Grocery bills rank right up there in our top five expenses along with paying the mortgage, car payments (and fueling costs), utilities, and clothing. But there are ways to be a smart shopper and save some of your hard-earned money.
Plan ahead by considering what you need and when is the best time for you to shop. It is a proven fact that grocery shopping should never be done when you are tired or hungry. Although sometimes it can't be helped to do some shopping during those times, try to save your big grocery shopping day when you have researched deals, made a list, feel organized, and are ready to be successful.
You will be rewarded with savings.
Consider the following tips:
- Check your pantry. Before heading to the store, see what needs to be replenished in your pantry. This will prevent quick trips to the convenience store where items are more expensive.
- Stick to your list. If you have come to the grocery store with a complete list, coupons, offers, and refunding information, stick to your list. Impulse buying is the biggest factor of high grocery costs. But be a little flexible – if, for instance, your family loves macaroni and cheese, and there's an offer of 5 boxes for $1, go for it!
- Keep track of staples. Although you are trying very hard to stick to your list, if one of your family's staples is on sale, pick it up – otherwise known as stockpiling.
- Store flyer. When you get the store, grab their sale flyer. One important tip to remember is that the best deals are usually placed at the front page and at the back page.
- Buy in bulk. This is a great tip if the bulk item is of the quality you want. Do not buy bulk of something that could be substandard and then sit in your pantry, never to be used.
- Clip coupons. Using name brand coupons is a great way to purchase a new item to try out, but watch out for coupons that make you buy in quantity. What happens if you don't like it? Another waste of money.
- Refunding. This is a great way to get free items or money back, but, once again, read the offer closely. If you do not follow the instructions to their exact direction, the refund will not be fulfilled.
- Use a coupon service. There are websites that will do all the research and let you know the best deals in your area, allowing you to print off store coupons. One such site, The Grocery Game, is a very successful and helpful site. For a $1 trial fee, you can test out this service for one month.
- Grow your own or use local produce. Gardens take a bit of effort, but if done right, you will enjoy fresh-frozen or canned fruits and vegetables throughout the whole year, reducing your grocery bills on a weekly basis. If you don't have time for a garden, buy local produce in season.
Be aware of marketing tactics:
- Milk is almost always at the back of the store, causing you to walk by all the aisles. Milk may have been all you wanted, but you probably walked out with a bag full of impulse items.
- Store brands may often appear less expensive than name brands, but check quantity and volume at the same time you are checking prices. Sometimes store brands are smaller, thus making them look like a great deal.
- Displays at the ends of aisles may appear to be “sale” items, but may in fact be regularly prices and even more expensive. Know pricing.
- Shelving of product is one of the most insidious marketing ploys. Stores will display the most expensive items at the middle shelves – check top and bottom shelves for better deals.
- Check-out time. And, most importantly, watch for any price inaccuracies when your items are being scanned at the check-out.
Stretch your dollar and your time:
- Cook a double batch. You have found great pricing for the ingredients for your favorite casserole – make a double batch. Enjoy one for dinner and freeze the other for a later date.
- Limit eating out. Preparing homemade dinners can become family time together and a great savings on your overall food bill. Eating out is not necessarily any faster than cooking, especially when you consider driving to and from the restaurant.
- Form a “co-op” group with two or three friends. When it comes to some of the popular items you, your family and your friends all use, make a list. With a “co-op” group, if one person finds a great deal, have the flexibility to purchase double or triple the amount and then share the cost (and enjoy the savings). This one takes a bit of trust, but if those two or three friends stick to the list, you can't go wrong.
Remember: Plan, stick to the list, avoid impulse buying, use coupons and refunds and do your research, but be flexible. Keep track of your savings, and then go plan a vacation!