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17 Ways on How to Save Money on Groceries - A Newbie's Guide
When lady friends become in-charge of their respective households, suddenly, conversations become focused on recipes, menus, grocery lists, budgeting and saving money, growing vegetables, funny experiences in the kitchen and so on.
Here’s a compilation of the things we have learned about budgeting and saving money on groceries along the way. Feel free to add your take on the comment box below.
1. Determine your Spending Attitude. Answer the poll.
What kind of spending attitude do you have?
It’s good to determine your spending attitude so you could work with it rather than against it. If you happen to love spending, no lists or argument from your husband will stop you from spending. “I think being told NO makes me want to go out and buy more,” confessed a friend sheepishly.
Since each person will have their own way on dealing with this issue, it would be better to ask them, “How would you like me to support you on this?” My friend answered that she could work with a budget but want to have some extra money for splurges. Her husband had agreed with a laugh. They agreed with a reasonable amount and they are both happier.
The word 'dislike' somehow connotes a kind of negativity. Ending up buying less is good but if one is having a negative attitude towards life, feeling miserable because everything seems not to be going the way you want things to be, maybe a change of perspective is needed.
Now if you can work with a budget, this is fantastic! “It takes a lot of discipline at first,” Another girl friend shared. “But after awhile, I got used to it. When my husband asks me to buy a gift, I have learned to ask, how much is our budget?”
Cash or Credit Card?
2. Determine Your Method of Payment: Will you pay in cash or credit card?
If you pay decide to pay in cash, it would be a good idea just to bring the amount of money needed in your wallet. This prevents you from buying more than you intended.
For those who have credit cards and have not been paying the full amount, you would save a lot on the interest incurred. Avoid late payments as you also get late charges. Take away finance charges and you save on your groceries!
I use cash when we buy at the farmer’s market and a credit card in the department store. If a bank offers cash back credit cards, take it! A 5% cash back is savings! Just remember to use your credit card with care, don’t overspend and pay promptly.
3. Create a Budget by Tracking Your Expenses
In the beginning, you wouldn’t know how much budget you need so track your expenses. Budget would be different from a family of four and family of eight. Categorize your list (e.g. example vegetables, meat, chicken, fish, condiments and so on.) After tracking your expenses for a couple of months, then you can set a budget.
4. Do a Regular Inventory & Keep Track of Expiry Dates
Inventory allows you to see what you still have to help you in your menu planning; allows you to have a clear idea what to buy the next time you go to the grocery store and reminds you to check expiry dates.
A lot of savings can be made if you do not waste food. A friend of mine told me that she was so surprised at how much it cost to throw away certain food that had expired. “I am diligent now in doing inventory and I’ve noticed I have saved a lot in the process.”
5. Make a Weekly Menu Plan
If you are a newbie, this is pretty helpful because this will serve as your guide in coming up with your grocery list. And it will help you from being stressed out thinking what to cook the following day.
6. Create a Grocery List
I never go grocery shopping without a list. I discovered that I can save on time and transportation money by making sure that I bought everything that I need for the coming week. And oh, don’t forget to bring your reusable shopping bags.
When I used to shop with just a list but without doing inventory and a weekly menu plan, I ended up buying things that I didn’t really need. I save more than 30% from groceries when I created a menu and bought only those that I was going to use for the coming week.
7. Discover Which Store/Market Offers a Better Deal
The nice thing about having friends is that we get to compare notes on prices. We help each other out by finding which grocery store or farmer’s market offers the best deal. Different stores/markets have varied gimmicks –coupons, discounts, rebates, store cards. Learn about them.
For instance, we discovered that our farmer’s market offers a lower price when it comes to vegetables. But there is also a grocery store that offers almost the same price as the one in the market. “I know I can save a little more if go to the market but since it’s far from my house and would cost me more gasoline, I believe in my case, I prefer going to the grocery instead.”
I love to do grocery early in the morning. Once, I got a box of eggs for early bird customers. So I saved myself from buying eggs.
Use Your Coupons
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8. Check the Prices
A calculator would come in handy when you go shopping. Find out the unit price when you compare prices esp. if you buy individually wrapped cookies or nuts. But we don’t advise you buying retail, it comes out more expensive.
Sample: Brand A costs $7.95 and Brand B costs $10.75. If you hate numbers sometimes you just tend to buy Brand A believing it is cheaper. To make sure, divide the amount with the no. of items inside. Brand A (10 packs) 7.95 / 10 = .80 cents each while Brand B (20 packs) 10.75 / 20 = .54 cents each
9. Buying Items on Sale
Buying things on sale is one way to save money on groceries. But remember buy sale items only if you need it. If you hardly use it, don’t be tempted to buy just because it is cheap or it comes with a free item that you don’t need.
“Guilty!” My friend exclaimed, laughing out loud. “I often find myself buying sale items esp. those with free stuff like containers. I am a sucker for free containers.”
10. Buying in Bulk
Buying in bulk is cheaper. But again make sure you are going to use it before it gets spoiled or expired. One friend commented, “The menu planning helped a lot. I use to buy big sizes of everything until I learned that there were those that I don’t use often. So I buy big or in bulk for those that I use often.”
I saw a bag of onions that was packed by 5 kilos. Since we use onions and garlic every day, I bought the 5 kilo bag. It was definitely cheaper than buying a kilo or two per week.
11. Avoid Vegetable Medley Packages or Marinated/ Pre-cut meat
Learn to cut your own vegetables because buying pre-cut vegetables is more expensive. This goes for meat as well. A whole chicken is less expensive than pre-cut chicken. Sometimes I also see groceries with marinated meat that is ready to cook. This is more expensive too. So do the cutting and marinating and get to save.
12. To Bring or Not to Bring the Kids
Of course, parents want kids along during shopping trips. But the trap is buying more if you can’t handle your kid’s demands.
An alternative idea: Let your child write his own list at home so he is trained to budget. wouldn't that be cool? Give him an amount and make him list the things he will buy when he gets to the store. I remember this activity because when we were incorporating the lesson on healthy and unhealthy food in our preschool, we had our shopping activity in a real grocery store. We gave them a budget. They made a list. They asked their parents for the fixed amount of money. We shopped together as a class. It was fun! If your child can already read, this is a good way to train them.
13. Watch the Cash Register
One time I caught an eggplant that was priced wrongly. It was four times more expensive than the original price. And in another occasion, the item was on sale but when it reached the counter, it wasn't on sale on the cash register. Good thing I insisted if she could check it out since it was on sale on the rack. The manager had to be called. But I was right, it was on sale. A lot of savings can be done by just being careful and mindful. So watch the cashier please as she punches those numbers.
A Small Plot of Vegetable Garden
14. Return Spoiled or Bad Items
When I arrived home, I discovered one box of eggs that was rotten. I returned to the store and replaced them. It would have been a waste if I just let it go. Now you know why I prefer to buy at a store nearest our house.
15. Grow a Vegetable Garden
Learn to grow your own vegetable garden and herbs too. Then you can save on some of the vegetables as well herbs. If you don't have space, you can grow them on pots. Learn how to do it.
16. Learn to Cook Leftover Food
One of my friends confided that her mom was one of the best cooks ever. “She can cook our leftover food and recreate a new menu from it.” We would then taste the food she brought to lunch that day, agreed it was yummy and asked how her mom did it.
17. Don’t Buy When You Are Hungry
Finally, don’t buy if you are hungry. It would be good advice to eat first before buying. Otherwise, everything would be so enticing and your budget will fly out of the window and you won’t be able to resist impulse buying.
IMPORTANT THINGS TO WEAR WHEN GOING TO THE GROCERY: The hat of wisdom and the coat of self-discipline. Saving is all about being wise and being disciplined. So are you ready now to change your spending habits so you can save on your groceries? (Smile, it will not be as hard as you think it is!)
I never would have thought that we reached the point of enjoying saving money and budgeting. The sense of accomplishment is extremely satisfying. Keep on learning the art and skill of saving.
BY: Michelle SImtoco