I was able to use both of these deals and I got 6 jars of spaghetti sauce for $1 each, and 2lbs of ground beef for free.
- Use coupons. For a small price you can get hundreds of dollars in coupons to save you money on groceries. Clip coupons from the Sunday newspaper and browse your snail mail for coupon booklets. I also get valuable coupons packs with several of my monthly magazine subscriptions like Better Homes and Gardens, Parents, and Family Circle. You can also sign up online to get coupons in the mail as well as free samples. I tend to avoid printable coupons because most stores won’t accept them. Keep an eye out for double coupon days where you shop for groceries. My favorite grocery store doubles manufacturers coupons up to $0.99 every Thursday. Combine coupons with BOGO’s and meal deals to get an extra bang for your buck!
- Sign up for store rewards cards. If a store has a reward card I usually sign up for it. Many BOGO’s and meal deals are only available to members so it pays to sign up. At one of the grocery stores I frequent they have a coupon kiosk where I can scan my card and get printed store and manufacturer’s coupons before I shop.
In addition to the tips I’ve already given you, it’s helpful to read the weekly store circulars before you go grocery shopping. Shop around to get the best deals. Often I will buy produce and meats at places I don’t normally buy most of my other groceries because I can get a deal. By following my advice you can save money on groceries, save time while shopping, make better meals, and throw away less food.