We all have that friend that is a super shopper. She comes home with 3 cartloads of groceries that she paid $1.47 for. Now matter what you need she has a coupon for it, and no matter what you buy, she bought it cheaper.
I am not that person. I do however look for ways to cut back on my grocery bill. Every dollar I spend on food is one less I can spend on something fun!
Here are my Ten favorite tips for making your dollar stretch when shopping for food:
1. Never Shop Hungry
Seems like a no brainer, but I can’t tell you how many times I have thought to myself, “I’ll just stop and grab such-and-such” on my way home from work. I am starving by the time I get to the store, and walk out with 10x as many things as I meant to grab!
The best way to shop is an hour or so after a meal. Your body will be content without being full, so your stomach won’t trick your brain into thinking that $4 bag of chips or a bag of M&M’s is a necessity. (Plus you burn off some of the calories you just ate moving through the store!)
2. Get Appy!
I am not a coupon clipper. I don’t buy newspapers or magazines, so I never have a stash of coupons on hand like some of my thrifty girlfriends. I do, however, have smart phone. And that has saved me a lot of money!
Almost all of the big chain grocery and drug stores (and even some of the smaller ones) have cell phone apps now. If you find yourself shopping at a few certain stores it is worth the time to download their loyalty apps. I regularly shop at both Kroger and Dollar General and have found some awesome savings coupons through their smart phone apps. Plus I can view sales and organize my shopping list, saving me a ton of time. Bonus!
3. Get to Know Your Grocer
Some of my favorite deals from our local grocery store are day old bread and meat. The food is still good, but it is at a pretty hefty discount (usually 40-60%). A conversation with the man behind the meat counter led me to find out that both meat is usually marked down right in the middle of the second shift (around 9pm). I now make it a point to stop by around that time to scoop up deals.
I also found out, through a conversation with my favorite cashier, that my store will take expired coupons as long as it is under a week. She also lets me know when some of my favorite things will be going on sale and upcoming clearance buys.
Take the time to get to know your local store employees and you will be amazed at the little secrets they can share.
4. Go Ethnic
Ethnic stores can be a great resource for hard to come by items, but they can also be a great place to buy some familiar things as well. Our local Mexican store routinely has spices for about half what Walmart or Kroger sells them for. Some of the produce and certain cuts of meat are also much cheaper there as well.
5. Stay Local
Locally grown produce is almost always cheaper than grocery goods. Cutting out the middle man and buying direct from the farmer not only costs less, but you are less likely to have to toss food that has gone bad. Flea markets, farmers markets, Craigslist, local CSA cooperatives and farms are great sources of cheap and healthy produce.
6. Stock Up
Don’t be afraid of your freezer! Whenever my local grocer has ground turkey on sale for $1.99/lb. (about once every few months) I buy as much as I can fit in the freezer. If you see a great deal (and have room to store it), scoop up as much as you think you can use before it goes bad.
Same thing goes for produce in season. When produce is dirt cheap in the summer, its a great time to stock up for later in the year. I regularly buy strawberries, corn, and root vegetables at the height of the harvest, can or freeze them, and enjoy my cheap goodies all year!
7. Go Online
Online shopping can be a boon when you are searching for hard to find items, but it can also be a great place to find deals. Amazon Prime and Thrive Market (affiliate links) offer great deals and sales on lots of grocery staples. Sign up and keep an eye out for emails with special offers such as free shipping or a % off then stock up. Not only are many of the items the same price or cheaper as the grocery store, but you save time and money on travel.
8. Make it Yourself
Need a fruit tray for a work party? Instead of spending $15-$20 for that prepackaged tray, buy a selection of in season fruit and get to chopping! Want to eat ham sandwiches for lunch this week? Buy a ham butt and slice your own (bonus: you can slice as thick or thin as you like!). Avoid prepackaged anything and you will almost always save money. Pre-chopped vegetables, sliced meat, spice mixtures and many other “convenience” items are marked up 40-200%, and really don’t save you that much time in most cases. Spend a few minutes learning how to make it yourself and keep your $$ in your pocket.
9. Watch the Register
One of the easiest ways to save money at any store is to watch the register as the cashier is ringing up your purchases. There are $2.5 billion per year in pricing errors according to a recent estimate.
Many stores offer price guarantees. This means they will honor the price on the shelves if it rings up different-but only if you catch it! Some stores go even better. Kroger will give you the item free up to $5.00 if the price rings up higher than the advertised price, or the price listed on the shelf.
10. Shop Alone
This is my favorite money saving tip! I love spending quality time with my son and hubby, but NOT at the grocery store! I routinely spend up to twice as much when I shop with others versus shopping alone. Hit the grocery by yourself and use the money you save to do something fun with your loved ones!