I know, I know, I recently mentioned how my grocery budget might be a tiny bit out of control (but who decides that anyway, right?), but I wanted to prove to you that I do carefully plan our grocery shopping and don’t just deliberately throw groceries in our shopping cart (even though you might think that our receipts don’t reflect that behavior).
Anyway, I’d like to think that I am employing pretty good strategies to
save be mindful at the grocery store and if not to save, then at least not to waste any money. (As always, take these suggestions with a grain of salt. Nobody’s perfect and I don’t do all of those things 100% of the time, but keeping these strategies in mind might save you a few extra dollars, which is just a way to say that my grocery spending could in reality be that much higher. Ha!)
Here are eleven of my strategies:
Eat what you buy.
Ok, that is a no-brainer, right? It seems obvious and this is my number one rule. You wouldn’t believe how much food people throw away every month! It translates to roughly 25% of the food people buy. That’s insane. My grocery bill might be higher than yours, but I can say with 99% certainty that we pretty much always eat everything that we buy. Only very rarely do we have to throw something out (and that usually just happens when we have unexpected changes of plan or when things that are supposed to last longer unexpectedly spoil prematurely). Bottom line: the biggest waste of money is if you don’t eat the food that you buy.
Buy in bulk whenever possible.
Even though we’re only two people in our household, we shop larger quantities of select items at Costco and we also tend to stay away from “convenience sized items” at the regular grocery store. It’s always financially wiser to buy larger quantities and divvy them up yourself (granted that you’ll be able to eat things up before they expire).
Don’t spend (much) money on drinks.
We hardly ever buy bottled drinks. We occasionally buy some apple juice and sparkling water (especially in the summer), but we mostly drink (filtered) tap water and homemade iced tea.
Go for the no-name brand.
I promise you, in 99% of cases the brand-name is not better than the no-name equivalent. (In fact, it might even be the same product in a different package!). I will admit that there are exceptions where I do reach for the brand name item, but that happens very rarely.
Always check the unit prices.
If you don’t know what the unit price is, it’s high time that you learn about it. The unit price is displayed on the price tag on the shelf and tells you the cost per liter, per kilogram, per pound, per ounce etc, of what you want to buy. The lowest priced item might not be the best deal in terms of price vs. quantity (though sometimes it is).
Shop your pantry.
So, we established the notion that stocking up is good idea, but you also have to make sure you eat the food that you have stocked up (otherwise the whole concept is a mute point). When you meal plan, check your pantry/freezer/fridge first and plan your meals around items that you have on hand and that might need to be consumed pretty soon, or else they go bad. Which also means: you don’t have to buy that item this time at the store.
Meal plan around sales.
I am assuming that this is what most people do anyway (it seems like one of the first ways to cut grocery spending that people think about), but maybe not. So, if you receive the ads for your local stores in the mail – just take a few minutes to see what’s on sale this week. Which also leads me to the next point.
Stock up when prices are at their lowest.
Don’t limit your grocery budget to a certain amount per week, rather think about your budget monthly or even bi-monthly. Because only then will you be able to take real advantage of the time when items go on sale at their lowest prices. The trick is to stock up when items are at their lowest price and have them last you until the next sale cycle comes around. I always – every week! – check if the items that we use most frequently are on sale and if they are, I grab a few of them (even if we haven’t run out yet). This way I make sure to always buy at the lowest price.
Take advantage of personalized deals by using your store card/app.
Many of the bigger grocery chains have apps now that you connect to your store card and they offer you personalized deals on the items you buy most often. This is really an extra perk that you definitely should take advantage off, because there will be sales on items that you buy regularly, even if they’re not on sale for everybody else. I consistently save between 20-30% of regular retail price at Safeway because I am religiously using their app (and I don’t usually even clip extra coupons from elsewhere).
Bake your own bread.
I touched on this before. Store-bought bread is freaking expensive and often not even that great. Start baking your own bread. Not only will you save some money, you’ll also get to choose which ingredients make it into your bread (e.g. NO added processed sugar).
Shop at different stores.
I personally have at least three stores (sometimes more) that I frequent for my weekly grocery haul. Luckily, the stores are not too far apart, so I don’t really have to factor in driving time and gas when I decide where to shop.
Which strategies do you have at the grocery store (if any)? Am I missing something essential?