I just cannot believe the prices of groceries lately! As my yardstick, I always counted the number of bags and multiplied by $10. That is, if I spent $100, I usually had about 10 bags of groceries.
My recent average was $160, and I only got 5 bags of groceries! In these tough economic times, saving money is more important than ever. As a former Extreme Couponer and self-proclaimed frugalista, it’s time for me to get tough and start using my best strategies to save my family money.
I had relaxed a bit, but now I have to get back at it!
Here are 10 easy ways to save money at the supermarket.
Buy Some Store Brands
The first strategy is to purchase a store brand item instead of a name brand one. In many categories, store brands are just as good or better than their name-brand counterparts for much less money.
You can still buy brand-name favorites for some food items. But consider them for pantry staples like flour, sugar, butter, cooking oil, rice, and other items like that.
Wait, stay with me for this one because I’m totally serious! Many families view grocery delivery as an expensive extravagance, but this is not always the case. Our household grocery spending has gone down significantly since using delivery.
And here’s why. First, I’m not tempted by impulse purchases when I shop online. I stick to my list.
Grocery shopping takes me 90 minutes to 2 hours to do, start to finish. Time is money, and most grocery delivery is around $10. That 2 hours is much better spent in other areas, either generating income or doing other things for my family (meal planning, meal prep, freezer meal prep, cleaning) that affect our budget.
Use A Weekly Meal Plan
The second way to save money at the supermarket is to shop according to your weekly meal plan. This will ensure you are purchasing only what’s needed and nothing more, which can also help cut down on waste.
“One More Day”
This is an unusual technique, but it works. First, I must acknowledge that my husband and kids are spoiled. For me, this strategy started to correct that. Correct what?
Well, they’d get uncomfortable with the concept of running out of things. Guess what? The world does not end if we run out of milk, cereal, granola bars or yogurt. If you’re hungry, you will find something else to eat.
So rather than planning to grocery shop on the same day each week or running out to the store the minute we run out of something, I stopped. It was that simple.
“Mom, we’re out of….” Now I respond with, “Guess you’ll have to find something else to eat.” Surprise, surprise—they always find other things.
How does this affect grocery shopping and money spent? I tell myself, “Just wait one more day…” before going to the store. And I only go or place my online order when we’re out of a lot of stuff. This helps eliminate food waste, and, most months, I only do 3 shopping trips instead of 4 because I keep waiting one more day.
That’s a huge savings if you don’t increase what you spend on each trip.
Eliminate Food Waste
The average American household wastes 40% of the food they buy! That’s crazy!
It is terrible for the environment and is a huge chunk of money. I’ve overcome this by using this technique. My garbage pick-up day is Tuesday. So, every Monday evening, I go through our fridge and pantry and get rid of the old food.
And I keep track of it. I’ve learned that I don’t need a loaf of bread every week, only every other week. We don’t eat one yogurt every day; we each average 4-5 a week. While I’m trying to get us all eating healthier, I am realistic about the amount of produce we eat each week.
Decreasing the amount of food we waste has probably had the most significant impact on our grocery budget.
Take Advantage of Price Matching Promises
Another strategy to save money at the supermarket is to use purchase price matching if you are shopping somewhere like Walmart. Many large food retailers will match competitor prices to get your business, saving you even more cash.
Read up on policies on their websites and how to submit the changes.
Use the Store’s Loyalty Program
Make sure to sign up for the supermarket’s reward plan. Many give you a certain amount of points per cash amount spent. You can then exchange these points for money off coupons.
Using online coupons is super easy to do when you’re shopping online.
Find The Best Time to Go Shopping
If you go to the supermarket in the evening, you will usually find many fresh items being reduced to clearance. I buy a lot of our meat this way. Then I come home and either use it that day or freeze it. Or, you can cook it and freeze it.
For example, ground beef—I just cook it all off and freeze it in 1 lb portions. When it’s taco night, all I have to do is defrost it and add the taco seasoning while reheating.
Don’t Shop for Food When You Are Hungry
When you shop hungry, it can lead to a few bad decisions. You may pick up more food than you need and end up throwing lots away.
Studies show that you’re also more likely to buy junk food when you shop hungry.
Set A Spending Limit
A great way to save money at the supermarket is to set yourself a spending limit.
This will help you stay within your budget and not exceed what you can afford. There are apps that help you do this.
Or, if you want to really go nuts with this idea—take cash only and not your cards, thus forcing yourself to stay within a limit.
Lisa Lightner is a Special Education Advocate and Super Couponer who lives in suburban Philadelphia. She owns and runs A Day in our Shoes which offers IEP advice for parents and Don’t IEP Alone, an online IEP advocacy training program.