No matter how much you make or what you do, you have to eat. Most likely that means you’re making the occasional trip to your local grocery store to pick up the essentials. But how can you save money on groceries without sacrificing too much? Saving money at the grocery store isn’t rocket science, but it does require some planning and thought.
Put these tips to work for you and start saving on your grocery bill immediately.
Calculate your total as you shop
It’s easy to lose track of how much you’re about to spend at the grocery store. One of those. Two of those. A couple jars of that. It adds up FAST. To stay on top of your bill, I find it helps to keep a running total as you shop. If you pick up a $4.99 item, add $4.99 to your total. Use your phone or a notepad and paper and add every single item you pick up.
It may surprise you just how much you’re about to spend. As you add, you may decide you don’t really need that $5 bag of organic chips. Want? Yes. Need? No.
Using this method alone can save you quite a bit on groceries. I know it has helped me.
Get the small size of new stuff
Especially if you’re trying something new, don’t get the jumbo size. Take a bag of chips for example. There’s a new flavor that you want to try. Don’t get the family size bag if you don’t even know if you like the flavor yet.
Don’t buy more than you need
Don’t buy more of any product than you really need. Even if you really like those special crinkle cut chips, do you really need the Bag-o-obesity? Will you really eat all of that big container of chicken salad? Be realistic in your estimation. Plan out your meal sizes and determine how much you really need. Otherwise, you’ll be wasting money on groceries.
Buy the generic or store brand
Store brand!? Yuck! Ok. Hear me out here. The generic brand is usually just as good as the name brand and is often made in the same facility. When you buy a name brand, you’re usually just paying for the recognized branding – not for better quality. Don’t let the ads fool you. Switching to the store brand is a great way to save money on groceries.
Now, I recognize that some store brand items are nasty. But the majority of items are just as good. At least give it a shot.
If you buy meat, get it on sale.
Meat is expensive! If you buy meat, look for items that are reduced in price or on sale. Check your store’s ads and see what you can find. Some stores will discount items that are close to their sell-by date. These items are perfectly safe and can be a great value. Check the dates on meat products. If you find one that is getting close to its sell-by date, ask if it can be discounted. The worst they can say is no.
Buy non-perishable items in bulk
Think about things you know you will and won’t spoil any time soon. Toilet paper, paper towels, canned goods, etc. These items are great purchased in bulk and stored. When you buy items in bulk, you frequently save money that you would be spending on items in their normal, small retail sizes. This is why I love places like Costco and Sams (or your local warehouse.) When you buy in bulk, you can save anywhere from a few cents to a few dollars or more on each item.
When I worked for a local grocery chain, I hated coupons. They were annoying to scan and annoying to store. But they can save a LOT of money on your groceries. They, of course, require time and energy to find, store, and remember to use. Some stores offer e-coupons that can be linked with your shopper card. These coupons can be automatically applied to your cart when you’re checking out, and you don’t have to remember those annoying pieces of paper.
Compare store prices
Competing stores often have very different prices on items that are exactly the same. Scout out your local grocery stores. Take a list of your commonly-purchased items with you. Make a note of how much each store charges for items on your list. It may be worth it to buy some items at Store A and some at Store B if the differences are great enough.
Ask about price matching too. If Store A has an item slightly cheaper than Store B, ask Store A if they will match Store B’s price. Odds are, they will.
Watch for markdowns
As I discussed a bit above, if an item’s sell-by date is close, its price may be reduce. These items are still perfectly good and can be great bargains. Don’t be afraid to snag them when you see them.
If an item’s sell-by date is close and it isn’t marked down, ask customer service if they will discount it for you. Often times they will. Stores would much rather sell the item at a discount than take a 100% loss.
Check unit prices
Unit price is the amount you pay per ounce / pound / etc of an item. Compare the unit price of each item and brand. Sometimes unit price can vary substantially, so it pays to check! Literally.
Saving money on groceries isn’t rocket science, but it does require planning and thought. Hopefully these tips will help you shop smarter and buy better. I think you’ll be surprised how much you can save.