Saving money shopping for groceries.

Save Money On Groceries

Making your budget work often means saving whenever and wherever you can. Saving on variable expenses like groceries is particularly important because a food budget can really get out of hand. Thankfully, there are a lot of ways to save on groceries.

1) Shop The Loss Leaders

Stores release a weekly circular both online and in print. Every week, look at those circulars and see what the big deal is. Often, grocery stores will have what is called  “loss leaders”. These are items that they will often sell at or below cost. The idea is that they will get you into the store and once there, you will buy more expensive items.

Don’t fall for the trap, instead just buy the loss leaders and stock up. If chicken is on sale, buy as much as you can and put it into the deep freezer. You do have a deep freezer right? If not, go out and get one. They are fairly cheap and can save you a lot of money.

To make this strategy really work for you, you need to check out the circulars of every grocery store in your area once a week, they usually change deals on Wednesday. They rotate deals often and this week the loss leader might be chicken and next week it could be ground beef. Catch the deals as they occur so you don’t miss out on something you need.

2) Get A Discount Club Membership

Discount clubs can save you a ton of money by allowing you to buy in bulk. This is particularly true with staples like paper towels, canned goods, spices, charcoal, etc. Meat is fairly priced and cheaper than grocery store regular prices but you would be better off buying it at local grocery stores when it is advertised as a loss leader.

The two biggest players in the industry here are Sam’s Club and Costco. They are both very similar and it is usually just wise to choose the one that is most convenient to you. Get the basic membership at first and if you find you use it enough, switch to the rewards version. Both companies offer reward versions that give you cash back. Sam’s is called the Plus membership and Costco’s is called the Executive membership.

Personally, I like the Sam’s Club membership and i have a Plus Card. The Sam’s membership is currently a bit cheaper and the upgrade to Plus has more than paid for itself. Over the last few years, it has at least paid for the annual membership, making the card free. Most years, I pocket an additional $100 or so over the cost of the annual membership. So, the card pays for itself plus about $100. Can’t beat that.

3) Make A Money Saving Meal Plan

Most people go to the store without any real idea of what they are going to get or actually need. This can lead to a lot of unnecessary spending. You should, at the very least, go to the grocery store with a list but I suggest that you take it one step further and make a meal plan.

Write out all of the meals that you will be making for the week. Then, you can buy the groceries that you need for those meals and nothing more. This will eliminate wasted spending on items that are not needed. As a side benefit, you might find out that you eat healthier.

Once you have your meal plan ready, be sure to go through your pantry and see what you really have. Avoiding purchasing items that you already have will save you money and eliminate waste. How much money can you save? It would not be out of question for an average family to save 2000 dollars or more over the course of a year.

4) Buy Generics

Store brands have come a long way and in most cases, they are just as good as the national brands.In fact, many of the national brands are made by the same companies that make generics.

Where generics differ greatly though is in cost. They can be about a third of the cost of the national leading brand. This is mainly due to the fact that they are not paying millions of dollars to advertise. That saves them money and thus helps you to save money on food.

5) Use Coupons

It is so old fashioned, but it still works and will always work. Cut coupons whenever you see one for an item that you already use. In addition, download the app for whichever grocery stores that you use and take advantage of digital coupons.

Digital coupons are even easier to use than paper ones and often apply to your bill automatically when you download them.

Finally, if there is a food company that you use often, such as Pillsbury, go to their website and join their e-club. This will get you money saving coupons sent directly to your inbox and it might even score you some free samples.

6) Take Advantage Of Online Shopping

Shop for your groceries online and simply have them brought out to you. This is not only convenient but also can save you a lot of money.

When you shop online, you can pick and choose the exact items that you want. No fancy, eye catching end caps full of products that you don’t need. Shopping online can greatly reduce impulse buying and it is a free service offered by retailers as long as you pick it up at the curb.

Grocery delivery to your home costs extra but curbside pickup is completely free. If you have never used this service before, here is a tip. Do a search online for a promo code. First time users can often get money off of their first order.

7) Save The Leftovers

Families are wasting about a third of their food each and every night by throwing away leftovers. These could easily be turned into other meals. A leftover burger could become taco meat. Pasta can easily be reheated. At the very least, you should take your leftovers and turn them into lunches for the next day. It saves waste and is healthier than fast food.

Another idea is to simply have leftover night where everybody gets to have their favorite meal from the prior week.

8) Shop By Yourself

The more people that go, the more likely extras will get add to the cart. Shop by yourself so that you do not deviate from your shopping list.

The worst offenders here are obviously children who will be attracted to anything colorful or shiny. Notice that the grocery stores put some of their most useless and expensive items at kids height. That is certainly no coincidence.

9) Add Inexpensive Staples To Your Diet

Look into changing up your diet a bit to include some inexpensive staples to save money on food. Things like rice and dry beans can be purchased in bulk and store well. They can really stretch a food budget.

Other items like potatoes can be bought in huge bags for cheap prices. Store them in a cool pantry and they will last for quite some time.

10) Repackage Your Food

Instead of buying those expensive individual serving packs, buy in bulk and then repackage them. For example, instead of buying Pringles individual packs for your kids lunch, buy the big can and divide them out into baggies.

You can do the same for just about every snack item out there and you will save a fortune. A cheap digital scale makes dividing the items easier and much more accurate.

11) Organize Your Food Storage

Once a week, preferably right before you go to the store, organize the food that you have. Check expiration dates and move food that is closer to expiration to the front of the storage.

You can then use the products that you know will be expiring soon in your weekly meal plan. Having an organized kitchen can help you avoid wasting money when you have to throw out hundreds of dollars in food.

12) Watch Out For Grocery Store Tricks

Nothing is placed by accident in a grocery store. Everything is a trick to get you to buy more. That is why online shopping is so important. If you must shop in person, watch out for the tricks.

The biggest trick is to place the priciest items at eye level where they are more likely to catch your attention. Look down for values such as generics. Also watch out for end-caps and things in reach of children and never buy anything found at the checkout line. Remember, nothing in a grocery store is placed randomly.

When shopping loss leaders, look out for complementary items. Hot dogs might be on sale but ketchup or hot dog chili will not be. This is why it is important to stock up on the loss leaders when they are on sale. Buy hot dogs and freeze them and get the ketchup next week when it is on sale.

13) Avoid Prepared Foods

If a store takes the time to prep something, it will cost you. Cut your own fruit and season your own meat. Avoid pre-washed and prepped salads and just do it yourself when you get home. Want to kick it up another notch, buy cheese in blocks and shred it yourself. It will be cheaper and taste better (they an additive on shredded cheese to keep it from sticking together, cellulose or wood pulp).

Another great way to save on prepped food is to make your own spice mixes. Taco seasoning, for example is just a mix of some basic spices that you can buy in bulk. Chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper to be exact.

14) Limit Your Perishable Items

Milk and eggs are staples that we all use and need but never but more than you can reasonably use in a week, even if it is on sale. The same is true with vegetables which can go bad quickly. If you are bad about wasting veggies, start buying frozen instead, in the big bag.

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James Car is a finance, loan and budget expert based in the United States. After attending Brookhaven college, he went on to become a successful entrepreneur. He now enjoys writing articles that help people save and make the most of their money.