Of all the categories in your budget, the amount of money spent on food remains one of the most difficult for most people to reign in. But learning how to save money on groceries is easier than you think it is, especially with these tips and tricks.
None of us can control the price of food, however, there is a lot we can do to buy the best foods for our money.
Change Your Mindset
Millions of dollars are spent every year studying consumer habits in grocery stores.
Retail grocers know how to arrange isles and displays to get you to buy the products with the highest profit margins. They also know how to get you to impulse buy items you don’t need or didn’t come to the store for.
To change your mindset, don’t think of the grocery store as your friend…it’s a game to separate you from your money. Don’t be a sucker for their gimmicks, create your own strategy!
Have you ever noticed that the items people come to the store for most often, like milk and eggs, are all the way in the far corner of the store? Is this a coincidence? No, it’s by design, forcing you to walk past all of the displays of food, to get basic items.
Make a Price Book
Taking the time to make a price book, based on the items you buy most at the grocery store, is “hands down” the most effective way to save money at the grocery store!
Making a price book is done by making a list of the items you buy the most, like bread, peanut butter, coffee, oatmeal, apples, etc. and then shopping for 2 or three of your favorite stores for them. Write down what these items cost, per unit (like the pound, ounce or each unit, like diapers) and compare.
Making a price book gives you tremendous power as a consumer! You’ll know when you see a really great deal and be able to stock up!
Shop the Perimeter of the Store
Once again, frugal nuts know that the items you use the most are strategically placed around the perimeter of the store. Items like milk, eggs, cheese and meat are all placed far away from the front door, making you walk past end-of-isle displays and through isles to get to them.
Understanding this will save you money at the grocery store.
Beware of End-of-Isle Displays
I used to think that those displays at the ends of the isles indicated a “sale” item, or at least something that was a great deal.
This isn’t true.
When you track unit prices, you’ll see that most of the time you’re not saving money.
Limit Your Time in the Store
Retailers know that the longer they can keep you in the store, the more you’ll spend. If you’re truly going to save money on groceries, you must get in and out of there in 30 minutes or less. Beyond that, the likelihood of you impulse buying goes way up!
Plan Your Meals
Before you set foot in the grocery store, plan your meals out for the week. Planning meals is one of the best ways to save money on groceries.
A meal plan doesn’t have to be difficult.
You’re simply deciding what you’ll eat for the next 7 days or so. Write it down and post it on the refrigerator so that you can stay on track with it.
Keep it simple.
I eat the same thing for breakfast every day…coffee and 2 fig newtons. Frugal nuts often eat the same things to avoid having to make multiple decisions.
Lunch is leftovers or a turkey sandwich. Again, simple with little thinking.
We often eat soup and sandwiches or scrambled eggs and toast for dinner, this is fast and simple and perfectly acceptable. I frequently make a pot of soup/chili for dinner and eat the leftovers for lunch for a couple of days.
Write it down and stick to it.
Make a Clear and Specific List
Take the time at home to make a list for the grocery store and don’t deviate from it.
Sometimes if I’m at the store and see something I need that I should have put on my list, I’ll “punish” myself by not getting it. I’ll slow down and make a better list the following week. (Frugal nuts do this kind of thing to train ourselves!)
Don’t Go to the Store on a Certain Day
While I was raising children, I needed to go to the store on Fridays because of my husband’s work schedule and sports activities.
However, I find that as an “empty nester”, it isn’t necessary to go to the store every week.
I’ve always kept a well-stocked pantry and freezer. This keeps me from needing to go to the store on a specific day, I only go when I need something. That might be every 2-3 weeks.
Don’t Take Children to the Store
If it’s at all possible, go to the store alone so that you can focus on what you’re doing.
Don’t Go to the Store Hungry
Everyone knows that you’ll overspend at the store when hungry. Just grabbing a piece of fruit or a handful of crackers to eat on the way to the store will help you a lot!
Always Shop “Loss Leaders”
Planning your meals around what’s on sale is one of the best ways to save money at the grocery store!
“Loss leaders” are seasonal items that grocery stores get a great deal on and pass the savings along to the consumer, many times at a loss. Before you think they’re doing you a big favor, grocers use “loss leaders” to lure you into the store so they can charge you full retail on other items!
The way to “win” is to take advantage of the loss leaders and leave the rest.
Stop Buying Beverages
Americans spent $414.8 million dollars last year on non-alcoholic beverages while the US beverage industry will bring in about $225 billion dollars in 20220. (source)
According to a survey, millennials spend about $300 a month on alcoholic beverages, while Gen-X’ers spend about half that.
With the rising rate of inflation and limited dollars for food to sustain us, it only makes sense to limit or stop buying beverages at the grocery store.
Beverages offer no real nutritional value and you can drink water from the tap. If your tap water is poor quality, the money spent on a filtering service would be dollars well spent!
Bottled water, juices, soda and sparkling water should only be used occasionally if at all, to truly save money.
Plant a Garden
Fresh fruit and vegetables can be very expensive at the grocery store, but amazingly simple to grow at home!
Busy people and those without a yard can simply grow a container garden. Check into how easy it is to eat the freshest produce from your patio or balcony!
Forget the Coupons
I’ll admit that there was a time when couponing made sense.
Today, that is no longer the case.
The time, ink and energy needed to print, cut and organize coupons are far more than you realize. Compared to the minimal savings and confinement to name brands and selected stores, it’s a waste of time for someone who wants to save real money at the grocery store.
Use apps if you find that they help you to save money on groceries, however, I find that I spend more time jumping through hoops than is worth it.
Stick with staples and store ads for the best savings.
The best ways to save money on groceries remain self-discipline, planning and common sense. Anyone can save significant amounts of money at the grocery store by purchasing staple ingredients that can be used to make nutritious meals at home!