People spend a lot of time and a lot of money on food!
I used to spend upwards of $400 to feed a family of 4! When the economic downturn happened I had to start finding ways to pinch a few pennies. Groceries seemed to be one of obvious choices for downsizing. I read article after article on how to cut grocery costs, but in the end I just had to find my own way. So, for Frugal Friday I thought I would share my top 10 ways to be frugal at the grocery store. These tips have helped cut my monthly grocery bill from over $400 to under $250!
Keeping an inventory of what you have
I think the number one thing that has helped me cut costs is keeping a list of what I already have in my fridge, freezer, and pantry. I don't know how many times I would go grocery shopping and not realize that I already had what I was about to buy in my freezer. I have recently discover Springpad. It has an app on it that allows you to keep a running total of everything in your kitchen (You can also use evernote.) It has made keeping up with this a breeze. Keeping a running list will also help you with #2.
MEAL PLAN! I cannot say this enough. I have friends asking me all the time how I manage to cut costs so much. Meal planning is the answer. Now most people think when I say meal plan, I mean plan out what meals you're eating on what nights. That can be a lot of work, and who knows what they'll be hungry for on specific nights? I sit down at the end of each month and write 1 through however many days are in that month, and then just make a list of different dinners that we will eat. As long as I have enough for every night that month, then I'm good. Then I'll usually do the same for side dishes, breads, breakfasts, and sweets that I want to make that month. Usually I'll post the list in the kitchen, so that the kids can help me pick out what we're going to cook that night. This is also where that list I talked about in #1 comes in handy. Make sure you have it handy when you're doing this. That way you can be sure to use up things you already have on hand. You'll be surprised at how much this will save you. Check out the meal plan templates over at Money Saving Mom and $5 Dinners.
Always have a grocery list
Research shows that 60-70% of what ends up in your grocery cart is unplanned!
Make a grocery list.
If you've done numbers 1 and 2 then this one should be a cinch! Never, ever go into a grocery store without a list. Statistics show that you, on average will spend $1 for every minute you're in a grocery store... IF you don't have a list. People who have grocery lists made spend significantly lower amounts on money on groceries... It pays to be a little more organized sometimes!
Check to see what's on sale, and clip coupons
Make sure you're getting the best deal on everything you buy. This tip can be a little time consuming, but in the end it will pay off. Check the circulars of your local grocery stores while your making your meal plan. If chicken breasts are on sale then plan on cooking more chicken that month, instead of paying more for a different meat. BUT, realize that if Aldi's has something for $1.00 and Kroger has it for $1.25, that it might not be be best deal to drive to Aldi's for the $0.25 off if you weren't already going there. I used to shop at 4 different grocery stores, and thought I was getting the best deals. Now I only shop at 2 and I'm spending less money. Also, there are so many places online where you can find coupons. Anymore it seems as if you can go to any company's website and print off coupons for their products. Here is a great guide for starting out in the coupon world, and here are some of my favorite blogs where I get my coupon info...
Watch for manager specials (markdowns)
Shop the markdowns. Remember that expiration dates are a suggestion. Most items have a "best if used" date or a "sell by" date. When an item gets close to these dates stores will mark them down drastically (sometimes up to 75%). I buy a lot of my organic products and meats this way. Product will usually last at least a week, usually even longer than the date on it.
Don't take the kiddos
This is a hard one sometimes. All of us have had to take out kids to the store with us. The problem with this is that all grocery stores are expecting it. They place all the high priced goodies that children love right where they can get their hands on it, and honestly, sometimes it's just easier to give in and buy it! That's why it's usually best to not take them, and if you don't have a choice, then keep them in the cart. It usually helps how much they can actually reach, and it is normally high enough to where they can't get to the flashy stuff.
Premade mixes are not your friend
Cake mixes, cookie mixes, bisquick, ect... sure, they might make things a tad bit easier, but in the end you're just wasting money. You have to make a decision on which is more important... convenience or price. Usually you can make all of those handy little mixes for under half the price (usually more than that)
Check out this post at Life As Mom for a how-to on making your own mixes.
Don't grab the first thing you see at the store
Stores will try and trick you into buy a more expensive item. They are very tricky in this way. They make sure to put the eye candy and things are more of an impulse buy right at eye level. Also, stay away from end of the aisle displays. Make sure you go ahead and shop for whatever it is IN the aisle, so that you can do a side by side comparison of the other brands. Just because it's on sale does not mean it's a bargain.
Go to the grocery during off hours and never go hungry
Know your grocery store. Know what the best and worst times to shop are. Usually it's a safe bet that from the time school gets out until about 8pm stores are normally their busiest. Early morning is 9 times out of 10 better. If the store is crowded you will feel rushed and get frustrated. You'll end up just tossing things in the cart to get out of there, instead of bargain shopping. You're also more likely to forget things and less likely to use your coupons. Also, make sure you aren't hungry. If you're hungry you will end up buying the whole store! And finally....
Bulk shop during great sales
If you see that a store is having a fabulous sale on something that your family eats regularly, then stock up! You will save a bunch of money in the end. Meats, cheese, canned goods... these are all good things that if on sale, you should buy more of. Stick it in the freezer and you'll not only guarantee that you'll have enough throughout this month, but maybe over the next couple of months.
So there we have it. My 10 tips to frugal grocery shopping!