How to: save money on your grocery bill

How to: save money on your grocery bill

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I know I am not alone in that I’ve drastically cut back on my spending in the past year. I’m much more careful about what and where I buy and if I don’t absolutely need it and love it, the item goes back on the shelf. While sometimes I miss the highs of a new lip gloss or cute shirt, I do not miss the guilt I used to feel when I discovered I already owned a gloss in the exact same shade or discovered the unworn shirt, months later with the tags still attached. Living thrifty can be fun and it is definitely satisfying. (And don’t forget to check out our review section for honest assessments when it is time to buy).

One area that it seems I had little control over was my grocery tab. I mean, I’m in a household of two, how can I be dropping $150 for barely a weeks worth of groceries? And every week, as the news get more frightening, it seems my grocery bill is slowly ticking upward. It’s not as if you can stop buying food, so what is a girl to do? Pretty much what your Mom and/or Grandmother has told you for years: plan well, shop carefully and remember, coupons are your friends. Here’s our top tips for the best ways to Save Money when Grocery Shopping:

Don’t shop hungry
You are sure to overspend and come home with something you didn’t really need and purchased out of hunger (like ho-ho’s or potato chips).

Plan Ahead
Before you even start your grocery list, make a plan of the meals you need to serve and/or pack for the next week. Write out your meal plan and try to work your leftovers into the following days lunch or dinner (use leftover meats for sandwiches or make a large pot of rice one night and reheat it/use it in another recipe the next).

Write a Grocery List
Always bring a grocery list when shopping, it really keeps you on track and can save a return trip or two to pick up things your forgot the first time (and you know that second trip will not consist of just the forgotten item). Take that list to another level and Make a Master Grocery List as well (check out this site for some great printable lists) to keep track of the items you use regularly and/or in large quantities. Buy these items in bulk when there is a good sale on them.

Shop your farmer’s market
I’ve never been a fan of shopping at more than one grocery store for savings (the time and gas money spent seem to not be worth the cost cutting). My exception is an excursion to the farmers market. You will find the freshest and best tasting fruits and vegetables (and many farmers markets sell eggs, cheese, nuts and more) at greatly reduced prices. Plus, buying food grown locally saves you in freight charges tacked on to the cost of the produce, saves fossil fuels and helps stimulate your local economy.

Skip the prepackaged produce
Yes, prepackaged, cut and washed veggies are really convenient, but almost twice the price of buying them bulk. If you can’t make the farmers market, buy them at your grocery store in bulk. When you get home, take the time right then to wash and store them in meal size baggies, you’ll be all ready to go when you cook.

Coupons are found money
Stop rolling your eyes, there’s no shame in using coupons (hipsters in L.A. always give me the stink eye when I pull out a wad of coupons; oh well). First, get a subscription to your Sunday paper (according to my Pop-Pop everybody should get the Sunday paper). The coupons you use will more than pay for the subscription (or newsstand price) and nothing beats a Sunday morning browsing the funnies.

Coupon Rule 1 and it’s the only one you need – Do not use a coupon unless it’s for a product you would already be buying. Simple as that. Don’t let them sway you into trying some sugary snacks you would never pick up or switch to a brand you don’t really like (cause you won’t use it). I’ve found that there are always at least a handful of coupons for brand name products I already regularly use. Check out online sources for coupons too, such as PrintClipCoupons or CoolSavings.

Stock Up
Once you start clipping coupons, you’ll notice the large grocery chains will offer the same items at a decent sales price within weeks of the published coupons. Buying in bulk when an item is on sale with your coupons can make a big difference! Stef loves the ease of Lean Cuisine for a quick, affordable lunch and when everything aligns, she’ll snap up 10 or 15 at a time.

Try Out Some Generics
This one may be hard if you have kids, or are particularly hung up on brand names, but you will find some substantial savings when buying generic brands. You’ll be glad to know that the quality of generic brands seems to have improved vastly since my youth. Many name brands and their matching generics are remarkably similar. Stick to brand names for things where you have a strong preference (I need my name brand cereals and sodas) and try out a few generics every trip until you find a few that will work in your household (I like to use generic store brand foils and wraps and frozen veggies).

Join a Club
If you have a large family to feed, a club membership (for Costco, Sam’s Club, BJ’s, etc.) can pay off quickly. You can also throw in with a friend or family member to share a membership, which will make the fees easier to swallow. (See if you and your friend can split some grocery items sold in combo packs for even more savings) Again, don’t forget to bring your list and stick to it! Your grocery savings do not count if you’re bringing home two dvds, a package of tube socks and the latest “as seen on tv” kitchen gadget.

Use Coinstar
If you’re really feeling the pinch, you can (have a computer) count your pennies. When I’m feeling low on spending cash, I like to cash in my spare change jar using the Coinstar machine. This handy device found at many grocery stores, will count your change (for a fee), cash it in and print out a receipt that can be used like cash at the register. I know this can be done for free by wrapping and going to the bank, but again, it’s a matter of convenience for me (and I always feel a little ookey handling a lot of change). Depending on your spare change collection, you could get a “free” cart of groceries or a nice “discount” on your bill.

We want to hear from you! Do you clip coupons? What are the best generic products you have discovered? Share the ways you have found to stretch your grocery budget.

11 thoughts on “How to: save money on your grocery bill”

  1. mythbusterbeauty

    Yes, yes, yes and yes! Love to save and honestly being penny wise adds up if you do it consistently… And then allows you to splurge once in a while on a great skincare cream, lol! ;)

    My biggest favorite ways to save: eat and prepare your meals at HOME, no sodas, and plan before you shop. If you haven’t discovered Erin’s website yet, you really must! Her website is called: http://cheapbutnoteasy.net/, and I big heart
    her and all her wonderful ways to live on the cheap.

  2. All Great Ideas!!! Thank you WHT!! I love that site that has the Free Printable Grocery Lists. How handy is that, its a great way to stay organized at the Grocery Story!!

    Oh and Coinstar rules! I collected all my change before I moved a year ago, and I had over 100 dollars! I couldn’t believe it! It’s like finding a present you forgot to open!!!

    Cheapbutnoteasy.net is Awesome too Jen!!!!

  3. I thought of another one. Plan your menus around the store circular that comes in the mail once a week. Whole chickens on sale? We’re having a roast chicken this week! You’d be surprised by how much you save basing your menus around what’s on sale rather than just what you’re in the mood for.

    Generics/store brands that I buy: bread, frozen and canned veggies, OJ, cream cheese, cheese, soup, napkins.

    And ones I suggest avoiding: cereal, trash bags, toilet paper.

  4. These are all such great suggestions. I totally need to do the coupon thing. I don’t know why i don’t because on the rare occasions that i do, i’m so excited that i saved that 40 cents. Even before this awful recession hit, i was on a mission to throw away as little food as possible. It was driving me crazy throwing food away. If i didn’t use it but thought i could in the future i would freeze it. For example i love getting baguettes with dinner. But there are only two of us and i would end up throwing out half of it. Same thing all the time. it would drive me crazy. So, now right away i cut it in half and freeze the other half and if for any reason i forget to freeze it, i cut it up in cubes and use for bread crumbs. For frozen vegetables, i never throw it away no matter how little is left. The reason is whenever i feel like i’m going grocery shopping too much, i do a night that i empty out the freezer and cabinets mix whatever beans, veggies, etc… and do a bake. I’ve had some misses in the past but for the most part they come out really good. Mix with a simple Béchamel sauce and it comes out great! One more thing i’ve been doing for the past year or so is i use cloth napkins. I noticed the amount of paper towels i used went down considerably.

  5. FYI BJ’s takes MFR coupons, Sams does not. Be mindful though of these bulk stores, you many times can get TP, paper towels or bars of soap cheaper at Target or Walmart. A few other tips, join the shoppers club at the grocery store you shop at most. I shop at Giant. Giant gives you .10 off a gallon of gas for every $100 you spend. They also have other incentives that give you .20 or even .40 cents off. The way gas was a few months ago, this was a huge deal. Just this week using my club card and coupons I saved $24.87 off my grocery bill and I will get .60 off PER GALLON on my next fill up! So the club card many times does pay off. If you use CoinStar you can get a giftcard for a bunch of diff places for the full value of your money, they wave the fee if you choose a giftcard instead. Stefs idea of planning your menu around the weekly is a must for added savings. Also if you are a small household of two, it doesn’t mean you have to buy small. Often times smaller packaged items are more expensive. Meats freeze, buy a big pack of steaks or pork chops and freeze them. Buy a small turkey or chicken and use the leftovers for lunch, soup or casserole later in the week.

  6. The Freezer is where it’s at for saving!

    I have a foodsaver, that I’ve found to be a great investment. You know how you freeze stuff sometimes and it gets frost bite by the time you want to use it, especially meat! I found sometimes I would freeze bulk items and they would be so frost bitten by the time I used them that they tasted bad. The food saver sucks out the air and prevents that 100% Everything I freeze with it stays fresh. You can even freeze bread. My Mom got me in the habit of freezing it in 2 slice packs. That way you take out at night what you’ll use the next day and none goes to waste.

    My sister even use the food saver for cookies! And they come out great. It’s also a great way to store treats you want to mail, (homemade Cookies or candy) It locks them in place and keeps them from crumbling away.

    Another quick save is to shop with a friend, if your Han Solo and buying for one. That way you can get bigger amounts and split them. This is a great one for the big packs of meat. Here’s a foodsaver link, not cheap but worth the investment in the long run!! http://www.foodsaver.com/Product.aspx?id=c&cid=87&pid=248

  7. well girls i just lost my job on friday and now i realy need to save every penny i have. Its just 2 of us too and i try to use everything i got. if i have have veggies that are about o go bad i boil them and freeze them later for soup. same thing with fruit, if the bananas are starting to get brown, i slice them and stick them in the freezer and then later make a delicious shake. Another thing i do is use wash clothes, instead of paper towels to clean. those little suckers can be expensive. and to dust i stole some of my boyfriends towels he uses to detail the GTO (my lil girl). they are so fuzzy, they pick up the dust in a snap. all you have to do is wash them and reuse.

  8. Oh Regina, that stinks about losing your job! I’m so sorry. Things are really scary right now, I can’t even really think about it, it makes me too nervous.

    But yeah, we all need good tips like these right now. I never thought about freezing bananas, that’s so smart! I throw bananas away every week because I buy too many. They’re so inexpensive, I stock up and then burn out like 2 bananas in!

    I think I should start using wash cloths instead of sponges. Sponges are expensive. You can get a bunch of cute crochet ones on Etsy that are kind of scrubby with the way they’re constructed. I’m gonna do it!

  9. Oh no Regina, I’m so sorry to hear about that. I hope things work out for you! I say, take a week or two for yourself if you can. Relax, sleep in, cruise the internet, watch bad daytime tv and when you feel like doing something productive, work on you resume. But do not worry, worry, worry (it’s bad for your complexion) Than, when your little break is over, get into the job search with all your energy. Good luck yo you!

    Oh and I second your idea re:using washcloths instead of paper or sponges. I buy cheap white washclothes at Target or Ross for spills, cleaning, dishes, etc. I love that i can throw them in the washing machine and re-use them and it really cuts down on my use of paper products.

  10. So maybe not a direct money save, but a few time savers and well time is money. Write out your grocery list by isle. This will save you from having to walk clear to the other end of the store after you’ve gotten to the milk isle to find you need green peppers. My sister taught me that one. This next one I thought of a few months ago, it may already have been someone elses idea, but I thought of it all on my own and felt very proud thank you very much….if you are using a receipe from a cookbook or magazine, on your menu write down the page number and issue, this will save you time paging through multiple issues or books trying to find the darn thing.

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