Ever had that sinking feeling at checkout when the register keeps ringing up while you wish it would just finally stop?
And before you know it, you’ve quickly blown past any semblance of your food budget for the week!
Fortunately, saving money on groceries can be easy. This grocery shopping guide will help you with ideas to save more and spend less — and keep your grocery budget on track!
#1 way to save on groceries: Change where you shop!
The supermarket segment has seen an influx of non-traditional players. One strategy to save money on groceries is to simply change where you shop. Here’s a quick rundown of what alternatives might be near you:
- Dollar stores – For example, Dollar Tree has a refrigerator/freezer section in larger stores and everything is $1.
- Hard discounters – Aldi has small format stores stocked mostly with house brands, and they will save you up to 40% off your grocery bill.
- Warehouse clubs – One warning: A deal is not a deal if something is too big and goes stale before its time to use it.
- 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.
Change what you buy
Instead of changing where you shop, try changing what goes into your shopping cart. Private labels (aka store brands) are huge overseas, but not here at home. That’s a shame because buying the store brand lets you save up to 30% without clipping coupons.
Try it just once the next time you’re at the supermarket. If you like what you buy, you save money that time and every time going forward when you buy it again. If you don’t like it, go back to the national brand. Just about every store will give you a refund or exchange the store brand for the manufacturer’s brand.
Read more: Why you may want to avoid bagged lettuce
Change how you shop
There’s an old trick in the snack business where the extra-large package will cost more per ounce than a regular-sized bag. Snack manufacturers make the assumption that people who go for the extra-large bag are not price sensitive.
Paying attention to unit pricing in the supermarket can be your ally at time when food manufacturers are trying to sneak by reductions in the amount of product they’re selling you. Manufacturers are doing this especially when the packaging promises that the product is ‘new and improved.’
Not sure what unit pricing is? Take a look at this example:
Here’s a common scenario you might encounter in the supermarket: You’re buying the store brand of napkins and you’re confronted with the choice of either a 250-count package or a 500-count package. Which is a better value? Most people would think the larger package because you’re buying in bulk, right?
Not so fast. Look at the small unit price numbers, not the actual price. The 500-count package (top illustration) has a unit price of 0.70¢, while you the 250-count package below it has a unit price of 0.67¢. So the smaller package actually offers more value for your dollar.
Coupons aren’t just silly little strips of paper anymore. Today you can get deals and coupons right on your smartphone at the click of a button. Try playing around with these free apps to get started:
- Walmart Savings Catcher
- Checkout 51
Finally, don’t overlook these basic strategies
- Use a site like CouponMom.com to help maximize your coupon clipping.
- Stock up when there’s a sale, especially when you see a buy-one-get-one-free offer.
- Make a list to avoid impulse purchases.
- Never shop on an empty stomach.
- Sign up on brand websites for special coupons if there is a particular brand you are married to.
- Stay out of the store to save money! Buy your non-perishables only once a month, and your perishables only on an as-need basis.
- Amazon’s Subscribe and Save program offers automatic scheduled delivery and extra savings on your most frequent purchases through the online retail giant.
- If you have a larger family you can put hundreds of dollars back in your wallet every year just by changing the plastic you use at the point of purchase. The American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card offers 6% back on groceries up to $6,000 each year, though there is a $75 annual fee. Any spending past the annual $6,000 threshold earns just 1% cash back.