Wednesday, April 3, 2013

100 Ways to Save Money on Groceries, Part 1

When I ask people what they would like to know about money and saving money, the number one response I get every time is, "How can I save money on groceries?"

The thing about groceries is, they are a variable budget item, and for many people they are the only one.  So, if you can't see a way to save on your fixed expenses and bills (and you can, but I'll save that for another day), you can at least see that you can save on your grocery bill.

I'm not an extreme couponer.  I don't feed my family on $10 a week, like some people do.  I am very conscious of what comes into my house and at what price, though, and so I've started to put together a list of ways that you can save money on groceries, even with rising food prices.

  1. Use a list.  Grocery stores are designed to see you things, and if you don't know what you need before you go, you are likely to impulse buy a lot of things that you definitely don't need.
  2. Shop less often.  Along the same lines as above, the less time you spend in the grocery store, the less money you are likely to spend. Try stretching your weekly grocery trips to 10 days, and eventually to 2 weeks sometimes.
  3. Eat less meat.  Perhaps the most expensive items in most weekly grocery trips is meat, moreso if you are committed to buying good, unprocessed meat.  Try to cut back on the amount of meat that you and your family eat.  You can do this by instituting one meatless night a week, or by cutting back on the meat you use in all your recipes. 
  4. Institute a cheap/easy dinner night.  Consider a weekly sandwich night, breakfast for dinner night, or pasta night (or all of the above).  
  5. Plan your meals around the sales.  While I know it's tempting to plan your meals around whatever your friends just posted to Pinterest, it is much more practical to plan your meals around your grocery store's sale cycle, particularly the meat and produce items.
  6. Stockpile pantry and freezer items.  Get in the habit of buying extra of pantry items when they are on sale.  If you buy two jars of mayonnaise or peanut butter when they are $2 each, you can avoid spending $4 on one  later.  If you stay ahead of your pantry stock, you will eventually get to the point where you are never paying full price for any of these things.
  7. Plan meals from your pantry and freezer.  Before you go to the store, always look at what you have first, and plan your meals around that.  This keeps you from buying ingredients, using them in one recipe, and then letting the rest languish for months or years.
  8. Try to avoid brand loyalty.  Particularly for health and beauty items, if you have at least a few different brands you are willing to use, it's much easier to avoid paying full price.  If you are a dedicated stockpiler (see above), this can be temporary until you have enough of your preferred brand saved to get you to the next sale.
  9. Reconsider convenience items.  I'm not telling you to eliminate them completely.  If they keep you from eating out, they are totally worth it.  But think about how much convenience they offer.  For example, instant oatmeal doesn't cook any quicker than regular quick oats in the microwave, and costs more for way fewer servings.
  10. Avoid food waste.  What are you throwing away every week?  Leftovers?  Rotten produce?  Find a way to repurpose these things or stop buying them.  I buy frozen vegetables now because it's cheaper than throwing fresh produce away.