Frugal Living 101: Saving Money on Groceries Without Using Coupons
Grocery prices are becoming outrageous, rising every day it seems. Unfortunately, our grocery budgets are not going up, so we have to find ways to buy more for less. Living on a very limited income, I've learned some grocery buying tricks that can help you get the most bang for your grocery buck. It takes a little work, but is well worth it in the long run.
Become a Grocery Shopper Instead of a Consumer
A grocery consumer makes a menu, makes a list, and then goes and buys whatever they need, no matter whether it is on sale or not. Grocery consumers often only shop at a grocery store for most of their food. Grocery shoppers make their menus from what they have in the house or what is on sale that week. A grocery shopper buys the cheapest food at the lowest cost. They do a lot of their shopping at places other than grocery stores. They know all the tricks to saving money on food, and they employ them every day. They don't have a regular shopping day, but buy groceries on the days they are at the lowest price.
Being a grocery shopper takes some work and is sometimes inconvenient, but most of them will tell you it's well worth the trouble when they total up the food bills for the month.
Shop Where the Bargains Are
To save money on groceries, you have to know where the best prices are. This means you have to get out of your comfort zone and try new things. Here are a few of my favorite ways to save:
- Farmers markets: I buy a lot of my produce at the local farmers market. A trick I learned from the farmers themselves is to go as late in the day as possible. They don't want to haul all that stuff home, so they'll give you a great deal on a bulk purchase. If you're into canning or freezing, this can be very beneficial.
- Flea markets: Flea markets may not always have the best quality produce, but it's usually much cheaper. If you don't mind a few bumps, bruises or spots, flea market produce is perfectly healthy. Flea markets also often have vendors selling discontinued or expired food cheaply. The expiration date on food is only to comply with government guidelines and the food is often good for many months past that date. I don't buy expired canned goods, but I will definitely buy expired dry goods, such as cookies, crackers, pasta or grains.
- Dollar and end-lot stores: I found that many times, the same snack under a generic or store brand name is half the price of even the sale prices at grocery stores. For example, one dollar store has a cheese snack shaped like whales that is just as good as the more expensive brand shaped like fish. What you give up is being able to choose fancy flavors, but at $1 less a package, who needs fancy flavors? These stores often have their own brands of many grocery and snack items that will save you so much money, you'll be surprised. You have to be a savvy shopper, though, because some of their name-brand groceries are actually more expensive.
- Ethnic stores: I find that some ethnic stores have their types of produce much cheaper than chain grocery stores. For example, I have a lovely bodega down the street from my house that has jicama and peppers super cheap. A caribbean store next door has mangos, papayas and other tropical produce at deep discounts.
- Roadside stands: In my city, there are what are called "enterprise zones" where vendors can park their trucks on the side of the street at certain times of day and sell their wares. These are often one-trick ponies, only selling watermelons, strawberries or tomatoes, or whatever. Some of them have small urban farms and have a nice variety of produce at low, low prices.
The prepper movement has a lot to teach us about saving money on groceries. One of their big things is stockpiling food and turning it over every few months so it doesn't go bad. Some of them have huge storage spaces, but you don't have to store enough food to feed an army if you are only trying to feed yourself cheaper.
Stockpiling is simply buying food in bulk when it's cheap and storing it for when it's needed. You may think you don't have room to do this, but it really doesn't take much. Everyone has extra space somewhere in their house where they can stash a little food. I bought some bed lifters and stash food under my bed. I hung my pots on a rack and stashed food in the drawer under the stove. I put up shelves above all my doors, and halfway around my room under the ceiliing with pretty baskets that all hold stockpiled food.
If you want to stockpile meats and frozen food, you have to be careful that you are going to use them before they go bad. I choose not to have a freezer for that very reason. I find that I can stockpile enough meat and frozen food in my regular refrigerator for just myself. If you have a big family, a freezer is definitely a must-have and is well worth the money you pay for it and the electricity every month.
I'll give more tips and tricks to stockpiling in small spaces in another hub, but meanwhile, the video below has some great ideas.
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