Coupons are great in theory. But if you’re pressed for time or just generally stressed out, you’ll probably never get around to clipping them or remembering to use that coupon app you downloaded on your phone.
And let’s face it: Who hasn’t dutifully spent a few hours clipping coupons and then forgotten to bring them to the store on your way out the door?
If that sounds like you, no worries…the truth is you don’t have to coupon to save money!
You can save a bundle simply by changing where you shop
Here are some places and things to consider if you’re looking to switch up your grocery routine:
- Dollar stores – For example, Dollar Tree has a refrigerator/freezer section in larger stores and everything is $1.
- Hard discounters – Aldi will save you up to 50% off your grocery bill. They don’t accept coupons in part because of their reliance on store brands.
- Warehouse clubs – One warning: A deal is not a deal if something is too big and goes stale before its time.
- Salvage stores – They sell food that’s in dented cans, past expiration date or otherwise unsellable in a traditional supermarket. Though the savings can be tremendous, this is not for the faint of heart! Find salvage stores near you.
Use the envelope method for your payment
Try only buying groceries using cash — not plastic. The reality is that debit cards and credit cards can be the Bermuda Triangle of your wallet because it’s so easy to lose track of your finances when you use them. A recent Dun & Bradstreet study found that people spend 12% to 18% more at fast-food restaurants when they use plastic instead of cash.
Don’t let this happen to you at the grocery register! Put the money you intend to spend on groceries in an envelope and leave your debit or credit card at home. For this method to work, you’re going to have to calculate your purchases as they go into your grocery cart. You don’t want to be taken by surprise when you get to the register! Use the calculator on your smartphone to help you.
Buy non-perishable groceries only once a month
If you’re watching your budget, try to limit the amount of time you’re in a store — even for groceries. Go to a strict shopping-list system to avoid impulse purchases and buy your non-perishables only once a month. When it comes to perishables, you should get them only on an as-need basis. The reality is you can save by not being in the grocery aisle. Also, try Amazon.com or Jet.com as a place to buy your non-perishables. Here’s a recent look we took at prices on both services.
Know what you already have at home
There’s nothing worse than buying something only to get home and find you already have several spare packages, cans, bags or cases of whatever it may be! There are a lot of free grocery shopping list apps out there to help avoid this problem. One in particular — Out of Milk — offers a Pantry List function that lets you keep track of your pantry items (spices, essentials, etc…) so that you always know what’s sitting there at home!
You have got to meal plan!
While you don’t have to use coupons (thanks, Aldi), you should get used to meal planning. Our contributor Lauren Greutman is an expert meal planner. She teaches eight easy steps to start meal planning if you’ve never done it before.
Avoid food waste at all costs
The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) estimates that the average American household of four throws away $120 each month in uneaten food. That’s $1,440 a year! You could start putting that money right back in your budget today if you do one thing: Freeze your leftovers. Just don’t forget about what you’ve frozen once you stash it in the fridge. The NRDC recommends that you mark your calendar for a ”freezer night’ every week or two so that you actually eat that container of beef stew before it is covered in ice crystals.’
Read more: Food waste is a real budget killer