- Only go to the store once per week
Have you ever heard the joke, “how much does a gallon of milk cost? $50 because that’s how much you spend when run in to just buy a gallon of milk!” It’s so true. The more times you shop during the week, more times you will be tempted by those impulse buys. If you limit the number of times you go to the store, you won’t have the same opportunities to blow your budget on expensive extras. It will also force you to think more carefully about what you need which leads us to number two…
- Plan your meals
This may not seem like a personal finance tip but planning your meals will save you a lot of money and wasted food. Since you should only be going to the grocery store one time per week, you will need to plan your breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks to last you until your next trip to the store. By planning your meals, you will have a grocery list which will help you buy only what you need. Have you ever been in the produce section and made an impulse buy with no plan, just to get home and toss it in the fridge? Then realize a month or two later it had spoiled before you used it? That’s why it’s so important to plan for what you buy. Throwing away rotten food is literally throwing money away so buy only what you have a plan to use.
- Make a grocery budget
Having a set budget when you go to the store can greatly improve your impulse shopping and forces you to pay attention to the items you are picking. Keep a calculator with you as you pick out your grocery items and stick to you weekly budget. This will help you pay attention to things like the prices of generic vs named brand and value per size and help your overall savings. So much should you spend on groceries? In Salt Lake City, it is perfectly reasonable to spend $100-$150 per person per month. If you only shop for yourself, $150 per month or $37.50 per week. If you have two people in your household, $200 should be your target or $50 per week. Figure out your budget and make a goal to stick to it at the store.
- Use the grocery flyers to save money
Did you know that most grocery stores have an ad each week listing sales? They send them in the mail and also have them at the front of the store or service departments. Whenever I go to the store, I bring my copy from home or grab one at the store. The front page features items that are “loss leaders”. They are attractive sales used to encourage customers to come in to their store. This can include produce, meat, dairy and many things that we rarely see coupons for. Use this flyer to help you plan your meals and you will save a ton of money. Remember that Walmart doesn’t really do sales the same way (or at least they don’t discount their ads to the same degree as grocery stores). If you prefer Walmart for your grocery purchases, price match from your local grocery store ads to get the same deals.
- Use coupons
And finally, use coupons to maximize your savings. There are tons of ways to get coupons for grocery shopping. You can subscribe to the Sunday-only newspaper, print coupons at coupons.com or download digital coupons when you use your store card to sign up for a digital account. I recommend you sign up for your preferred grocery stores emails, download their app on your smartphone and sign up for their mailing list. My preferred grocery store is Smiths and they have mobile coupons including a free item every Friday, send coupons in the mail-often for completely free products and you get a discount on gas for buying groceries. Many coupon values are for $1.00 or less but all of those savings add up quickly! When you pair coupons with sales, you can often get name brand items cheaper than generics. Only use coupons when you were planning to buy the item anyway and even if you don’t use coupons on food, you can use them for personal care items which will leave extra money in your budget for food.
If you have a problem eating out too frequently, try to prep all of your food on the day you do your grocery shopping to make your lunches and dinners easier. Don’t get stuck in the trap of coming home from work tired, and then eating out because you don’t feeling like cooking. Make your meal time as simple as possible by cutting, thawing, or seasoning your veggies and meats ahead of time to make dinner time quick and easy. You’ll have a meal plan (so you don’t have to make any more decisions) and half of the work will already be done. Make your lunches and snacks ahead of time so you aren’t rushing in the morning or eating out at lunch and running to the vending machine. With just a little bit of prep in your routine, you will save a lot of money and won’t be tempted by fast food.
Hopefully these tips have helped you think about how you can save money on groceries. We would love to know in the comments, what do you do to save money on groceries?