Save Money on your Grocery Bill
As we know grocery store prices have been climbing for several months, and the larger your family, the larger your grocery bill. On December 29, 2010, Agriculture Commissioner, Todd Staples stated that Americans spend less of their income (only 10%) on food as compared to Mexico (22%), China (28%) or Russia (28%). Wages in these other countries are typically low so these percentages are useless in my opinion. I don't know if he made this statement to make Americans feel better but it didn't work for me.
Over the past few years food prices have risen faster than anytime since 1990. The increases we are seeing are particularly noticeable in staples, such as milk, eggs, meat, grains, vegetable oil, beef and bread.
With the recent flooding, tornadoes, late spring frosts, hurricanes and the sharp increase in fuel lets us know these prices are going to continue to climb. This is a very serious problem, especially for those that are on a fixed income.
Budgeting your Money
How Americans Spend Money
As a point of interest, Forbes states Americans spend their money differently than they did a few decades ago. Housing expense is the one thing people in all income brackets have in common as their largest expense, which is typically one third of their annual income. Of course, it is more difficult for the lower income families. This is a big increase from 1960, when Americans spent just 14.6% of their budget on housing.
The second biggest expense for high-income families is transportation at 17%, but for lowest income families 17% is barely adequate for their everyday expenses and food takes the biggest portion of the 17%.
Interestingly enough, Americans eat differently also. The higher the income the less people spend on groceries (about 6%), while middle income spend about 9% and low income families spend about 12%. Another change is people are busy and don’t want to cook, so while the overall average food budget might be 13.3%, 42% is spent in restaurants.
When you look at the big picture, however, by the time you get the family in the car, drive to the restaurant, you have the expense of fuel and maybe a 20-minute drive, depending on where you go to eat. Then, you usually have at least a 10-20 minute wait to get seated, and then wait to get served. The cost of the meal is surely more than a home cooked meal, and in many restaurants it is much higher. Next, you have the drive home. You certainly haven’t saved any time, and you have definitely spent more money.
Sure, it is pleasant to eat out, but can you afford it? The best way to control this expense is to plan ahead; decide what you can afford and how often you can afford to eat out, and then plan ahead for those occasions. The biggest problem for most people is they suddenly decide while driving home from work to stop for fast food, and it's very easy to spend a lot of money if you stop for fast food very often.
When to Find Sale Items
Grocery stores put particular items on sale every three months, so you can probably expect to see something like coffee on sale four times a year. As you become aware of the cycle, plan to stock up on this item when it is on sale, and save your coupons for the sales.
I always stay stocked up on coffee and toilet paper, as I consider those to be the most important necessities for the home.
Prepare for Grocery Shopping
It is certainly more economical if you make a home cooked meal. There are many ways that you can save money at the grocery store. Limit the number of time you go to the grocery store to once a week, and if you can make it two weeks that is even better.
Check your cabinets and freezer ahead of time so you know exactly what staples you need, and then make a grocery list. Plan your menu for the week, and the advantages are your life will be much more organized, plus you have the ingredients on hand that you'll need to make each meal.
There are many tips that we've all heard before, such as, never go to the store hungry, and it's better to go alone. Also, don't buy anything that's not on the list unless the product is something you absolutely need. Couponing has become very popular.
Many more people are using grocery coupons than ever before. If you are using coupons for groceries it is a good idea to have the coupons organized. Get them out before you enter the store, and they should match the items on your grocery list.
Coffee with Coupon
Meat -Buy One Get One Free
Buy Meat In the Morning when Marked Down
Save Money on Meat and Staples
Coupons can be a hassle to use in the grocery store if you're looking through one envelope that's not organized, as it's very time-consuming. Many people are using coupon organizers that have clear plastic holders where they can arrange similar coupons together.
My coupon holder has labels, such as condiments, frozen food, canned food and so forth, which make shopping much easier for me. Coupons can be found in your Sunday paper particularly, and also most stores print a circular, which includes store coupons, as well as, their sales.
Sometimes stores will even have free coupons just to get you in the door. Also, notice the in-store coupons as you walk down the aisles found in dispensers hung on the shelves. Magazines are another good place to find food coupons, and printable coupons can be found on the internet. Some stores have a box with coupons at the door where people put coupons that they are not using, and they take coupons they can use.
One thing I do is go to the store early in the morning, particularly if I am going to be buying meat. This is the time of day when they mark meat down that's going to expire in that day or the next. I check the dates and buy meat that will expire tomorrow which is a huge savings. As soon as I get the meat home I rewrap it and put in the freezer.
Also, watch for the buy one get one free ads. Pay attention to the price per pound and the quality of the meat, as sometimes you are getting a good deal but not always. On perishable items like yogurt, milk or eggs. I make sure I get the product with the expiration date as far away as possible.
Here are a few more tips that might save you money:
- Plan your trip to the store to minimize the number of times you walk up and down the aisles.
- Try store brands, as often their quality is the same as the higher price items.
- Stock up when things are on sale, which is also a great time to use your coupons.
- Avoid processed foods and cook meals from scratch.
- Some people use a calculator to keep track of what they're spending.
- If a store in your area has double coupon days and obviously that's the day to shop.
- If you have a produce market in the area where you live, it is the best place to buy your produce as the prices are almost always less and produce is fresher.
- Shopping at grocery outlets can save you money if you want to buy in quantity, but check your prices carefully to make sure that it is a savings.
- Eating more fruits and vegetables and cutting back on meat will save you money.
- Drink more water or make iced tea rather than purchasing caffeinated beverages.
- Always fill out and send in your rebates.
- It conserves time and energy to cook a double batch of a meal so the next night all you have to do is heat up.
How to Save Money on Groceries
It is usually not worthwhile to go to two or three different grocery stores just to save a few cents on different items as it takes a lot of time and considering the price of gas it is probably not worthwhile. When you get up to the register in the store set your coupons up on the area where the ATM machine is so you don't forget to give them to the cashier. Since I have forgotten to give my coupons in the past I can tell you its very frustrating.
Watch the register as the cashier rings up your groceries, as many times you can find errors where they haven't entered the sale price into the computer.
Budgeting can be very difficult with all the rising prices, and there are only a few areas where expenses can be reduced. People are driving less and consolidating their errands to save gas. Groceries are probably the best way to save money.
Have your habits regarding grocery shopping changed in the past few months?
The copyright, renewed in 2018, for this article is owned by Pamela Oglesby. Permission to republish this article in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.