Let’s face it: Grocery shopping is just not that much fun! If you enjoy it, I salute you, but I can’t say I know anyone who has ever said, “I just love to grocery shop!” It gets really tedious trying to figure out what to feed your family that is both good for them AND budget-friendly. Plus, with food prices going up every day, you get less and less bang for your buck!
I love a good bargain and I love the concept of couponing, but I am just not dedicated enough. I have never mastered the art of extreme couponing either. It actually makes me a little sad. : ( But I have been shopping for a family of five for a long time and I’ve picked up a few tricks along the way! So here they are…
10 Tips for Saving at the Grocery Store (Even If You Don’t Want To Use Coupons):
1. Make a menu. There are different ways to do this. Some people like to make a menu based on what’s on sale, but I prefer to base it on what I already have in stock. Of course, if you don’t have any groceries stocked up, this won’t work for you!!! Do whatever is easiest for you, but definitely make the menu.
2. Make a list based on your menu. You don’t have to include ingredients that you have on hand, but make sure you double-check that you actually have them. Nothing sucks more than looking forward to making a dish, only to find out you don’t have the right ingredients. Then you have to start looking for something new to cook and you wind up eating bologna sandwiches. Unless you are out of bologna…
3. Take the list with you to the store. I mean it. Whatever you do, don’t forget the list! I have done this SO many times. And every time, I wind up going up and down the aisles trying to remember what was on my list. And every time, I grab things I don’t need just because they sound good. That can add up to a LOT of money!
4. If you find a great sale on something you use and you know you have extra money in your grocery budget–plus a place to store it–by all means buy it. Otherwise, try to stick with your list. I generally allow myself to put 2 to 3 “add-ons” on the list. I try my best not to add anything, but it’s inevitable that I will forget to write something down and I would rather get it than to have to run back to the store later. Let’s be honest…even if you go back for “just one thing,” you always come out with several!
5. Make it a game. Obviously you can’t do like Supermarket Sweep or Guy’s Grocery Game and go charging down the aisles at top speed, but you can set a time limit for yourself and try to beat it! The trick is not to linger. If you linger, you have more time to put unnecessary things in your cart.
6. If you have the money and you find meat on sale for less than $2.00 a pound, buy a little extra. If you find it for less than $1.00 a pound, buy a little more!! I had a discussion about meat prices with a grocery store clerk the other day. Meat prices are apparently supposed to rise, so if you find it cheap, stock up. That is, if you have somewhere to store it. I’m happy to say that my freezer is pretty full right now and that makes menu planning so much easier!
7. Try generic/store brands (but avoid buying too much canned, boxed, or pre-made stuff). Sometimes, you will be surprised at how similar or how much better store brands are than name brands. I also suggest shopping at Aldi and Save-a-Lot if you have those in your area. I split my shopping between different stores, but I rarely go to them all on the same day. My local Aldi has awesome deals on produce, milk, eggs, and certain kinds of cheeses. I use Save-a-Lot for almost all of my meat purchases and things like pasta and canned veggies. Kroger has the best prices on cream cheese, frozen veggies/fruit, tortillas, and seafood. They also have vegetables that I can’t ever find anywhere else…like rutabagas! And of course, Wal-Mart is the go-to for cleaning supplies, juice, bread, and potato chips (the bane of my existence—how I love/hate you potato chips).
8. If your list is short, use a basket instead of a cart. You can fit a lot of junk in one of those baskets, but they get heavy really fast. It’s a lot less tempting to throw that tub of ice cream in, when your arm already feels like it’s about to fall off!
9. Use what you already have. Don’t neglect what’s already in your cupboards or freezer or fridge. I’m trying to be mindful of the food we have and not waste so much. It makes me sick when I have to throw out food on garbage day because it got shoved to the back of the fridge and left to rot.
10. If you don’t succeed at reducing your grocery bill at first, don’t beat yourself up. Just keep trying until you figure out what works for you!