Three Easy Ways to Save Big at the Grocery Store
The cost of grocery store foods is on the rise, but most of us are not making more money. In fact, we're trying to make do with less. One of the biggest household expenses is food shopping--and it's not an easy place to skimp. After all, we have to eat! But there are some easy, relatively painless ways to save big at the grocery store. And because food shopping is something you have to do week after week, saving a little bit on each trip can add up. Here are three easy ways to save money on your grocery trips!
1 - Use Coupons!
If you don't clip coupons, start! Not using coupons is like turning down free money. If you don't receive the Sunday paper, subscribe right away. Using just a few of the coupons each week will pay for the cost of the paper.
The important thing to keep in mind about coupons is that you must use them wisely. If a coupon gets you to buy something that you don't want or need, it's not worth it. And if the cost of the item with the coupon is still more expensive than a competing brand, it's not worth it.
I'm not advocating for "extreme couponing," unless you happen to be into that kind of thing. A reasonable goal for the average person is to save 5 - 10% off your grocery bill each week with coupons. That's between $7.50 and $15.00 a week in savings. Sounds pretty doable, right? If your average grocery expenses are $150 a week, that adds up to between $390 and $780 per year in savings!
There are certain items on my list that I ALWAYS find coupons for, like Pillsbury crescent rolls, General Mills cereals, and Scotties tissues. I like all these brands better than the generic versions, and so I always by them, as long as I have coupons.
TIP: If you work with other people who clip coupons, set up a coupon exchange. Take the coupons you need from the paper and bring the rest in to work to share.
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2 - Don't Be Afraid to Buy Generic
Buying generic is a hard concept for many people. The advertising industry has done a good job convincing us that brand name products are best. Yes, sometimes the brand name item is better quality, but often there is little difference--particularly with basic items. A five-pound sack of Domino brand sugar, for example, is not going to be any different than the store brand, but the price will be several cents higher. Yet many people will automatically reach for the brand name sugar, overlooking the nearly identical sack of sugar that is less flashy looking, but also less expensive, sitting on the same shelf!
In general, I have found that the simpler the product, the less difference you will find between name brand and store brand. I don't think it makes much sense to spend more money on name brand staples like flour, sugar, butter, spices, condiments, milk, rice, frozen veggies, etc. Sure, there may be a few brand name items that you truly find to be better tasting, but overall there will be little difference except in the packaging.
You will see a bigger difference between brand names and generics when it comes to snack foods. A store brand chocolate sandwich cookie will probably not taste the same as a real Oreo cookie. But I always give the generic version a try--if it's not as good, I will stick with the brand name. Other times, you will find that you quickly get used to the generic version, and sometimes you might actually prefer it!
3 - Plan Your Meals Ahead
There is nothing more dangerous than walking into the grocery store at 5:00 p.m. when you are hungry, stressed, and have no idea what's for dinner. You'll end up buying expensive, unhealthy convenience foods. Planning out your meals--especially if you have a big family--is essential if you want to save money.
It's good to have a rough idea of what you want to spend per day or per meal. I try to spend around $10 to feed my family of five for dinner. This is pretty low, but it allows me to splurge a little once a week or so on something more expensive. If you spend a half an hour on the weekends picking out recipes and making a list, you will likely save money on your shopping trip.
TIP: Generally, the fewer the ingredients in the recipe, the less expensive the meal will be. A great place to start finding recipes is Five Ingredient Fix on foodtv.com.
There are many other ways to save money on groceries, but these are three of the best. Good luck!
Sage Carter shares ideas, information, and advice for better living. Visit her at http://sagecarter.hubpages.com/.