Cut the Coupons: How to Save Money on Groceries Without Them
by Amanda Finn
Feeding your family doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg; here are money-saving tips to help keep your budget in the black.
Grocery stores are colorful and distracting places, and unless you are someone who splurges on grocery delivery services, they are impossible to avoid. Yet for some families, trips to the grocery store can cut into a large chunk of the monthly budget.
If coupon cutting isn’t your thing, there are plenty of ways you can keep your family, pantry, and fridge full even without a file folder full of tiny slips of paper. Below are several savvy ways to cut down on your grocery expenses while still eating well.
Shop smarter not harder
Keeping a shopping list is your first step to making wise food buying choices. If you know exactly why you’re at the store as well as all of the items you must purchase, you’re less likely to buy things you don’t need. You are also less likely to forget the one most important ingredient or household item that would make you take an extra trip back to the store.
Stay outside the perimeter
Have you ever noticed that produce, dairy, and meat tend to plank the three main walls of a grocery store? The outer aisles that line the store tend to be where the most necessary goods are found. That layout strategy is there to get you to venture into the middle aisles, which houses less necessary and more processed foods. By making customers go into those aisles, the store is more likely to get impulse buys out of you. So if you’re sticking to a budget, stick to the main aisles and try to avoid deviating from the outside walls of the store.
Explore your surroundings
As you shop around for the best prices let your eyes wander. Eye-level products tend to be the most expensive. Take a look at the items on the upper or lower shelves, which are probably cheaper and the same quality as the eye-level ones.
Julie R. Thomson at the Huffington Post offers similar solutions to grocery shopping savings. She advises customers to avoid buying brand name products and overpriced toiletries to ensure maximum savings.
“You might be used to a particular brand of cereal or sugar, but the generic options are usually cheaper,” Thomson says. “Generic brands often use name-brand products with their own labels on it, and they offer it at a better price. Just check the ingredients to be sure you’re getting the same product.”
Know what you already have
Before you buy another box of pasta or a pantry staple, make sure you don’t already have six boxes of it at home. It seems silly, but before you go on a major grocery shopping spree it’s best to take inventory of your pantry, fridge, and freezer. This way you aren’t wasting money on a duplicate and you’ll use what you have while it’s still good.
Everydollar suggests using home inventories as a means of meal planning, as well. If you already have meatballs and sauce, for example, you could pick up bread and noodles and have yourself a spaghetti dinner in no time.
In addition to making a list of what you absolutely need, Urban Tastebud suggests figuring out what products are running low in your fridge or pantry. If you know where you’re running short, you’re less likely to run out of an item (like milk, butter or certain spices) when you need it.
This works in reverse, as well. “By keeping track of everything that is running low, you save yourself the risk of buying something when in reality you don’t need it yet,” Urban Tastebud adds.
Consider sales (but carefully)
Have you ever bought a bunch of bakery mixes after Christmas or Thanksgiving or stocked up on chocolate after Valentine’s Day? When it comes to taking advantage of seasonal savings, grocery stores can be your best budgeting friend.
Urban Tastebud suggests taking advantage of post-holiday sales for certain grocery buys. “Many goods, including holiday-themed candy, baking mixes, spices, etc., are always heavily discounted after the holidays,” it says. “So if you don’t mind eating orange, yellow, and red candy, then shopping for goodies after Halloween can lead to major savings.”
When it comes to other sales, it’s best to stock up on products you use a lot if you can get a good deal. Things like toilet paper, soda or certain kinds of cleaners are great stock-up items.
The sales you should be wary of, however, are ones that price five items for $5 or 10 items for $10. At first glance they present a great way to stock up and save money, when they’re actually not a great deal if you look at the individual unit prices of the items that qualify.
“If you ever see some items marked as 10 for $10, be sure to check the individual unit price because sometimes these [individual] items can be only $0.89, costing you $1.90 extra,” Urban Tastebud says.
Don’t impulse buy
Here’s an obvious one: Don’t buy impulse items at the register. You don’t need them, and they’re going to be more expensive than their counterparts in other areas of the store. Urban Tastebud notes stores may jack up the price of individual items near the checkout counter, even though a bulk container of the same item can be found elsewhere in the aisles for a more reasonable unit price.
Just as in anything else, if you go in with the right knowledge and determination, you can save a ton on groceries. Don’t let the bright sale signage or layouts overwhelm your budgetary goals, and you’ll be eating like a king with a wallet that’s as happy as your belly.
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